Atkins Diet – A Complete Guide for the Low-Carb Plan - 20 Things You Need to Know

By Summer Banks on Nov 07, 2017

In 1958, Alfred W. Pennington published an article entitled “Weight Reduction” in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The writings of Pennington inspired Robert Atkins, a cardiologist, to dig deeper into the facts presented.

what is the atkins diet

What Is The Atkins Diet?

What is the Atkins diet? The Atkins diet is a radical eating plan where the dieter eats foods high in fat and calories and low in carbohydrates. It’s controversial, expensive, and takes some effort. However, a busy mom or dad who needs to cook for a family may find that it’s easy to do with this plan. Even going to a fast food joint isn’t so difficult. They can order that big burger or chicken sandwich; they will just need to learn to hold the bun.

What Are The Atkins Diet Rules?

The Atkins diet rules are pretty easy to follow. All a person needs to do is keep their net carbs in check. There’s no need to count calories or fat grams. Counting protein is not required, but it can be helpful for those who want to eat things that make them fuller longer.

How Does The Atkins Diet Work?

how does the atkins diet work

How does the Atkins diet work? Well, it’s simple. Carbohydrates turn into sugar once inside the body. Avoiding these items allows the body to use its fat storage as fuel. Much of the weight loss in the beginning is from water and muscle, but as the diet continues people lose fat too. The high-fat content supplements the loss of carbs in the body. It’s about eating the right carbohydrates and avoiding the bad ones.

The diet works because carbs are what is responsible for most of the obesity epidemic. Sugary cereals, toaster pastries, candy bars, pasta, and breaded items are a huge part of why Americans are overweight. Add fast food restaurants to the mix and consuming 2,000 calories per day is nearly impossible. [1]

Atkins Diet Phases

The Atkins diet phases are progressive and based on one’s needs. If a person is severely morbidly obese and a doctor recommends rapid weight loss, then they can stay in the induction period for longer than two weeks. The four phases are:

  • Induction
  • Ongoing Weight Loss
  • Pre-Maintenance
  • Lifetime Maintenance

The first phase jump starts the weight loss. However, the second phase is where a person finds the correct carbohydrate level for losing. Every person is different, and what works for one might not work for another. To find the magic number, it requires playing around a bit with carbohydrate intake to see what is sufficient.

In the pre-maintenance stage, more foods are added back into the plan. A person doesn’t move into this phase until they are 5-10 pounds from their goal weight. Realistically, a person can be in phase two for a year or so. It just depends on the individual needs. Once a person reaches their weight goal, and they haven’t lost any weight for a few weeks, they move into the final phase.

During maintenance, a person has learned to eat carbs in moderation and puts their knowledge to work. They can have carb-laden items in moderation. Though people at this stage are technically not dieting anymore, they must maintain their loss. It requires staying within the magic carb intake number for life. Alleviating from this number causes rapid weight gain. [2]

How To Start Atkins Diet?

atkins diet how to start

You may be wondering how to start Atkins diet. Before starting such a diet plan, it’s important that a person gets the approval from their doctor. This is especially true when there are underlying medical conditions. Eating a high-fat diet may not work well if a person has problems with their cholesterol.

In fact, many experts will agree that cutting carbs from the diet is advantageous; however, many will say that the types of fat consumed are just as important. Harvard Medical School did a study on the body’s good and bad fat consumption. Eating bad fats can be dangerous, especially in large quantities. [3]

Once a person has the approval from their doctor, they should write out a list of the foods that they can and cannot eat on the plan. A list can make shopping easier.

Atkins Diet Induction

During the Atkins diet induction, the body is reprogramming itself. It’s not an easy process, and many feel as if they are detoxing from drugs. Science has proven that sugar spikes the dopamine levels in the brain. Just like those who drink alcohol or take drugs, it gives a euphoric feeling that makes the body feel good. In fact, some research has found that sugar travels the same pathways in the brain as cocaine. [4]

During the first phase, the goal is to reduce the body’s dependency on carbohydrates. The first three days are the worst. However, once the body begins to lose its need for sugar, a person begins to feel better. The body goes through a whole process to break the addiction to carbohydrates, and it’s a difficult one.

