Pre-Maintenance in the Atkins Diet Phase Three

Red apples in basket on dark wood

As dieters near their goals, weight loss slows even more, with more carbohydrate added to the diet. Individuals figure out how much carbohydrate each can safely eat without gaining weight. This point is called the Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE).

How It Works

Phase Three is a time for tinkering with the diet, to figure out which foods may be trigger foods, what the reactions are too different types of foods, and, crucially, how much carbohydrate is too much, leading to cravings, weight gain, and other unwanted symptoms.

It is interesting how different people react to different foods.  For example, some may do fine with legumes, while fruit brings on cravings.  This is why it is very important at this phase to go slowly and observe carefully.

What to Eat

Carbohydrate is added, according to the Atkins Carbohydrate Ladder introduced in Phase Two. 10 grams of carb can be added per day, or a larger (20-30 gram) "treat" can be added two or three times per week.

Examples of foods to add during Pre-Maintenance:

Assuming that during Phase Two  you added foods from the "Nuts and Seeds" and the "Berries and Melons" rungs of the Atkins ladder, you can either add more of those foods or move on to the next rungs:

Legumes: add 1/3 cup of legumes such as lentils, black beans, or chickpeas

Other Fruits: such as a medium peach or plum, half a medium apple, or a medium kiwifruit 

Starchy Vegetables: such as half of a medium sweet potato, 1/3 cup of canned corn, or 3/4 cup of sliced beets.

Whole Grains: half a cup of most grains is up around 20 grams of net carb, so you'll be going very easy on them.  Consider making a salad with 1/4 cup of cooked quinoa or brown rice sprinkled in.  Or, if you want some hot cereal, 3 tablespoons of raw oat bran will cook up to about half a cup and is about 10 grams of net carb.

Phase Length

Weight should deliberately drop slowly — Atkins recommends a 2-3 month period to lose the last 10 pounds or so.  Many people find that they are losing even more slowly — about a pound a month — in this phase.

Pre-Maintenance Goals

1) To figure out the amount of carbohydrate that can be eaten without gaining weight.(Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium — ACE)
2) To slowly lose weight to goal.
3) To learn how to maintain weight using the Atkins approach.


Menus, of course, depend upon the amount and types of foods eaten in any given week.There are sample menus at different carbohydrate levels in Atkins for Life and The New Atkins for a New You.

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