Your office can be a danger zone full of processed carbs and sugary treats. Whether you’re encountering doughnuts in the break room or it’s the boss’s birthday and everyone’s going out to celebrate at lunch, there are temptations at every turn. Maybe it’s lunchtime, and fast food is your only quick option. Or you’re too busy to leave your desk, so you’re going to have to brown bag it. Or you’re working overtime, and everyone decides to order out for pizza. How can you possibly stick to your low-carb way of eating and still survive at work? Answer: It’s easy—all it takes is some will power and advance planning. Here’s how to avoid the high-carb and sugary traps that lurk in most offices and other work environments:
Conquering Coffee Breaks and Surviving Snacks
Your office vending machine is full of sugary soft drinks, cookies, candy and other high-carb snacks. The break room adds a minefield of doughnuts, muffins and pastries. Don’t even consider them! Also, remember that too much caffeine intake is not good either. If you have already had your morning coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea or herbal tea are better bets. Keep a water bottle filled and by your side at all times so you stay hydrated; sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger.
Eat a satisfying, low-carb breakfast before you go to work so you aren’t tempted at break time. If mornings are too rushed to prepare a nutritious meal, have an Atkins Advantage Bar or shake, or an Atkins frozen meal, which heats up in minutes. You can even throw any of these options in your briefcase or purse and eat them at work. The key is to start the day off right. A breakfast with sufficient protein and fat not only sets you up for a positive and productive day, it keeps you from experiencing an energy dip and being ravenous by mid-morning.
Low-carb snacks are important for keeping your hunger in check and making sure you are less likely to succumb to the temptations in your office. Make sure you have some easy low-carb snacks on hand when hunger hits at mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Good, convenient choices include wrapped individual cheese portions or homemade snacks as hard-boiled eggs or celery sticks filled with cream cheese or ham or turkey rolled up in romaine lettuce leaves with a little mayo and cheese. Once you're beyond the Induction phase, your can have low-carb snacks such as nuts and seeds and some fruits, like berries. And when it’s your turn to bring in the doughnuts, instead provide a healthy low-carb alternative, such as a crustless quiche, that everyone can enjoy. You can even find delicious low-carb recipes for doughnuts at www.atkins.com/recipes.aspx. Your co-workers may never know the difference!
You should be able to get a suitable lunch at the company cafeteria. Skip the fried foods, sandwiches and desserts. Instead, scrutinize the hot entrées, the salad bar and the grill section for good low-carb lunch choices. Ask to substitute extra veggies for high-carb sides. Or exercise a host of options by bringing your own meals. If a refrigerator is not available, pack your homemade lunch in an insulated bag or small cooler. Transport tuna fish, chicken or egg salads in plastic containers; green salads can travel in a zip-strip plastic bag with dressing on the side. Baked chicken legs, slices of roast beef or turkey and steamed shrimp are also highly portable. (These foods work equally well if your job involves frequent car travel.) And don’t forget your leftovers. Make extra portions of your low-carb dinner recipes and pack them up for lunch.
When dining out with co-workers or a client, you should be able to find plenty of alternatives to carb-heavy foods on the menu of just about any restaurant. Instead of something breaded or fried, order a baked or broiled dish. Ask to substitute extra veggies or a salad for starchy side dishes such as rice or potatoes. Pass on pastries and other sweet desserts; instead, choose berries with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Business lunches used to routinely include alcohol, but in today's work environment it's perfectly acceptable—even preferable—to skip the booze. While alcohol is not that high in carbs, mixers often are. Moreover, your body burns alcohol for fuel before fat, so that drink will slow down your fat-burning process.
Sometimes fast food is all that's available or all you have time for, but it's not impossible to get a good low-carb lunch at many of these places. Your best option at a hamburger restaurant is to order a couple of cheeseburgers (banish the buns) along with a side salad, or to try one of the larger lunch salads with some grilled chicken. Make sure you watch the grams of Net Carbs in the salad dressings that accompany these salads. Pass on the French fries. No matter how pressed you are for time; don't skip lunch—you'll only be more tempted to eat carbohydrates later in the day when your energy level nosedives.
Overtime carbs may be the hardest of all to avoid, especially if you weren't able to plan ahead by packing dinner or an extra snacks. As your workday stretches out even longer, your level of stress rises—as does your desire for something sweet or crunchy. Create an emergency stash of low-carb snacks and bars so before you get to this dangerous point you can dip into it instead. When your coworkers are sending out for dinnertime food, go ahead and join in, making the best choice you can from the available menu. If your office has a freezer, make sure to stash a supply of Atkins frozen meals, so that you always have a low-carb meal at your fingertips.
It’s OK to occasionally indulge in your cravings, whether to comfort yourself or to celebrate a special occasion. Don't beat yourself up too much, just use it as a learning tool and know that when you do indulge it can be a slippery slope. Digging into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every time you’re stressed out or had a bad day will eventually catch up to you and have a negative impact on your health. The boost in mood you get from sugar is only fleeting; soon you will experience a crash in blood sugar, and renewed hunger shortly after—and cravings for more carbs, sugar and fat. And, eventually you will gain weight if you continue this cycle.
Fortunately, if you are on Atkins, you have found that the Atkins way of eating—which features optimal protein, high fiber and healthy fats—has helped diminish or even completely eliminate your cravings for starchy carbs and sugar while keeping you full and satisfied. Here are some tips you can follow that will help you control your emotional eating and nip those cravings in the bud:
Write it down. We always recommend that you keep a food journal so that you can track your grams of Net Carbs and your meals and snacks. But you can also use this as a place to record your emotions and cravings. Once you have an idea of when and why those weak moments hit, you can make sure you have a plan in place.