What Can You Eat On The Atkins Diet?

what can you eat on the atkins diet

What can you eat on the Atkins diet? It’s such a different approach to dieting that doesn’t have the same rules as counting calories. Eating anything that is high in protein and fat and low in sugar is acceptable. Meats like chicken, bacon, lamb, pork, and beef are all acceptable. Fish is an excellent source of protein, and salmon, tuna, and trout are excellent options. Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals, but some have hidden carbs. The best vegetables are broccoli, green beans, kale, spinach, and asparagus.

Every morsel must be logged into a daily eating journal to effectively keep track of net carbs. Depending on what part of the journey a person is in, it will depict how many carbohydrates they can consume.

Atkins Diet Meal Plan

Using a multi-phase eating system, the Atkins diet meal plan allows you to choose the foods dieters love to create a doable lifestyle. There are no mandates for a number of calories or fat grams, though one should stick with the proper allotment of net carbs per day. To do the low-carb diet correctly, one must supplement the loss of fiber with fat. The fat keeps the digestive system moving properly. Most folks have eggs and bacon for breakfast and a salad with chicken or turkey for lunch. Salad dressing is okay too. No need to buy low-fat versions as the higher fat content is needed.

The premise of this program is to start off eating 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. After the first two weeks, you must work to find the magic number of carbs. According to research, if a person is eating a 2,000 calorie diet, then they will need around 200 grams of carbohydrates per day. Unfortunately, at that rate, one would just maintain and not lose. Other sources suggest that a person get at least 100 grams of carbs each day. The very basis of this program is to deprive the body of carbs but to nourish it with fats instead. The Atkins diet plan is easy to follow. [5] [6]

Atkins Diet Foods

Those who don’t want to mess with calculating net carbs can opt for pre-packaged Atkins foods. They offer both snacks and frozen meals that are in line with the four phases. Atkins diet foods are nutritious. They get high reviews among low-carb enthusiasts. If planning and cooking around such a strict diet regimen are not possible, they offer a full product line to help. They offer a free sample package for those starting the diet. On their website, anyone who gives their information will receive a welcome packet from Atkins. This package includes snack bars and coupons for entrees.

Atkins Diet Food Lists

atkins diet food lists

The Atkins diet food list is comprehensive. Each of the four phases allows different foods. However, in all the phases, protein is key. Cheese, eggs, leafy greens, and other vegetables are encouraged. It forbids bread, cereals, desserts, and snack foods during the initial two phases. One slip can throw the diet off as the body will begin to crave carbs once again. The goal is to diminish or get rid of the cravings for carbohydrates.

Atkins Diet Phase 1 Food List

The Atkins diet phase 1 food list seems a bit small for those looking at it for the first time. The use of a carb counter may be helpful when starting this program. Remember that the goal is 20 net carbs. To achieve the net carb amount, minus the fiber from the total carbs. Be sure to eat plenty of meat, shellfish, fish, and foul. However, watch for prepackaged meats and things like “honey ham.” This would have more carbohydrates than traditional ham. Some companies use brown sugar to cure items. Read the labels.

During phase one cheese is acceptable. The only cheeses prohibited in this phase is cottage and farmer’s cheese. They have trace amounts of carbs that must be counted. Parmesan is an excellent option as it has no carbohydrates. Mozzarella, Feta, Gouda, and cream cheese are all acceptable.

Vegetables seem like they would all be okay on this eating plan. However, some vegetables have higher carb content. Carrots and potatoes are not acceptable in the induction phase. Spinach, lettuce, and zucchini are better options. The Atkins Diet Phase 1 Food List is rather small, but it’s doable. [7]

Atkins Diet Menu

atkins diet menu

It’s best to plan out meals for the week. Make a grocery list of the items needed, and don’t alleviate from the list. A person needs 4 ounces of protein as well as a couple of cups of leafy greens or vegetables with their meal. If hunger persists, more protein can be consumed. It’s always better to eat the protein to help fill up the stomach as opposed to items with higher carb content.

Many find that switching their thinking from low calorie to low carb living is difficult. First, don’t consider the calories. The body needs the extra calories as it’s being deprived of carbohydrates. Also, one should not be concerned with fat content, unless its trans or saturated varieties. On this plan, the focus is totally on carbs. When creating an Atkins diet menu, focus on the foundation vegetables, and build a meal plan around them.

