The Atkins diet is a strategically curated low-carb diet that enables people to lose weight without starving, feeling hungry, or maniacally counting calories. Now the question arises if the Atkins diet is perfect for you.
In this guide, we will enlighten you regarding the Atkins diet and get all the necessary things you require to lose weight successfully, including preparing your food lists, planning all your meals, and effective tips for achieving the most desirable results.
What is Atkins Diet? Complete Guide for Beginners!
Atkins diet is nothing but a diet plan containing low carbohydrates and was created during the 1960s by a cardiologist and physician, Dr. Robert C. Atkins. He came to find out that the patients who avoid food high in carbohydrates like potatoes, bread, fruit, and pasta lose weight easily without remaining hungry or restricting calories intentionally.
Atkins diet is a Keto diet at the beginning. But then, with time, this involves the addition of certain specific carbs into the diet unless you find a perfect level that allows you to maintain an ideal & healthy weight.
The three different Atkins diet plans
There are 3 Atkins Diet Plans that can be followed. All of these forms are majorly focused on restricting the net carbs that include veggies and emphasizing eating protein and other types of healthy fat. You can select the carbs that are added to your diet as you approach your weight loss goal.
Atkins defines net carbs as grams of carbs, and the grams of sugar, alcohol, and fiber are deducted from the same.
Atkins 20 & Atkins 40 usually involve different phases, while Atkins 100 is usually considered to be a major lifestyle approach & usually calls for the consumption of not more than 100 net carbs in a day. In the case of Atkins 20, the initial “induction” phase usually limits a person to take not more than 20 grams of net carbohydrates. Similarly, in the case of Atkins 40, the rule is to take carbohydrates that do not exceed 40 grams in a day.
Foods included in Atkins 20 diet plan.
To help you jump-start the weight loss journey on the Atkins 20, you will have to consume a few of the following foods:
- Foundation veggies like spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, and bok choy
- Proteins like chicken, eggs & beef
- All kinds of fish like cod, Salmon, herring, and flounder
- Olive oil and butter
- Certain kinds of cheeses like goat, cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss
Foods included in Atkins 40 diet plan
If you follow the Atkins 40 diet plan, you will eat the following foods; the total carbs per day should not exceed 40 grams.
- Seeds and nuts
- Legumes (beans)
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, squash & beets
- Whole grains like rice, barley & whole wheat.
Foods included in Atkins 100 diet plan.
The followers of Atkins 100 diet plan can eat all foods, but the daily net intake of carbs per day should be at most 100 grams. Carbs usually add up very fast if you consume sugar or refined carbs. So, avoiding these or consuming them in very limited quantities is best.
The main concept around Atkins Diet is that if you sincerely limit the intake of carbs, which acts as the body’s primary fuel, the body is forced to burn fat stores to release energy. Thus, it promotes weight loss very positively. As with several other kinds of fad diets, the central idea in this plan is to stop consuming foods prepared from sugar and refined flour. But if you are trying to follow Atkins 20 plan, even the whole-grain meals that are carb-dense are not allowed to be consumed unless you reach the maintenance phase.
You can cut out the carbs that can initially contribute to losing weight. However, eliminating whole food groups like milk, grains, fruit, and yoghurt is likely to be inadequate & unsustainable in nutrients.
Foods to limit (foods to limit while you are on Atkins diet)
During Phase 1 of Atkins diet, you usually eat ground vegetables, fat, and protein. This specifically means that you need to avoid the food in the following list:
- Beverages that are sugar-sweetened
- Sugar, including syrup and honey
- Fruit juice
- Grains like pasta, bread, cereal, and rice
- Fruit juice
- Fruits, including berries
- Grounded vegetables like beets, carrots & potatoes
- Seeds and nuts
- Fruits that include berries
- Cottage cheese, yogurt & ricotta cheese
Foods to eat (foods to eat while you are on an Atkins diet)
You can eat all the foods in the list below comfortably but never over-stuff yourself.