Remove temptation. Eliminate the trigger foods from your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Out of sight, out of mind.
Distract yourself. Once you begin to understand what triggers your cravings, create some distractions. Go for a walk or hit the gym (exercise is a great stress-reliever), call a friend or do something that is not related to food.
Find an alternative. Find low-carb substitutes for your high-carb cravings. Make sure you have Atkins bars or treats on hand to satisfy your sugar cravings. There are also plenty of delicious recipes at www.atkins.com/recipes.aspx that are perfectly acceptable on any Phase of Atkins. In the mood for salt? Oven-baked cheddar cheese crisps can satisfy your urge for chips. Craving comfort food? Cauliflower mashed with rich butter and cream taste just as good as mashed potatoes. And there’s always room for dessert—there are recipes for low-carb ice cream, cake, cookies and more.
Finally, it’s important to realize that no one is perfect. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break. After all, Atkins will hopefully become a way of eating you can live with and continue to return to, not a quick-fix diet. Put your overindulgence behind you, make your next meal a satisfying low-carb one, increase your activity level and dial back your total grams of Net Carbs if you need to get back on track.
Here are the latest developments in clinical research on controlled-carbohydrate nutritional practices and the Atkins Diet’s reduced carbohydrate way of eating. I’ve summarized some excellent recent research studies, how they relate to Atkins and what it means to you.
Dietary Carbohydrate Restriction as the First Approach in Diabetes Management. Critical Review and Evidence Base
Authors: Richard David Feinman, PhD, Wendy Knapp Pogozelski, PhD, Arne Astrup, MD, Richard K. Bernstein, MD, Eugene J. Fine, MD, Eric C. Westman, MD, MHS, Anthony Accurso, MD, Lynda Frasetto, MD, Samy McFarlane, MD, Jörgen Vesti Nielsen, MD, Thure Krarup, MD, Barbara A. Gower, PhD, Laura Saslow, PhD, Karl S. Roth, MD, Mary C. Vernon, MD, Jeff S. Volek, RD, PhD, Gilbert B. Wilshire, MD, Annika Dahlqvist, MD, Ralf Sundberg, MD, Ann Childers, MD, Katharine Morrison, MD, Anssi H. Manninen, MHS, Hussein Dashti, MD, Richard J. Wood, PhD, Jay Wortman, MD, Nicolai Worm, PhD
Nutrition, July 15, 2014; http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(14)00332-3/abstract
Current low-fat dietary recommendations have been shown to be ineffective in controlling the diabetes epidemic. Commonly prescribed diabetic medications have significant side effects. Additionally, there has been more science demonstrating the success of low-carbohydrate diets in the treatment of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. For these reasons, there is an urgent need to review and revise dietary guidelines.
The authors present 12 points of evidence supporting the use of low-carb diets as the first approach to treating Type-2 diabetes and Type-1 diabetes (in conjunction with medications). They represent the best-documented, least controversial results.
The 12 points of evidence are based on published clinical and experimental studies and the experience of the authors. The points are supported by established principles in biochemistry and physiology and emphasize that the benefits of treating diabetes and metabolic syndrome with a low-carb diet are immediate and documented.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
Low-carb diets may be effective in treating diabetes and metabolic syndrome and dietary guidelines should be re-evaluated to reflect this.
A Very Low-Carbohydrate, Low-Saturated Fat Diet for Type-2 Diabetes Management: A Randomized Trial
Authors: Jeannie Tay, Natalie D. Luscombe-Marsh, Campbell H. Thompson, Manny Noakes, Jon D. Buckley, Gary A. Wittert, William S. Yancy Jr., and Grant D. Brinkworth
Diabetes Care, July 28, 2014; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25071075
There has been much debate over whether a low-carbohydrate diet or low-fat diet is more effective dietary at managing Type-2 diabetes.
In this randomized control trial, 155 obese, Type-2 diabetic adults were randomly selected to follow either a low-carb/low-saturated fat or a high-carb/low-fat diet.
Both diets achieved substantial improvements for several clinical glycemic control and cardiovascular disease risk markers, but were greater with the low-carb diet. Also, the need for blood-sugar-lowering medications was less with the low-carb diet.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
This suggests that a low-carb diet with low saturated fat may be an effective at managing for Type-2 diabetes.
Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets
Authors: Lydia A. Bazzano; Tian Hu; Kristi Reynolds; Lu Yao; Calynn Bunol; Yanxi Liu; Chung-Shiuan Chen; Michael J. Klag; Paul K. Whelton; and Jiang He
Annals of Internal Medicine, September 3, 2014; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25178568
Low-carbohydrate diets are popular for weight loss, but their cardiovascular effects have not been well studied, particularly in diverse populations.
In this randomized, control trial, 148 men and women without cardiovascular disease and diabetes were randomly selected to follow either a low-carbohydrate diet or a low-fat diet. Both groups received dietary counseling at regular intervals throughout the trial.
The low-carb diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
Once again, this is another study that shows that decreasing your carbohydrate intake may help you lose weight and lower your risk of heart disease.
Comparison of Weight Loss Among Named Diet Programs in Overweight and Obese Adults
Authors: Bradley C. Johnston, PhD; Steve Kanters, MSc; Kristofer Bandayrel, MPH; PingWu, MBBS, MSc; Faysal Naji, BHSc; Reed A. Siemieniuk, MD; Geoff D. C. Ball, RD, PhD; JasonW. Busse, DC, PhD; Kristian Thorlund, PhD; Gordon Guyatt, MD, MSc; Jeroen P. Jansen, PhD; Edward J. Mills, PhD, MSc
JAMA, September 3, 2014; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25182101
Many claims have been made regarding the superiority of one diet or another for inducing weight loss. Which diet is the best remains unclear.