Atkins Diet Recipes

The internet is a great source of low-carb eating plans. Atkins diet recipes are plentiful on just about every healthy eating site around. Creamy sauces and dressings that are often not allowed on other diets are welcomed on this plan. Being able to make a cheesy Alfredo go with a plate of zucchini noodles and chicken makes eating the low carb lifestyle easier. There are hundreds of options to spice up what may seem like a mundane eating style. [8]

Atkins Diet Snacks

Atkins diet snacks seem to be the most difficult. While Atkins has a whole line of snack foods, they are rather pricey. Things like sugar-free gelatin as well as a whipped topping are good options. Since cocoa has no carbohydrates, many desserts can be made with a sugar substitute and cocoa.

Atkins Diet Products

atkins diet products

There is a full line of Atkins Diet products from shakes to candy to frozen meals. All have been tailored to the rules and guidelines, but not all are as low in carbs as you may think with some reaching as high as 11 or 12g of carbs.

Different Types of Atkins Diets

Atkins 20 Diet

The Atkins 20 Diet is the first part of the low carb plan. It involves eating under 20 grams of net carbs each day. This section of the diet is meant to be followed for two weeks. However, those who have more weight to lose or have serious health issues that require quick weight loss may opt to stay on the induction plan longer.

This phase of the eating plan requires strict adherence to minimal carbs. Meats and cheeses are acceptable as are some vegetables. No fruits or nuts at this stage. The purpose of this phase is to allow the body to go into ketosis, which is where it’s burning fat regularly. Some think of it as a jump start for their sluggish metabolism.

Atkins 40 Diet

Once dieters complete the 20-net carb two-week induction, they can slowly start to add some foods back into their diet. The next phase is called the Atkins 40 Diet plan. It’s named merely for the fact that dieters can have up to 40 grams of net carbs each day. Food restrictions still abound, but it’s not as strict as induction.

Atkins Diet for Diabetics? Is It Safe?

Though much controversy surrounds this diet, a person with diabetes needs a reduction in sugar to control their glucose levels. Losing weight can be advantageous for type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association backs this diet for those suffering from this medical condition.

In studies conducted, it showed that 95 percent of those who use the Atkins diet for people with diabetes were able to go off their medication. These people also had had more significant reductions in blood glucose than those who tried other diets.

Vegetarian Atkins Diet

vegetarian atkins diet

Though there is no official vegetarian Atkins diet, those who prefer to avoid meat can modify the diet to suit their preferences. To eat a vegetarian version of this diet, include things like:

  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Brown Rice
  • Fish
  • Meat Substitutes Made from Vegetables
  • Gluten Meat Substitutes

Though it may take a bit more work to alter the diet for a vegetarian lifestyle, it can be done without difficulty. [9]

Atkins Diet Weight Loss

Atkins diet weight loss can be dramatic. It’s important to have the right mind set when beginning this or any other diet plan. A person can lose a ton of weight, but they will quickly regain that weight when they add bread and pastas back into their diet. Low carb living is a lifestyle and not just a fad diet.

Atkins Diet Results

Atkins diet results vary based on the person. If a person has 300 pounds to lose, they are going to lose it quicker than someone who has 20 vanity pounds. However, the results are encouraging no matter how much weight a person needs to lose. The goal is to follow the plan and not alleviate it.

Atkins Diet Reviews

No diet will work for everyone. However, Atkins diet reviews show that its well-liked from both the dieting community experts and dieters alike. Those who have issues like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease need the drastic measures of this diet. There are some that this diet won’t work for too. Those that are pregnant, nursing, have kidney disease or other conditions that a doctor advised against should avoid a high-fat diet.

There was much criticism of this eating plan when the low-carb craze took over in the 2002’s. However, when the Atkins diet was revamped to include forbidden fruits in moderation, many agreed that it was a great way to lose weight quickly.

Atkins Diet Side Effects

atkins diet side effects

The Atkins diet side effects are pretty much that same that can be experienced from any other diet plan. The first three days to a week the body is in a detox state. This state can make a person feel like they have the flu. They may experience headaches, body pains, and extreme hunger. However, the pangs of hunger pass after a few days and the body quickly adjusts.

