Unleashed on the world in the early 1970’s by Dr. Richard Atkins with his book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, the Atkins diet is a popular weight loss program centered around a low-carbohydrate diet. In addition to shedding pounds, the diet is supposed to improve the overall health of those that are on it, resulting in lowered blood pressure, lowered risk of diabetes, and also helping with brain disorders and heart disease. The foods that this diet centers around are proteins, vegetables, healthy fats, and later in the diet, whole grains. Foods that are to be avoided by Atkins dieters are anything white: white rice, white sugar, white bread, white potatoes, etc.
After all these years, the Atkins diet is still going strong, with adherents claiming pretty amazing results. The diet moves along in Phases, starting out very difficult, then easing up as it goes along. Today we will discuss these Phases in greater detail, along with the types of foods that are allowed (and not allowed) at each. If you’re looking to improve your health and diet, and would like to attack it from a more spiritual side, this article on chakras, along with this course on transformational yoga, will help achieve spiritual well-being, along with physical health.
What Can You Eat On Atkins
Before we get started with the Phases of the Atkins diet, let’s begin with the fun stuff: the foods you can eat at any time during the diet. While most diets center around what you’re not supposed to eat, and there are some foods to avoid while on Atkins, this diet is more about eating certain amounts of specific foods at certain times. The following foods are allowed at any time during the course of the diet, and may be eaten until you are satisfied. If you are someone who binge eats, and don’t want to tempt fate with these healthy foods, this course on how to stop binge eating will get you on the path to sensible eating.
- Meat: As long as the meat is unprocessed, it’s OK to eat – beef, pork, lamb, veal, mutton, venison, and ham are all fine, as is bacon, as long as it’s not processed with sugar (nitrate-free bacon is preferable).
- Poultry: As with the red meat, poultry (chicken, turkey, goose, duck, pheasant, quail, ostrich, Cornish hen, etc.) is also fine to eat, as long as it is unprocessed.
- Seafood: Like the previous two foods, seafood is OK as long as it, too, is unprocessed. Fish, such as tuna, salmon, catfish, trout, snapper, sole, sardines, herring, etc., along with shellfish, including oysters, clams, crab, shrimp, calamari, lobster, mussels, and scallops, are all fine to eat. Make sure to stay away from processed imitation crab and other shellfish, as they contain sugar and additives. To learn which fish are best, as well as the most sustainable, this article on the best fish to eat will help you find edible treasures of the sea.
- Eggs: All real eggs are fine on Atkins (chicken, duck, quail, goose, etc.)
Next, we’ll discuss some major food groups and how they fit into the Atkins diet.
Almost all vegetables, except for corn, potatoes, peas, and sweet and starchy veggies are allowed on Atkins. Vegetables may be broken down into two groups: salad vegetables, and other vegetables. Salad vegetables include:
- lettuce (iceberg, romaine, Bibb, escarole, mache, radicchio, arugula, endive)
- leafy herbs (dill, thyme, oregano, basil, cilantro)
- bok choy
- hot and sweet peppers
Foods that fall into the category of “Other Vegetables”, and are perfectly acceptable on the diet, include:
- summer squashes (yellow, pattypan, zucchini)
- Brussel sprouts
- leafy greens (mustard, turnip, beet, collards)
The best types of oils that you will want to cook with when on the Atkins diet are cold-pressed vegetable oils, and don’t forget oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Remember to stay away from margarine, though. If you’re not quite up on the basics of how to cook when on a diet, this course on the fundamentals of healthy cooking will show you how to cook for a long and healthy life.
- olive oil
- nut oils
- seed oils
- vegetable oils (cold-pressed)
- linseed oil
- fat found on meat
Condiments and Spices
Here is where you want to be especially aware of what you eat, as there are sugars present in many things people think are otherwise healthy. As a result, most store-bought salad dressings are not Atkins-friendly, and your best bet is to make your own from scratch. This course on raw foods will show you how to make Atkins friendly foods, like dressings, sauces, and desserts.
- salad dressings – If making your own, keep it simple and healthy, combining olive oil with lemon juice, vinegar, or another tasty and healthy option.
- spices – Individual spices are usually OK to eat, but be wary of spice blends, as they might contain sugar or maltodextrin.
- condiments – Sugar-free versions of mayo, ketchup, and soy sauce are all fine on the diet.
Most artificial sweeteners are allowed on the Atkins diet, as well as one natural one (Stevia), but make sure to stay away from all natural sugars (sucrose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, glucose), as well as sugar alcohols (maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol), and honey and corn syrup.