- Poultry items like turkey and chicken
- Shellfish and fish of all the kinds
- Fresh meat like pork, beef, and lamb
- Processed meat like ham, sausage, or bacon
- Coconut oil, olive oil & vegetable oils
- Spices and herbs
- Vinegar (exceptions are flavored vinegar and balsamic vinegar, which contain sugar)
Beverages to drink while on the Atkins diet
The beverages that you can drink safely while on the Atkins diet are:
- Club soda, seltzer water, or water that has no traces of added sugar
- Tea or coffee, with optional Keto-friendly sweetener
- Bouillon or broth
- Beverages that are sugar-free, like diet soda and diet iced tea
Drinking one or two cups of bouillon or broth during the induction phase can facilitate you in minimizing or preventing the symptoms of temporary side effects referred to as “Keto flu”. In this, you may experience fatigue and headache that often occur when you begin a low-carb diet.
Sample Atkins diet menu (sample Atkins diet menu for a week)
When you are planning meals during the Atkins diet Phase 1, the diet is easy:
- You can start with a very generous protein serving
- You can add certain vegetables as a side dish, stir-fried, or as a salad
- You may include fat for fullness and flavor
Following is a sample seven-day food menu that you can follow for Phase 1 of the Atkins diet. You should feel free to include substitute foods from the acceptable list of foods based on your preferences and whatever you have in your home.
What’s involved in the 4 Phases of the Atkins Diet?
The Atkins diet is broadly divided into four phases:
- Phase 1 or the induction – In this phase, you need to eat only from a list of specific foods like meat, seafood, eggs, and cheese. The criteria are to consume below 20 grams of “net carbs” (this is calculated as total carbs minus the fiber) per day. This is the strictest phase of the Keto diet. Consuming this way majorly leads to ketosis, in which your body utilizes the fat as the major fuel. Undergoing ketosis makes a person feel lesser hungry and thus they eat lesser. As a result, they end up losing more weight. You can follow this particular phase for one or up to a maximum of two weeks.
- Phase 2 or OWL (Ongoing Weight Loss) – In this particular phase, you will gradually add some food back into your daily diet, where you can include 5 grams of net carbs at one time. You can follow this phase 2 until you are just a few pounds from reaching your ideal or targeted weight.
- Phase 3 or the pre-maintenance phase – You can experiment with adding some more carbohydrates back to your diet and fine-tune the carb intake depending on the progress you are witnessing. You necessarily need to follow Phase 3 till the time your goal of weight loss is met.
- Phase 4 or maintenance – In this phase, you will eat within the carb range that you are allowed to intake and maintain your weight. You can follow this Phase 4 perpetually for the remaining part of your life.
Can Vegetarians and Vegans Follow the Atkins Diet?
Several foods are vegan-friendly and vegetarian.
Yes, a vegetarian or vegan can follow a low-carb Atkins Diet and reach their weight loss goal. This helps them to maintain a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
Eco Atkins Diet
The concept of a vegan Atkins diet is an alternative that is developed by researchers in Toronto at St. Michael’s Hospital. This diet plan is set in such a way that it determines the high-protein vegan or vegetarian diet, helping to promote the process of weight loss and helping in reducing the level of “bad” Cholesterol. This study indicates that the Eco Atkins diet is a diet plan with a similar ratio of carbs and protein as in the original Atkins diet. The major point of difference is that animal-based protein is replaced with vegetable protein.
Differences between the Vegetarian diet and Eco Atkins Diet
As per a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the researchers had put up one group of participants who belonged to the Eco Atkins diet vegan and the lacto-vegetarian diet. Both of these diets in this particular study met the high-protein and low-carb content criteria. All the individuals participating in this study were overweight and were under observation for one month.
Regarding the Eco Atkins diet, the accounted protein content was calculated to be 31% of the complete calories, and the fat level was found to be 43% of the entire calories. The remaining 26% of the calories came from carbohydrates. Certain starchy items like rice, bread, baked goods, and potatoes were completely eliminated from the diet.
As this study was being conducted, both of the groups mentioned above managed to lose the same level of weight & improve their Cholesterol, blood pressure & level of triglyceride. The participants who took the Eco Atkins diet witnessed a considerable reduction in the level of bad or LDL Cholesterol compared to the group participants. The latter took a vegetarian diet with low fat. Additionally, the LDL’s component ApoB- is strongly related to heart diseases and fell significantly more among the Eco Atkins carb diet takers than the vegetarian group.