In this meta-analysis, researchers reviewed six electronic databases: AMED, CDSR, CENTRAL, CINAHL, EMBASE, and MEDLINE from inception of each database to April 2014. Overweight or obese adults (body mass index ≥25) were randomly selected to follow a popular self-administered named diet and they reported weight or body mass index data at after three months or longer.
Significant weight loss was observed with any low-carb or low-fat diet. Weight loss differences between individual named diets were small.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
The diet that works best for weight loss is the diet that you are able to stick to so that you can maintain your weight loss and permanently change your eating habits.
Insulin, Carbohydrate Restriction, Metabolic Syndrome and Cancer
Authors: Eugene J. Fine and Richard David Feinman
Expert Rev. Endocrinol. Metab.
The authors propose that dietary carbohydrate restriction, particularly ketogenic diets, may provide benefit as a therapeutic or preventive strategy in cancer, alone or in combination with medication.
Authors review the literature, and developed their argument from several points of evidence:
• There is a close association between cancer and both diabetes and obesity.
• Extensive evidence shows that low-carb diets are the most effective dietary treatment of Type-2 diabetes and dietary adjunct in Type 1.
• Such diets also target all the markers of metabolic syndrome.
• Finally, de facto reduction in carb intake likely contributes to total dietary restriction, which is effective in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
The authors suggest more research is needed to explore the connection between carbohydrate restriction for treating and preventing cancer, in combination with medication.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU?
Doctors should consider low-carb diets, in conjunction with traditional treatments, as a possible treatment of cancer.
It’s time to change the way we think about nutrition. It’s not just about losing weight and looking good for your class reunion or wedding— what you eat on a daily basis has a long-lasting effect on your overall health, well-being and quality and length of life. Nutrition should no longer be thought of as an “alternative” therapy to drug therapy when it comes to disease prevention.
The ultimate issue isn’t which drug is better or worse than others; it’s the continuing failure to recognize that drug therapy is inappropriate for any condition that can be improved with lifestyle and dietary changes. Drug cures continue to be researched right into a corner. The more research we have to validate drug therapy, the least likely a doctor will give you the opportunity to investigate alternative therapies. Unfortunate but true.
We need to be our own caretakers and ask ourselves; are we willing to adhere to a low-carb lifestyle, which research has already demonstrated to lower inflammation markers such as CRP, improve cardiac risk factors, diminish risk for diabetes and heart disease, and, more recently, promising results to prevent cancer?
The goal of excellence in medicine will be achieved through an informed choice from an array of all possible therapies. The controlled-carbohydrate lifestyle has been scientifically proven to improve clinical parameters. Good medicine should offer a patient the best benefit-to-risk ratio, and the benefit of a controlled-carbohydrate diet far outweighs the risks and side effects associated with drugs.
While drugs are certainly appropriate for specific patient populations under certain circumstances, they are not appropriate for those who can accomplish the same results with lifestyle changes.
What we need to do is change how we think about food—it can be considered medicine, and a means of improving your life and prolonging your lifespan, while making you feel better and more energetic. Who doesn’t want that? Throwing out that bag of potato chips and purging your pantry of packaged foods and choosing to focus on whole foods, such as healthy protein and fats, and plenty of fresh vegetables, seems like a far preferable solution than taking one pill after another, and then another pill to alleviate the symptoms that the first pill causes. This is not to say that in many cases, it is important to use more aggressive strategies to cure a disease, but why not start with good nutrition, in this case, a controlled-carbohydrate way of life?
Case in point: A new study to be published shortly in the Expert Review of Endocrinology and Metabolism examines how a low-carb diet can be a therapeutic or preventive measure in cancer treatment. The hypothesis is that there is a close association between cancer and diabetes and obesity. And a low-carb diet has been shown to be effective in both situations. While the conclusion is that there is some validity in this hypothesis, there is definitely more research that needs to be done. But the authors also state that “Putting together the pieces of the puzzle, insulin in cancer, the diabetes-cancer link, caloric restriction and the effects of carbohydrate restriction in metabolic syndrome will provide 5 year of fundamental information about cancer, about its link to diet and about the metabolism of ketone bodies, even if it turns out the therapeutic value is not as high as it seems. Much will be lost if we don’t try.”
In a nutshell, no. Here are some very good reasons why you need to consume fat on Atkins. First of all, fat is the mechanism that makes controlled carbohydrate weight loss work, and the Atkins Diet teaches you how to use fat to your advantage. When you are doing Atkins, fat is your friend, not only because it is satiating (keeps you full for longer) but because it slows down the release of glucose into the blood. By moderating blood sugar swings, fat reduces carbohydrate cravings. Dietary fat, in combination with controlled carbohydrate consumption, accelerates the burning of stored body fat. When your body uses fat, rather than glucose for fuel, the metabolic process is called lipolysis. Eating fat fuels a fat-burning metabolism and accelerates the burning of fat, both dietary (from the foods you eat) and stored (from the excess around your waist, hips and other areas).
However, you do want to eat good fat. Natural, healthy fat is found in olives and olive oil, avocado, seeds, nuts, seed and nut oils and butters, and oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel and butter. Saturated fat, found in meats, butter and coconut oil, poses no health risk when your carb intake is low enough, and you are burning fat for fuel. In fact, you will burn both dietary and body for energy.