Another common side effect of the diet is constipation. The lack of fiber can do a number on the digestive system. Thankfully, eating higher fat items can help to keep things moving. [10]

Is The Atkins Diet Healthy?

Is the Atkins diet healthy? Most people want to know if eating all those calories and fat can be healthy for their body? A study conducted at Duke University found that eating a high fat and low carb diet improves cholesterol levels, heart disease, and results in rapid weight loss. [11]

Is The Atkins Diet Safe?

Is the Atkins diet safe? It’s one of the most controversial diets of all times. However, as stated above, it doesn’t work for everyone. There is nothing on the earth that was created as food that should be off limits. However, the plan does teach moderation and an awareness of how the body digest fats, which is all good things. Since Dr. Atkins was a cardiologist, he used this diet and saw first hand how it helped his patients. [12]

The Bottom Line on the Dr. Atkins Diet

Dr. Atkins diet has been scrutinized for years. However, it’s one of the few diets that has spanned almost 50 years successfully. His books are still best sellers. Though many diets have taken his core content and spun off with their eating plan, this is still considered the pioneer in the dieting revolution. Low carb living is all the craze and recommended by bariatric doctors and other physicians.

Atkins Diet – A Complete Guide for the Low-Carb Plan

Q:
What can you eat on the Atkins diet?
A:

You can eat poultry, fish, eggs, meat, butter, olive oil, saccharine, decaffeinated tea and coffee, diet sodas, milk, cheese, and vegetables.

Q:
Is the Atkins diet healthy or not?
A:

The Atkins diet is healthy if you use it in phases. People who use more plant-based fats tend to be healthier than those who use more animal proteins and fats.

Q:
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A:

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Q:
What do you eat on a no carb diet?
A:

You can eat any kind of meat, butter, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, cheese, milk, and vegetables.

Q:
How do I eat less carbohydrates?
A:

The best way to eat less carbohydrates is to replace foods like sugar, white flour, and white rice with vegetables that contain natural carbs.

Q:
How much weight can you lose on the Atkins diet?
A:

You can lose up to ten pounds in the first couple of weeks, then keep losing about two pounds per week.

Q:
Can you eat fruit on the Atkins diet?
A:

At first it is best to cut fruit out of your diet entirely. After a few weeks you can reintroduce small amounts of low carb fruits, like berries.

Q:
What is the low carb high fat diet?
A:

In low carb high fat diets you restrict foods like white bread and sugar and replace them with fattier foods like meat and butter.

Q:
How much weight can you lose on a low carb diet?
A:

You could lose up to ten pounds in the first two weeks. After that you could lose up to two pounds weekly.

Q:
How do you go on a no carb diet?
A:

You can go on a no carb diet by choosing foods that are low in carbohydrates. Sometimes it helps to write out a menu and follow it until you’re used to a diet without carbs.

Q:
What fruits are low in carbs?
A:

Melons, berries, avacados, and citrus fruit are all low carb options.

Q:
How does the Atkins diet really work?
A:

The Atkins diet causes your body to burn its own fat for fuel, which causes you to lose weight.

Q:
What are the risks of the Atkins diet?
A:

The most common health risk related to the Atkins diet is high cholesterol, which can lead to cardiovascular problems.

Q:
What are the side effects of the Atkins diet?
A:

During phase 1 side effects can include dizziness, headaches, constipation, muscle weakness, and fatigue.

Q:
Is the Atkins diet safe and effective?
A:

The Atkins diet is safe if you reintroduce healthy carbs back into your diet over time. The diet has proven to be effective for weight loss.

Q:
How do you lose weight on a low carb diet?
A:

When your body is deprived of quick-burning carbohydrates from sugary and starchy foods it will burn off fat reserves for energy, which leads to weight loss.

Q:
What is the Atkins 40 plan?
A:

The Atkins 40 meal plan allows up to 40 grams of carbs per day, and includes foods from each food group.

Q:
Which fruits are low in sugar?
A:

Low sugar fruits include berries, citrus fruits, avocados, and melons.