Tips for Dining out When You’re on Atkins (tips for dining out when you are on an Atkins diet)
Even though you have chosen a low-carb lifestyle, you will still go out to eat once in a while! The restaurants do not always offer many options containing low carbs, but if you know how to order perfectly, you can turn an entrée into the fabulous low-carb meal you are looking for. Here are a few tips that will make you are eating out a healthy habit while you are on a low-carb diet which is as easy as cooking at home.
- Before you visit a restaurant, you should read through the restaurant’s menu online. Deciding what you should order even before entering the restaurant certainly allows you to make an informed and healthy choice and can facilitate you in avoiding making any last-moment unhealthy eating decision.
- You can consume some light snacks before going out to eat as this will help prevent overeating in the restaurant you visit. You should necessarily choose something that is healthy & fulfilling but, at the same time, should not tend to ruin your natural appetite. You can order some guacamole and veggies or a ham roll or turkey.
- Several restaurants offer complimentary tortilla chips or bread to start off your meal. In case you face a tough time resisting the temptation of the bread basket, you should politely ask the server that you do not require the basket or ask if this would be possible for them to take away the same earlier as compared to the usual. In case chips or bread come with salsa, guacamole, or hummus, you should ask if you can substitute some sliced veggies instead of that.
- While your entrée usually comes with pasta salad, fries, or some other high-carb foods, you can substitute food with low-carb, for instance, veggies like broccoli or asparagus. The big restaurants are always ready to accommodate your special request and will facilitate you in maintaining your Atkins diet.
- You should be mindful of the ingredients in your salad. You should order something other than a salad variety that is served in a shell just like a taco salad. Instead, you should go for some easy-on add-ins like tortilla strips and croutons. Additionally, you must ensure that any meat you receive with your salad is always grilled and not breaded. If you are in the initial phase of your low-carb diet, you should also avoid fruits with low carbs, like mangos and grapes.
- Ditching the bun or bread while ordering a sandwich can also prevent you from consuming extra carbs. Often, a sandwich can be prepared into a lettuce wrap or salad. Otherwise, you can limit yourself to the sandwich filling or take off one particular slice for an open-faced option in case you are in the Atkins’ later phases.
- If you are willing to know how to order breakfast in a restaurant where you are following an Atkins diet, then this pointer will be of help to you. You should avoid pancakes, waffles, and French toast or oatmeal. Rather you should order a scramble or omelet that contains low carbs. You can ask for fresh fruits like half a grapefruit or berries instead of breakfast potatoes or hash browns.
- If you have walked into an Italian restaurant, you should skip the pizza and pasta sections on the menu and head straight for protein-based entrees. You can choose fish, chicken, or beef in limited quantities instead.
With some level of forethought & healthy decision-making, you do not need to feel guilty while planning to visit a restaurant during the phase of your Atkins dieting. When you opt to eat out while you are on Atkins dieting, this is easy to stay on track & still eat very deliciously yet healthily.
Pros and Cons of Following Atkins Dieting
Like any other popular diet, there are benefits and risks of following a specific restricted eating plan. Let us have a look at a few of the pros and cons associated with Atkins dieting.
There are a few possible pros that are associated with the following of Atkins diet and its nutritional approach.
Easy to maintain
For one, the diet is relatively easy to follow, and thus the chances of deviation are very low. For people who are fighting a weight problem, each meal seems to be a battle and a tremendous and stressful psychological burden. A diet that restricts carbohydrates eliminates the overall battle. Dr. Richard D. Feinman from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York published a well-researched scientific research study on Atkins & diets that restricts carbohydrate. He stated that in these diets, protein is the most stable part of the diet, which will provide a certain level of control for fighting the food consumed.
Not based on portion control.
Also, the Atkins diet is not based on the concept of portion control. This is deemed to be one of the hurdles of the other popular diets, but Atkins has nothing to do with portion control. Small portions are usually good, but when it is a low-carbohydrate diet, you can also eat another portion if you are hungry.
Also, the Atkins diet’s simple and easy-to-follow structure is very straightforward; thus, people can adhere to the same very easily. People feel this is easy to follow, and its simplicity is obvious because you do not need to measure foods while eating. Thus, you will never feel deprived.