Three types of fats (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) are necessary and important to human health, and they should be incorporated into your diet in a balanced proportion. Saturated fat, particularly in the early phases of Atkins when carbohydrate intake is low, is not dangerous to human health. On the contrary, when balanced with mono- and polyunsaturated fats in a controlled carbohydrate dietary environment, saturated fat may actually have real and measurable benefits in a number of different arenas.
When you are no longer in a primarily fat-burning mode, it may be prudent to curtail the amount of total fat so you are not taking in an enormous amount of calories. Your dietary pattern should play seesaw with carbs and fat, while your protein intake remains constant. As long as you are consuming 50 grams of Net Carbs or less, there is no need to adjust fat intake. What you want to avoid is a high-fat AND a high-carbohydrate combination.
The kinds of fat you should avoid are chemically altered, processed hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats. Look for cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oils, and store them in a dark, cool place to keep them from going rancid or oxidizing. High heat changes the molecular structure of the cell and will transform even a good fat into a bad fat, so be sure not to burn oil or allow it to smoke while cooking.
If you try to do your own low-fat version of Atkins, you will not only be hungry, but you also will not achieve the same weight loss results of people who consume healthy fats.
Research on nutrition and health always seems to be a non-linear fact-finding process—a work in progress. But when carefully conducted studies and well-researched data help fill in the blanks and connect the dots, a clear picture starts to emerge. In this case, it is that low-carb diets may be winning the weight loss race against low-fat diets.
The latest news come from a study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Funded by the National Institutes of Health and authored by Lydia Bazzano, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., the study followed 148 obese men and women over a year. Half were randomly selected to follow a low-carb diet and the other half were selected to follow a low-fat diet. They weren’t asked to cut calories or change their activity level.
During this time, Bazzano and her team discovered that the low-carb group ended up losing more weight and body fat (about 8 pounds more) than the low-fat group. In addition, researchers found that levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol did not increase for both groups, which is also great news, because in the past mainstream thinking assumed low-carb diets (and their higher level of fat intake) would raise cholesterol levels, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.
But here again is more conclusive evidence that demonstrates a low carb way of eating does not raise risk factors for heart disease, in fact the markers for heart health improve. The low-fat diet that had been touted for decades as the best way to lose weight and improve cardiovascular health may be on its way out in favor of a low-carb, high fat diet like Atkins.
If you’re on Atkins, you’re naturally including lots of vegetables, adequate (but not excessive amounts) of protein and healthy fats that contribute to heart health and weight loss. With its ability to help you lose weight, improve your lipid profile and blood pressure, increase your energy and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and many other life-threatening conditions, a well-constructed low carbohydrate diet is indeed a healthier, more balanced way of eating and living whether it is for weight loss or improved general health and well-being.
If you are interested in reading the study abstract you can find it here:
There was also a good article written in NY Times
I write a lot about the many health benefits of low-carb diets and how to succeed while you’re doing Atkins. But what you do before you even start Atkins could very well be your best chance at losing weight (and keeping it off).
I’ve seen so many people jump right into their own personal version of what they think the Atkins Diet is—based on their opinion of what a low-carb diet is all about or outdated information about Atkins before it transitioned to its current form, thanks to new and evolving research. So, first of all, read the book. Or books. It won’t take long, but you will learn exactly how and why Atkins works, plus these books feature low-carb recipes and success stories to motivate and inspire you. You can learn about our latest books here: http://www.atkins.com/New-Book/New-Book.aspx
Next, take some time to explore www.atkins.com. You can learn more about the program, check out over 1,000 low-carb recipes and see what people are talking about in the Forums. Feel free to “lurk” as long as you’d like; you’ll learn what people experience in every Phase of Atkins. You can also post your own comments or ask for advice on how to get started. Be sure to check out the Free Tools at http://www.atkins.com/Free-Tools.aspx, where you can download our Mobile App, Carb Counter, Meal Planner and more.
Once you’ve gotten to know more about Atkins, it’s time to set some goals to help keep you stay focused during your weight-loss journey and beyond. Make sure your goals are realistic, yet still challenging enough so that you are actually making progress and seeing changes. For example, if you have 50 or more pounds to lose, it might be easier to break up your overall weight-loss goal into 10-pound increments. Average weight loss is typically 2.5 pounds a week, but depending on a variety of factors, including your age, activity level, sex, medications you are taking and metabolism, you may lose weight at a faster or slower rate.
Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to decide which Phase to start in. You may choose to use Phase 1, Induction, as a brief weight-loss kick-start. Or you may want to stay in Induction and lose more weight before moving on. If you need to lose more weight or have certain health issues, start in Induction; otherwise you can start in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss, or even Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance. Obviously, the more grams of Net Carbs you’re consuming—and you’ll add progressively more in each Phase—the more slowly you will lose the excess weight. But this also means you will have more variety and food options. Here’s a blog I wrote with more information on what Phase to start in: http://blogs.atkins.com/Blogs/colette_heimowitz/Archive/2014/6/5/264094.aspx
Once you’ve decided what Phase to start in, review the food list for that Phase. Next, clean out your pantry and kitchen of all the food that is not recommended for that Phase. This may not be realistic if you have family members who are not going to be eating low-carb with you, but you can keep their food in a separate spot so you aren’t tempted. And there are plenty of low-carb recipes and foods that your family probably will enjoy!
After you’ve cleaned out your pantry, plan out your first week’s worth of meals and snacks, make a shopping list and hit the store.
Once you’ve done all this, it’s time to start your Atkins journey!