- Splenda (sucralose)
- Equal (aspartame)
- Sweet ‘n’ Low (acesulfame potassium)
Phase 1 – Induction
This is the strictest part of the diet, with only 20 grams on net carbs allowed per day. The idea behind this tough part of the diet is to ready the body to burn all the fat in the future Phases. You will also lose the most weight in this Phase, motivating you to stick with the diet on through to the end. If you’re one who eats when stressed out, and you’re afraid this diet is going to send you over the edge, this course on how to stop stress eating will show you how to extract emotion from your eating habits.
In Phase 1, you must completely avoid all:
- starchy vegetables
- dairy (except cheese and butter)
The foods you CAN eat in Phase 1 include:
- all fish
- all poultry
- all shellfish (oysters and mussels are higher in carbs, so must be limited to 4 ounces a day)
- all meat (see restrictions in previous section)
- eggs – Because eggs are a staple in the Atkins diet, and you may be eating them quite often, you may want to get creative when cooking them, so you don’t get tired of them. You can add veggies to them, or cook them in different styles, including deviling, frying, boiling, omelets, poaching, scrambling, etc, all of which are Atkins friendly.
- cheese – Cheese has about 1 gram of carbs per ounce, so 3-4 ounces of cheese a day is the max at this stage of the diet.
- vegetables – About 12-15 grams of your daily carbohydrate intake should be from vegetables.
- beverages (club soda, caffeinated coffee or tea (1-2 cups), bouillon, no-calorie seltzer water, lemon or lime juice, caffeine free diet soda, herbal tea, water, bubbly or still (>8 oz. a day))
Phase 2 – Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL)
In the second Phase, you slowly start to add whole food carbs back to the diet, consuming a minimum of 12-15 Net Carbs daily, and increasing Net Carbs in 5 gram increments every week, two weeks, or month, whichever works best for you. There is no set amount of time for Phase 2, and it lasts until you’re about 10 pounds from your goal weight. The way the Phases work, is that you use the previous Phase’s diet as a foundation, and keep adding to it, so everything in Phase 1 is still OK to eat.
- dairy (cottage cheese, heavy cream, mozzarella cheese, ricotta, plain and Greek yogurt)
- nuts and seeds (peanuts, almonds, cashews, hulled sunflower seeds, pecans, macadamias, pistachios, walnuts)
- fruits (blueberries, strawberries, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, raspberries)
- juices (lemon, lime, tomato)
Phase 3 – Pre Maintenance
Lasting roughly a month, Phase 3 allows for more carbs to be added to the diet, with 50-70 Net Carbs allowed daily. Now you’re just 10 pounds away from your desired weight, and you are fine-tuning your diet, specifically your personal carb balance for when you are officially off of Atkins.
- starchy veggies (squash, carrots, baked potatoes, yams)
- legumes (black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans)
- fruit (apples, bananas, cherries, red grapefruit, red grapes, guava, kiwi, mango, peach, plum, watermelon)
- grains (rolled and steel cut oatmeal, brown rice)
Phase 4 – Lifetime Maintenance
This is the fourth, and final, Phase of the Atkins diet, and should not be looked at as the last part of the Atkins diet, but rather the first part of your healthy new life. By this point, you should have your lifetime diet figured out. You’re at your ideal weight, and in order to stay there, a continued low-carb diet should be observed for the rest of your life, with around 75 Net Carbs being consumed daily, or whatever amount you have decided is best for you to maintain this weight.
In Phase 4, you don’t necessarily add new foods to your diet, but rather, like we said before, fine tune and modify the amounts that you are already eating from the foods allowed in the previous three Phases. All of the foods that have been mentioned thus far are up for grabs, and all that is required from here on out is the dedication to a healthy life that got you started on Atkins in the first place.
As effective as the Atkins diet seems to be, it allows for many different options when it comes to the foods you’re allowed to eat. If your current, pre-Atkins diet includes a lot of breads and sugars, then you may have a tough time getting used to your post-Atkins lifestyle, but if you already have a pretty healthy diet, the transition to a low-carb diet shouldn’t be too difficult on you. And even if it is, it will have multitudes of benefits for your weight and your lifestyle, and going on Atkins shouldn’t be thought of so much as a diet, but a lifestyle change. To learn more about living a healthy lifestyle, this course on healthy eating will show you how to stay healthy outside of the realm of dieting.