Q:
Are grapes low in carbohydrates?
A:

Grapes are very high in carbohydrates.

Q:
Is a Low Carb Diet Good For You?
A:

Low carb diets have no evidence of health risks.

Q:
How low is low carb diet?
A:

A general rule of thumb for a low carb diet is one that includes 20 grams of carbs or lower.

Q:
How much weight can you lose in the induction period of Atkins?
A:

During the induction period, or first two weeks, of the Atkins diet you could lose up to ten pounds.

Q:
How many carbs should you eat on a low carb diet?
A:

Low carb diets should limit carbs to 20 grams or less daily.

Q:
What fats to eat on Ketogenic Diet?
A:

Avocodos, beef, nuts, and olives are good, as well as unsaturated fats.

Q:
How can I improve my fat intake?
A:

Increasing the amount of fish you eat, include nuts in foods whenever possible, and cook with saturated fats.

Q:
Can you eat watermelon on a low carb diet?
A:

Yes, watermelon is a low carb fruit.

Q:
Can you have fruit on a low carb diet?
A:

Low carb fruits, like melons and berries, can be eaten on a low carb diet.

Q:
How long does it take to see results on a low carb diet?
A:

You could notice weight loss after two weeks.

Q:
How long does it take to get your body into ketosis?
A:

The body usually goes into ketosis after two days of eating 20 grams of carbohydrates or less.

Q:
How do you get into ketosis?
A:

You get into ketosis by reducing your carb intake to 20 grams or less on a daily basis.

Q:
What not to eat if you want to lose weight?
A:

Avoiding sugars and products made from white flour can help you lose weight.

Q:
What is the best way to lose weight?
A:

The best way to lose weight is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.

Q:
Can I eat an apple on a low carb diet?
A:

You should avoid apples at the beginning of a low carb diet.

Q:
Are mushrooms low carb?
A:

Mushrooms have very few carbohydrates.

Q:
Can you eat beans on a low carb diet?
A:

Limit beans to a small amount every now and then.

Q:
Is a grapefruit low carb?
A:

Grapefruit contains very few carbs.

Q:
How can I reduce the amount of fat in my diet?
A:

Eat lean meats, avoid fried foods, and eat more fruits and vegetables.

Q:
What can I eat to get fat?
A:

Nuts, rice, red meat, milk, eggs, and root vegetables are all healthy ways to gain weight.

Q:
What can you eat on a ketogenic diet?
A:

On a ketogenic diet you can eat nuts, vegetable oils, butter, leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, cucumbers, fish, red meat, and poultry.

Q:
What is a ketogenic diet plan?
A:

A typical ketogenic diet is 80 percent fats, 15 percent proteins, and 5 percent carbohydrates.

Q:
How many carbs should you eat?
A:

A healthy person who is not trying to lose or gain weight should eat about 250 grams of carbs daily.

Q:
How many carbs do you need to build muscle?
A:

A typical muscle building diet of 3,000 calories should include 375 grams of carbs daily.

Q:
Can you eat the Atkins bars on induction?
A:

Yes, you can eat the Atkins bars on induction.

Q:
What can I eat on a low carb diet?
A:

A low carb diet can include saturated fats, nuts, red meat, poultry, cheese, and some fruits.

Q:
What is a low carb diet consist of?
A:

Nuts, red meat, cheese, poultry, fish, and saturated fats.

Q:
How do I do a low carb diet?
A:

Plan meals that include high protein, fatty foods.

Q:
How do I reduce carbs in my diet?
A:

Replace sugars and starchy foods with high protein, fatty alternatives.

Q:
What fruit is high in carbs?
A:

Grapes, apples, pears, pineapples, and bananas are all high in carbs.

Q:
What are the foods high in carbohydrates?
A:

Sugars, candy, cereal, refined flour, bread, and potatoes are all high in carbohydrates.

Q:
What fruits are high in sugar?
A:

Pineapples, grapes, pears, apples, and bananas are high in sugar.

Q:
Why do low carb diets work so well?
A:

Low carb diets cause your body to begin burning excess fat for fuel, which causes you to lose weight.

Q:
How much weight can you lose eating 50 carbs a day?
A:

You can lose up to 10 pounds over a five week span.