You may have decided to start Atkins because you wanted to lose weight, but did you know that research has shown that a low-carb diet like Atkins has demonstrated to have many more “off label” benefits that just losing weight? Just to name a few, they include: epilepsy and related illnesses, acid reflux (GERD), acne, headaches, heart disease, cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), diabetes/metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance, dementia and narcolepsy.
Here’s what the research says about a low-carb diet’s role in each of these conditions:
Epilepsy and Related Diseases
More than thirty studies from ranging from 2004 to 2014 support the use of a Modified Atkins Diet in helping ease the symptoms of epilepsy and related seizure disorders in adults and children . This was especially encouraging for children diagnosed with childhood epilepsy who are not responding to the seizure control medications. The Modified Atkins Diet is used by Dr Eric Kossoff at John Hopkins . Dr Kossoff has also published a book titled;
Ketogenic Diets treatments for Epilepsy and Other Disorders. Fifth Addition
With info on the Modified Atkins Diet
More info can be found at;
http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/treatment_atkins_diet youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3tac5Gfd9Q
Preliminary findings based on five case studies show that a low-carb diet may help alleviate acid reflux. Typically foods with caffeine or that are high in fat have been shown to contribute to acid reflux, but this study shows that a low-carb diet may help prevent symptoms usually brought on by those foods. These initial studies suggests more research needs to be done examining the effect of low-carbohydrate diets on GERD.
There has been growing research on the effect nutrition has on skin health. In a 2012 review published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, the role of carbohydrates was examined on the development of acne, with the hypothesis that a very low carb diet could have a positive impact on the treatment of acne.
In a 2013 study in Functional Neurology, researchers report on the case of twin sisters who were following a high-fat, low-carb diet in order to lose weight. While they were on the diet, they noticed that their migraines improved as well, leading to the theory that this type of diet could help improve headache symptoms.
Twenty-one studies conducted between 2002 and 2014 examine the role of low-carb diets and how they may help decrease heart disease risk factors, as well as risks for hypertension and stroke. The use of a low-carb diet has been shown to not only help with weight loss, but also improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglycerides, as well as decrease inflammation—all factors associated with heart disease.
Obesity is a factor associated with the increased risk for some cancers, so naturally if a low-carb diet is shown to help people lose weight and maintain their weight loss, the impact on decreasing the risk of some cancers is positive. Examples include findings from a 2012 study in the Journal of National Cancer Institute that show that a higher total carbohydrate intake and higher dietary glycemic load were associated with an increased risk of recurrence and mortality in stage III colon cancer, meaning that a low-carb diet (which is naturally low glycemic) could help in improving the survival rates in colon cancer. Another study in Nutrition and Cancer (2010) showed that a low-carb diet helped overweight women breast cancer survivors lose weight—decreasing their risk for heart disease and other obesity-related diseases, as well as a recurrence of breast cancer.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age and is associated with obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin resistance. Because low carbohydrate diets have been shown to reduce insulin resistance, a pilot study (Nutrition and Metabolism, 2005) investigated the six-month metabolic and endocrine effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet (LCKD) on overweight and obese women with PCOS. In this pilot study, a LCKD led to significant improvement in weight, percent free testosterone, LH/FSH ratio, and fasting insulin in women with obesity and PCOS over a 24-week period. Another 2004 pilot study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed similar positive results.
Diabetes/Metabolic Syndrome/Insulin Resistance
Twenty-nine studies, dating as far back as 1998, show the positive impact low-carb diets have in decreasing symptoms and risks of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
A high-calorie diet is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment. In a 2012 study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, it was shown that the risk of mild cognitive impairment or dementia was elevated in people who consumed a high-carb diet, leading to the conclusion that low-carb diet has a role in lowering the risk.
Last, but not least—In a 2004 study in Neurology, patients with narcolepsy experienced modest improvements in daytime sleepiness while on a low-carb diet.
Once again, there’s great news supporting a low-carb diet’s role in the fight against diabetes. A group of 26 physicians and nutrition researchers, in a review paper submitted to the journal Nutrition, listed 12 reasons, backed by clinical studies, why a low-carb diet is beneficial for managing Type-2 diabetes.
• High blood sugar is the most important feature of diabetes control. Decreasing carbohydrate intake has the greatest effect on blood sugar levels.
• Increase in calorie intake and obesity has been driven by increases in carbohydrate intake.
• Carbohydrate restriction provides benefits regardless of weight loss.
• Carb restriction is the most reliable dietary intervention for weight loss.
• Adherence to low-carb diets in Type-2 diabetes is as strong as other dietary interventions, and is often significantly stronger.
• Generally, replacing carbs with protein is beneficial.
• Increased total fat and saturated fat intake are not associated with increased heart disease risk.
• Carbohydrates—not dietary fats—control triglyceride levels.
• HbA1c—also known as glycated hemoglobin, and an indicator of blood sugar levels—is the greatest predictor of microvascular and macrovascular complications in patients with Type-2 diabetes.
• Lowering carb intake is the most effective method for decreasing triglyceride levels and raising levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
• Patients with diabetes reduce their dependence on, or doses of, medication when following a low-carb diet.
• Intensive blood glucose reduction though carb restriction has negligible side effects compared with the use of medication for the same effect.
Diabetes is a disease involving the inability to process carbohydrates, therefore reducing carbohydrates would seem to be an obvious treatment, leading to the authors’ conclusion that the current recommendations of using a low-fat diet to control or manage diabetes need to be reevaluated—and more and more research shows that low-fat diets are failing to improve obesity, heart disease risk or even general health. Do you see the pattern here? More and more research continues to validate the fact that a low-carb diet is quite effective (and sustainable) when it comes to managing diabetes and a variety of other disease risk factors.
