The Atkins diet: everything you need to know

The Atkins diet is a low carb diet, generally recommended for weight loss.

Proponents of this diet claim that you can lose weight while eating as much protein and fat as you want, as long as you avoid carbohydrate-rich foods.

In the last 12 or more years, more than 20 studies have shown that low-carb diets without the need to count calories are effective in losing weight and can lead to several improvements in health.

The Atkins diet was originally promoted by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, MD, who wrote a best-selling book on this subject in 1972.

Since then, the Atkins diet has been popular around the world and many more books have been written.

The diet was originally considered unhealthy and demonized by the main health authorities, mainly due to its high content of saturated fats. However, new studies suggest that saturated fat is safe (1, 2).

Since then, the diet has been thoroughly studied and has been shown to lead to greater weight loss and greater improvements in blood sugar, "good" HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and other health markers than low diets. in fat (3, 4).

Despite being high in fat, it does not raise "bad" LDL cholesterol on average, although this occurs in a subset of individuals (5).

The main reason why low-carb diets are so effective in losing weight is that a reduction in carbohydrates and increased protein intake reduces appetite, which makes you eat fewer calories without having to think about it ( 6, 7).

You can read more about the health benefits of low carb diets in this article.

Atkins Diet 101

The Atkins diet is divided into 4 different phases:

  • Phase 1 (induction): Less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day for 2 weeks. Eat foods rich in fats and proteins, with low-carb vegetables such as green leaves. This kick starts the weight loss.

  • Phase 2 (rolling): Slowly add more nuts, low carb vegetables and small amounts of fruit to your diet.

  • Phase 3 (fine adjustment): When you are very close to your ideal weight, add more carbohydrates to your diet until the weight loss decreases.

  • Phase 4 (maintenance): Here you can eat as many healthy carbohydrates as your body can tolerate without regaining weight.

However, these phases are a bit complicated and may not be necessary. You should be able to lose weight and keep it as long as you follow the meal plan below.

Some people choose to skip the induction phase and include many vegetables and fruits from the beginning. This approach can be very effective too.

Others prefer to simply stay in the induction phase indefinitely. This is also known as a ketogenic diet that is very low in carbohydrates (keto).

The foods that should be avoided

You should avoid these foods in the Atkins diet:

  • Sugar: Soft drinks, fruit juices, cakes, sweets, ice cream, etc.

  • Grain Wheat, spelled, rye, barley, rice.

  • Vegetable oils: Soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil and some others.

  • Trans fat: It is usually found in processed foods with the word "hydrogenated" in the list of ingredients.

  • "Dietary" and "low-fat" foods: These are usually very high in sugar.

  • Vegetables high in carbohydrates: Carrots, turnips, etc. (induction only).

  • Fruits high in carbohydrates: Bananas, apples, oranges, pears, grapes (only induction).

  • Starches Potatoes, sweet potatoes (only induction).

  • Vegetables Lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc. (only induction).

Foods to Eat

You must base your diet on these healthy foods.

  • Meats: Beef, pork, lamb, chicken, bacon and others.

  • Fatty fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, sardines, etc.

  • Eggs: The healthiest eggs are omega-3 enriched or grazed.

  • Low carb vegetables: Curly kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus and others.

  • Dairy products with all the fat: Butter, cheese, cream, whole-grain yogurt.

  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, macadamia nuts, nuts, sunflower seeds, etc.

  • Healthy fats: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and avocado oil.

As long as you base your meals on a source of fatty protein with vegetables or nuts and some healthy fats, you will lose weight. It's that easy.


Here are some drinks that are acceptable in the Atkins diet.

  • Water: As always, water should be your favorite drink.

  • Coffee: Many studies show that coffee is rich in antioxidants and quite healthy.

  • Green Tea: A very healthy drink.

Alcohol is also good in small amounts. Adhere to dry wines without added sugars and avoid high carb drinks such as beer.

Maybe eat

There are many delicious foods that you can eat on the Atkins diet.

This includes foods such as bacon, thick cream, cheese and dark chocolate.

Many of these are generally considered fattening due to the high content of fat and calories.

However, when you are on a low carb diet, your body increases the use of fat as an energy source and suppresses appetite, reducing the risk of overeating and weight gain.

For more information, see this article on 6 indulgent foods that are low in carbohydrates.

After the induction is over, you can re-add more healthy carbohydrates

Despite what you may have heard, the Atkins diet is quite flexible.