Q:
Are tomatoes Low carb?
A:

Tomatoes are some of the lowest carb fruits.

Q:
How do I stick to a low carb diet?
A:

Schedule your carbs throughout the day, avoid processed junk food, and drink water.

Q:
Is a low carb diet bad for you?
A:

There have been no serious health risks linked to a low carb diet.

Q:
What not to eat when on a low carb diet?
A:

Avoid eating granulated or processed sugars, rice, and products made from white flour.

Q:
What is considered to be low carb diet?
A:

A low carb diet consists of 50 grams of carbs or fewer on a daily basis.

Q:
Is the Atkins diet healthy for you?
A:

The Atkins diet can be healthy if it helps you lose weight, though some doctors worry that it can increase cholesterol levels.

Q:
How many carbs do you need to run?
A:

Runners should eat between 25 and 60 grams of carbohydrates for each hour they run.

Q:
How many carbs should you eat a day bodybuilding?
A:

At least half of a bodybuilder’s daily calories should be carbohydrates.

Q:
How many carbs should you eat if you want to lose weight?
A:

An effective low carb diet contains 20 to 50 grams of carbs daily.

Q:
How many carbs should you have a day if you are prediabetic?
A:

If you eat the typical 2,000 calories in a day, you should eat between 250 and 300 grams of carbs if you are prediabetic.

Q:
How many carbs can you eat and still be in ketosis?
A:

You can eat up to 50 carbs daily and maintain ketosis.

Q:
How do I get my body into ketosis?
A:

Your body will enter ketosis if you eat fewer than 20 grams of carbs daily for two or more days.

Q:
Is the ketogenic diet safe?
A:

Research has not shown any health risks related to a ketogenic diet.

Q:
How does ketosis diet work?
A:

Ketosis is when your body doesn’t have access to quick-burning sugars from foods, so it begins to burn excess fat for fuel.

Q:
Can you gain weight from eating too much fruit and vegetables?
A:

The high sugar content of some fruit can cause weight gain.

Q:
How can I get fat body?
A:

You can gain weight by eating foods that have high sugar or starch content.

Q:
How can you cook meat to reduce the fat content?
A:

Roasting meat can reduce the fat content.

Q:
How many grams of fat should you eat in a day?
A:

A typical 2,000 calorie daily diet should include up to 78 grams of fat.

Q:
Are peanuts good for a low carb diet?
A:

Peanuts are fine for a low carb diet.

Q:
What do you eat on the slow carb diet?
A:

Slow carb diets include vegetables, lean meats, and beans.

Q:
What can I eat on a no carb diet?
A:

No carb diets include beef, chicken, pork, trout, salmon, eggs, and leafy green vegetables.

Q:
What foods do not contain carbohydrates?
A:

There are virtually no carbohydrates in most meat, eggs, and fish.

Q:
Are apples good or bad carbs?
A:

Apples contain natural carbs, which are considered healthy.

Q:
Can you eat quinoa on a low carb diet?
A:

It is best to avoid quinoa on a low carb diet.

Q:
How can I lose 5 pounds fast?
A:

Lose weight fast by drinking more water, cutting sodium from your diet, and using high intensity interval training.

Q:
How can I lose weight fast in a week?
A:

Fast weight loss can be achieved through the use of high intensity interval training, reducing sodium, and drinking more water.

Q:
How can I eat to lose weight?
A:

Eat high protein foods, drink more water, and avoid processed or sugary foods.

Q:
What is the worst thing you can eat?
A:

Margarine is the unhealthiest food on the market.

Q:
How long does it take for the body to go into ketosis?
A:

Ketosis will begin about two days after you cut carbs from your diet.

Q:
What is the fat fast?
A:

The fat fast is a low calorie diet that consists of up to 90% fats.

Q:
How do I get into ketosis fast?
A:

You can get into ketosis faster by drastically cutting carbs from your diet.

Q:
What is ketosis and what are the symptoms?
A:

Ketosis is when your body begins to burn fat reserves for fuel. The symptoms include weight loss, a feeling of hunger, and sometimes a feeling of fatigue.

About the Author:

Summer Banks, Director of Content at Dietspotlight, has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with doctors specializing in weight loss and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University. full bio.