Stand in almost any aisle in the supermarket, and you’ll find products containing sugar. There are two kinds of sugar: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Unlike naturally occurring sugars, which are an intrinsic part of fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy products, these sugars have been added to foods in the manufacturing process. Berries, green beans and cheese all contain natural sugars, but they are also full of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients. But other than calories, most added sugars offer little or no nutritional benefits.
Soft drinks are the largest source of sugar in the American diet, delivering one-third of all added sugars. Another three-fifths come from baked goods, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, candy and cereals. The remainder is found in unexpected places like barbecue sauce and other condiments, baby foods and deli specials like potato salad or coleslaw.
“Any form of sugar, whether integral or added, natural or manufactured, becomes a problem when you eat too much of it,” says Dr. Eric Westman, a co-author of The New Atkins for a New You and an associate professor of medicine at the Duke University Health System and director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic. “Although sugar is quickly metabolized, creating energy to power your body, excess sugar is converted to body fat,” he adds. According to the USDA, each person consumes an average of 154 pounds of added sugar a year, up from an average of 123 pounds in the early 1970s. This translates to an average of nearly 750 calories a day. We each consume an average of 53 gallons of sugar-laden soft drinks each year and get 16 percent of our daily caloric intake from added sugars. For kids aged 6 to 11, it’s 18 percent, and for teenagers, it’s 20 percent. For every daily soft drink, a child’s chance of becoming obese increases by 50 percent. “The twin epidemics of obesity and type-2 diabetes have occurred concurrently with the enormous increase in sugar consumption over the last several decades,” Dr. Westman says.
How to Say “See Ya” to Sugar
According to Dr. Westman, the best way to decrease your sugar intake is to cut back on most packaged foods and eat a whole foods diet. Vegetables, berries and other fruits, nuts/ seeds, Greek yogurt, as well as a variety of protein sources and olive oil and other healthy, natural fats keep you satisfied and in control of your appetite. And because the sugar intake is low, you will be more likely to burn body fat for energy. It’s even been reported that when people replace packaged foods and added sugars with whole foods, they often discover that their cravings for added sugar go away.
Here are additional tips for cutting back on your sugar intake:
Pump up the protein. When you add protein to your meals and snacks, it helps stabilize your blood sugar levels, keeping those sugar cravings at bay. Plus, consuming protein helps you burn more calories; in a nutshell, digesting and metabolizing protein burns twice the calories than when you eat carbohydrates. You can grill chicken, fish, steak or more and pile it on top of a salad packed with fresh vegetables. Enjoy quick snacks of chilled chicken, egg or shrimp salad wrapped in a romaine lettuce leave or boil up a batch of hard-boiled eggs for a quick protein-packed snack.
Revamp your drinks. Swap beverages laced with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup for those sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners, or better yet, sparkling water.
Go cold turkey. Initially, it sounds crazy to completely eliminate or cut back on sugar—especially if you crave it a lot. You would think you would end up craving it even more. But a 2011 study in the journal Obesity shows that the fewer carbs (i.e. packaged foods containing sugar) you consume (especially when you are consuming fat and protein in their place), the less you will eventually crave those carbs and the more you will be able to control your hunger.
Eat small, frequent meals. If you follow the standard breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule, try eating a smaller 200-calorie mini-meal every two to three hours, with the goal of taking in a minimum of 1,500 calories by the end of the day. This will keep your metabolism steadily burning calories from each meal, while preventing sudden drops in blood sugar—and cravings for that cookie or candy bar.
Drink up. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger. Try to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. It will keep you cool, flush out toxins and prevent dehydration. You can jazz up your water with slices of lemon, lime or cucumber.
Plan ahead. Is it hard to resist the donuts at the office every Friday or that slice of cake or plate of cookies at social events? Make sure you have a protein-packed snack before you go, and drink plenty of water. If you can’t avoid your Great-Aunt’s homemade apple pie (made from the recipe that’s been handed down for generations) without appearing impolite, take a small bite or ask for a small slice and share it with someone. And make your next snack or meal is one that focuses on fresh vegetables, natural fats and protein.
Watch your stress. Very often sugar cravings kick into high gear when you’re stressed out or anxious. This is also a sign it’s time to take care of yourself. Instead of soothing your stress with a pint of ice cream, come up with a list of alternative activities you can turn to. Go for a walk or a hike with a friend, go to the gym, watch a funny video, hit the golf course or get a facial or a massage.
It’s summertime—school’s out and the kids are home. That’s great, but if you’re doing Atkins and following a low-carb lifestyle, sometimes it can seem like a challenge to accommodate your needs and those of your family without feeling like a short-order cook.
First of all, talk to your family about your goals and ask for their support. Explain what Atkins is about, and show them all the different foods you can eat and discuss what foods you are trying to avoid. The whole family can benefit from purging the pantry of packaged foods full of sugar, especially when you show them how much healthier fresh vegetables and fruits are compared to packaged foods filled with sugar. With all this being said, don’t force your diet on your family or restrict them of all their favorite foods. Make it fun, and get them involved—they will be more likely to support you and enjoy the food and the healthy benefits of your new lifestyle. Here are some other tips:
Make a menu. Select some delicious and family-friendly low-carb recipes, and let your family create a weekly menu so that they feel involved in the process. Especially during the summer, grilled meats and fresh veggies can make a very satisfying meal for everyone involved, without anyone feeling like they are deprived.