Suitable for Type 2 Diabetes patients
The low-carbohydrate diet, like the Atkins diet, has proved to be very suitable for patients with Type 2 Diabetes and is looking forward to bringing down their sugar level in the blood. Reducing carbohydrates has health benefits, irrespective of whether you want to lose weight or not.
Not able to receive a balanced diet
When talking about the flip side, you are receiving a well-balanced and complete diet while following the nutritional approach of Atkins dieting. With any diet that is responsible for eliminating the food group partially or wholly, you will not receive all the necessary nutrients.
Lack of fiber in the body
Then you may face a lack of important nutrients like fiber which can help you feel full & this will curb your several unhealthy cravings. Omitting foods like fruit and grains will deprive your body of the necessary fiber. Several phytochemicals are the naturally formed compounds found in veggies and fruits that provide strong antioxidant effects. Once you are skipping fruit and veggies, you will be deprived of the phytochemicals and you will not be able to receive the same from the mineral and multivitamin supplements. At the same time, by eliminating fruits and veggies from your diet, you will not receive the required calcium, vitamin D, and fiber as well.
It can cause dehydration and other side effects.
The Atkins diet can cause dehydration and lead to side effects like energy loss and light-headedness. Carbs can hold water within your body. In the Atkins diet, the level of carb intake is very low. Thus your body may lose an ample amount of water, and this may raise the level of uric acid & cause a gout attack as well. Following the Atkins diet may enhance calcium loss through the urine and make your kidneys & liver overwork.
Short- and Long-Term Effects of the Atkins Diet
Short-term effects of the Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet approach is all about cutting the carbs drastically during the early phase of this program and causes some short-term side effects like:
A few of the low-carb diets also are found to restrict carbs, and thus, they cause you not to retain enough fibre or nutrients in the body. Due to this, certain health issues like nausea, diarrhea, or constipation may occur. Having carbs with high fibre content, like whole grains, is likely to improve the overall health profile of the people following the Atkins diet.
Atkins Diet suggests restricting carbohydrates to less than 20 grams daily; this particular level is usually suggested in Phase 1 of the Atkins diet. This can likely cause ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the intake of carbohydrates is very low, and there is not enough sugar/glucose that can be broken down to release energy. This specifically causes ketones to develop inside your body. The side effects of ketosis include headache, nausea, bad breath, and mental fatigue.
Long-term effects of the Atkins diet
The long-term effects or complications associated with Atkins Diet are impairment of cardiac contractile functioning, osteoporosis, sudden death, increased risk of cancer, kidney damage, lipid abnormalities, and impairment of physical activity.
Is the Atkins diet safe for everyone?
You should be aware that Atkins diet is not suitable for every individual. For example, people suffering from severe kidney disease should not follow this particular diet approach. Also, the weight-loss phase is not at all suitable for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. Also, people who take oral diabetes medication, insulin or diuretics should not go for the Atkins diet. Before starting the Atkins diet, you should consult your physician if you have any health complexity.
There are several inspirational success stories of individuals following the Atkins diet. Also, high-quality science supports the results obtained from the Atkins diet.
Several researchers have analyzed the studies and concluded that the Atkins diet is very effective for weight loss.
Per trials conducted in real life, people following the Atkins diet are allowed to eat as much as possible until they are full.
In 2007 a trial study was conducted, known as the A to Z study. In this particular study, overweight women were made to follow the Atkins diet (low-carb) and LEARM (lower calories, portion-controlled diet), Zone (moderate-carb diet), and Ornish (low-fat diet) for one year continuously.
The participants in these particular studies started following Phase 1 for a few weeks & then began to increase their carb intake with every passing week. At the end of a few months, they started eating 100 grams of carbs daily. In this study, it was found that they experienced impressive results in the beginning, but they eventually stopped losing any more weight further and also regained weight to a certain extent once they started adding carbs to their diet again.
Also, it was noticed that those people who retained their Phase 1 longer & added carbs back to their diet gradually rather than abruptly may tend to lose more weight.
There is also certain evidence that a low-carb diet like the Atkins diet helps prevent your metabolism from slowing down during the weight maintenance phase. This will ensure that you will increase the likelihood of keeping off your weight for longer.
The results obtained from trials of the Atkins diet are usually consistent & several other studies demonstrate that low-carb diets are helpful in achieving dramatic weight loss goals and improving health simultaneously.