It is only during the two-week induction phase that you need to minimize your intake of carbohydrate sources.

After the induction is over, you can re-add healthier carbohydrates, such as vegetables high in carbohydrates, fruits, berries, potatoes, legumes, and healthier grains such as oats and rice.

However, you will most likely have to stay moderately low in carbohydrates for life, even if you achieve your weight loss goals.

If you go back to eating the same old foods in the same amounts as before, you will gain weight again. This is true for any weight loss diet.

What about vegetarians?

It is possible to make the Atkins diet as vegetarian (and even vegan), but difficult.

You can use soy-based foods to get protein and eat lots of nuts and seeds. Olive oil and coconut oil are excellent sources of vegetable fat.

Lacto-ovo-vegetarians can also eat eggs, cheese, butter, thick cream and other high-fat dairy products.

An Atkins sample menu for a week

This is a sample menu for a week on the Atkins diet.

It is suitable for the induction phase, but you should add more vegetables with a high carbohydrate content and some fruits as you progress to the other phases.


  • Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables, fried in coconut oil.

  • Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil, and a handful of nuts.

  • Dinner: Steak and vegetables.


  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.

  • Lunch: Leftover chicken and vegetables from the previous night.

  • Dinner: Hamburger without cheese, with vegetables and butter.


  • Breakfast: Omelet with vegetables, fried in butter.

  • Lunch: Shrimp salad with a little olive oil.

  • Dinner: Sauteed sauteed meat, with vegetables.


  • Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables, fried in coconut oil.

  • Lunch: The leftover sautéed dinner the night before.

  • Dinner: Salmon with butter and vegetables.


  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.

  • Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and a handful of nuts.

  • Dinner: Meatballs with vegetables.


  • Breakfast: Tortilla with various vegetables, fried in butter.

  • Lunch: Remains of meatballs from the previous night.

  • Dinner: Pork Chops With Vegetables.


  • Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.

  • Lunch: Leftover pork chops from the night before.

  • Dinner: Chicken wings grilled, with some sauce and vegetables.

Be sure to include a variety of different vegetables in your diet.

To see some examples of healthy and satisfying low carb foods, check out this article on 7 healthy low carb meals in less than 10 minutes.

Healthy snacks low in carbohydrates

Most people feel that their appetite decreases in the Atkins diet.

They tend to feel more than satisfied with 3 meals a day (sometimes only 2).

However, if you feel hungry between meals, here are some quick and healthy snacks:

  • Leftovers.

  • One hard egg or two.

  • A piece of cheese.

  • A piece of meat.

  • A handful of nuts.

  • A little greek yogurt.

  • Berries and whipped cream.

  • Carrots baby (care during induction).

  • Fruits (after induction).

How to follow the Atkins diet when eating out

Actually, it is very easy to follow the Atkins diet in most restaurants.

  1. Get extra vegetables instead of bread, potatoes or rice.

  2. Ask for a meal based on fatty meat or fatty fish.

  3. Get a little extra sauce, butter or olive oil with your meal.

A simple shopping list for the Atkins diet

It is a good rule to buy in the perimeter of the store. This is usually where whole foods are found.

It is not necessary to eat organic foods, but always choose the least processed option that fits your budget.

  • Meats: Beef, chicken, lamb, pork, bacon.

  • Fatty fish: Salmon, trout, etc.

  • Shrimp And Seafood.

  • Eggs.

  • Dairy: Greek yogurt, thick cream, butter, cheese.

  • Vegetables: Spinach, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, onions, etc.

  • Berries: Cranberries, strawberries, etc.

  • Nuts: Almonds, macadamia nuts, nuts, hazelnuts, etc.

  • Seeds Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.

  • Fruits: Apples, pears, oranges.

  • Coconut oil.

  • olives.

  • Extra virgin olive oil.

  • Dark chocolate.

  • Avocados.

  • Condiments: Sea salt, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, parsley, etc.

It is highly recommended to clean your pantry of all unhealthy foods and ingredients. This includes ice cream, soft drinks, breakfast cereals, breads, juices and baking ingredients, such as sugar and wheat flour.

The bottom line

If you take the Atkins diet seriously, consider buying or borrowing one of the Atkins books and simply start as soon as possible.

That said, the detailed guide in this article should contain everything you need to be successful. To create a printable version, click here.

To get recipe ideas, check out this article on 101 healthy low carb recipes that have an incredible flavor

At the end of the day, the Atkins diet is a healthy and effective way to lose weight. You will not be disappointed.

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