Have it on the side. Round out your low-carb recipes with a few side dishes that may contain more carbs (and that you can resist) but that will satisfy your family. This could be a fresh corn and black bean salad, pasta side dishes, baked sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, and more.
Skip the bun. Summer isn’t summer without hamburgers and hot dogs. You can enjoy a hearty hamburger as well; just wrap it in lettuce instead of a bun. Your family can enjoy their burgers or hot dogs with buns, and you won’t feel like you’re missing a thing. Having fajitas? Enjoy yours “naked” or on a bed of lettuce.
Make snacking easy. If your pantry and refrigerator are filled with low-carb snacks, it will be much easier for you (and your family) to resist the high carb-and sugar filled packaged snacks. Stock your pantry with almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans and berries. Make sure you have turkey, ham, and cheese on hand for quick and tasty roll-ups. Use leftover grilled meat to make a quick lettuce wrap. Make an avocado dip and have cut up veggies available for dipping. And don’t forget eggs. Hard-boiled eggs and egg salads are also easy and taste great. Plus, frozen grapes and berries are sweet and delicious snacks on hot summer days.
Keep it fresh. Wash and cut up your fresh veggies and fruits and keep them in clear plastic containers in the refrigerator so there’s always a crunchy and refreshing bite at everyone’s fingertips, especially when the kids are whining that there’s “nothing to eat.” Serve your veggies with low-carb dips like hummus, salsa or guac or low-sugar salad dressings.
Even if you’re able to incorporate the foods on all or most of all tiers of the Carb Ladder into your diet, don’t overdo the carbs. You want to avoid weight regain and/or encourage the return of carb sensitivity symptoms such as extreme hunger, cravings and lack of energy. Here are some tasty ideas to help you stay in control and get more variety without blowing your carbohydrate budget:
1. Take the veggie alternative. Instead of using rice or pasta as a base for sauces, curries and other dishes, use shredded lettuce or cabbage, mung bean sprouts or grated raw zucchini or daikon radish.
2. Pass on the pasta. Have spaghetti squash or shirataki noodles (made from soybeans and a non-starchy yam) in lieu of pasta.
3. Raw is good. Eat carrots raw instead of cooked; cooking changes the volume and pushes up the carb count slightly. In addition the sugar/starch is more readily available in cooked.
4. Ripening raises carbs. Certain fruits are lower in carbs before they’re fully ripe. A few slices of a green pear make a tart addition to a tossed salad without adding too many carbs. Grated green papaya makes a great slaw dressed with rice vinegar and sesame oil.
5. Serve a seaweed wrap. Roll sandwich fixings in nori, the sheet seaweed used for sushi, instead of wraps or tortillas. Avocado and either salmon or sliced chicken are a natural combo, as are tuna salad and shredded lettuce.
6. Go “halfsies.” Think of half a baked potato as a portion. Slice it lengthwise before baking so you won’t be tempted to eat the whole thing. When it’s done, mash the pulp with blue cheese, pesto or herb butter.
7. Try flat breads. Some whole-grain flat breads are high in fiber and relatively low in Net Carbs, making them a good choice for open-faced sandwiches. Scandinavian bran crisps are even lower in carbs.
8. Make your own muesli or granola. Use rolled oats (give them a few pulses in a food processor), chopped nuts and seeds and ground flaxseed. Serve a half-cup portion with plain whole milk or Greek yogurt, some berries or half a chopped-up apple and some sweetener, if you wish.
9. Add fiber. Sprinkle small portions of barley, bulgur, buckwheat, wheat berries or wild rice onto salads or soups for a texture and fiber treat without much carb impact.
10. Go for soy. Make chili and similar dishes with black soybeans. A half-cup of cooked beans contains only 1 gram of Net Carbs, compared to almost 13 grams for black beans.
Every three months I like to summarize the latest low-carb research and how it relates to the principles of Atkins and low-carb diets in general. In this edition of the Research Update, I highlight several recent studies that demonstrate the benefits of consuming adequate protein, healthy fats, how diet and lifestyle impact such conditions as Impaired Glucose Tolerance, Type 2 Diabetes, Epilepsy, Inflammation, and how lowering carbohydrate consumption can improve health markers.
Here’s what has happened in the last three months:
1. Quantitative Analysis of Dietary Protein Intake and Stroke Risk.
Authors: Z. Zhang, G. Xu, F. Yang, W. Zhu, X.
Neurology, June 2014
BACKGROUND: Stroke is a major cause of death and permanent disability worldwide. Therefore, primary prevention of stroke is of utmost importance. Lifestyle factors have important roles in stroke prevention, and dietary protein intake has received great interest.
METHODS: The meta-analysis included seven prospective studies involving 254,489 participants. The authors conducted the literature search on PubMed and Embase through November 2013 using the key words “protein intake” combined with “stroke,” “cerebrovascular disease,” “cerebrovascular disorder” and “cerebrovascular accident.”
CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that moderate dietary protein intake may lower the risk of stroke.
What does this mean to you? Consuming adequate levels of protein is one of the main nutritional principles of the Atkins Diet and Lifestyle approach. Protein provides satiety, keeps blood sugar levels consistent, preserves and builds muscle, and it helps the body burn more calories. And as this study shows, protein intake may also lower your risk of stroke.
2. Retrospective Study on the Efficacy of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet for Impaired Glucose Tolerance
S. Maekwa, T. Kawahara, R. Nomura, et al. http://www.dovepress.com/retrospective-study-on-the-efficacy-of-a-low-carbohydrate-diet-for-imp-a17206
Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy; June 13, 2014
BACKGROUND: In recent years, the number of people with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) has increased steadily worldwide. It is clear that diabetes prevention is important from the perspective of public health, medical care and economics. It was recently reported that a low-carbohydrate diet (LCD) is useful for achieving weight loss and glycemic control, but there is no information about the effects of the LCD on IGT (impaired glucose tolerance).
METHODS: Researchers designed a seven-day in-hospital educational program focused on the LCD for IGT. The subjects were 72 patients with IGT who were enrolled from April 2007 through March 2012, and they were followed for 12 months.
CONCLUSION: The LCD is effective for normalizing blood glucose and preventing progression to type-2 diabetes in patients with IGT.
What does this means to you? Even with conservative reduction of carbohydrates (approximately 100 grams per day), you can stabilize blood glucose levels and prevent the progression into type-2 diabetes.
3. Advice to Follow a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Has a Favourable Impact on Low-Grade Inflammation in Type 2 Diabetes Compared With Advice to Follow a Low-Fat Diet.
Authors: Lena Jonasson, Hans Guldbrand, Anna K. Lundberg & Fredrik H. Nystrom
Ann Med. May 2014
BACKGROUND: Inflammation may play an important role in type-2 diabetes. It has been proposed that dietary strategies can help control inflammation, which can increase the risk of many conditions, such as heart disease.
METHODS: The authors investigated the effects of diet on type-2 diabetes patients, who followed either a traditional low-fat diet (LFD) or a low-carbohydrate diet (LCD). The authors studied the impact on inflammation by tracking various biomarkers.
CONCLUSION: The effect on weight loss was the same for the patients following the LCD or LFD. However, only the LCD was found to significantly improve inflammation in type-2 diabetes patients.
What does this mean to you? This study shows that following a low-carbohydrate diet can have other beneficial health benefits beyond weight loss such as reducing inflammation in the body.
4. A Randomized Pilot Trial of a Moderate Carbohydrate Diet Compared to a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet in Overweight or Obese Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus or Prediabetes.
Authors: Laura R. Saslow, Sarah Kim, Jennifer J. Daubenmier, Judith T. Moskowitz, Stephen D. Phinney, et al.
PLOSOne, April 2014
BACKGROUND: Research has shown that cutting back on carbs may help control symptoms of diabetes.
METHODS: The authors compared the effects of moderate carbohydrate diet (MCD) and very low carbohydrate Diet (VLCD) on health-related outcomes in overweight or obese adults with type-2 diabetes or prediabetes. Participants were also taught diet information and psychological skills to promote behavior change and maintenance.
CONCLUSION: The VLCD participants had improved blood glucose biomarker (HbA1c), and 44% of them discontinued one or more diabetes medications. In the MCD group, 11% of participants discontinued one or more diabetes medications. The VLCD group also lost more weight than the MCD group.
What does this mean to you? These results suggest that a very-low-carbohydrate diet, plus learning skills to promote behavior change, may improve glycemic control in type-2 diabetes and decrease the use of diabetes medications.
5. Use of the Modified Atkins Diet in Lennox Gastaut Syndrome.
Authors: S. Sharma, P. Jain, S. Guloti, et al.
J. Child Neruol., March 2014
BACKGROUND: There is scanty data regarding the efficacy and tolerability of the Modified Atkins Diet in children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
METHODS: This study was a retrospective review of children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome treated with the Modified Atkins Diet from May 2009 to March 2011.
CONCLUSION: The Modified Atkins Diet was found to be effective and well tolerated in children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. All nine children studied had a >50% reduction in seizure frequency.
What does this mean to you? The Modified Atkins Diet can be used as a therapeutic diet for patients suffering from epilepsy and other related illnesses, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. (a rare and often debilitating form of childhood-onset epilepsy)
6. The Modified Atkins Diet in Refractory Epilepsy.
Authors: S. Sharma, P. Jain
Epilepsy Res. Treat., January 2014
BACKGROUND: Recent studies have shown good efficacy and tolerability of the Modified Atkins Diet (MAD) in the treatment of refractory epilepsy.
METHODS: In this review, authors discuss the use of the MAD in refractory epilepsy.
CONCLUSION: MAD is an effective therapy for patients with refractory epilepsy. It is less restrictive and more palatable than the classic ketogenic diet. MAD is a prudent therapeutic option, especially for older children and adolescents, as it is a more “liberalized” diet as compared to classic ketogenic diet.
What does this mean to you? The Modified Atkins Diet can be used as a therapeutic diet for patients suffering from epilepsy and other related illnesses.
You don’t have to go far to see the term “gluten-free” on store shelves or restaurant menus. Gluten is the protein in wheat that gives dough its elasticity, and many people now claim to feel healthier and better (and even lose weight) when they don’t eat gluten or cut back on it. For those with celiac disease (about 1% of the population), eating foods containing gluten can cause everything from irritability and depression or abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. About 6% of the population has been diagnosed with gluten intolerance, and, most likely due to a higher understanding of and bigger emphasis on food allergies, digestive health and genetic modification of grains, a quarter of Americans are cutting down on gluten or going gluten-free. When you avoid or cut back on gluten, you are naturally eliminating a highly processed grain, which explains why Atkins can be a gluten-free-friendly weight-loss program.
In early Phases, the whole foods recommended on Atkins have always been gluten free. You may even discover your sensitivity to carbohydrates and gluten when you first start Atkins and eliminate carbohydrate dense foods during Induction. If you start to feel worse once you reintroduce grains or flour in later Phases, you may have a reduced ability to process them, a kind of carb intolerance. And you may be sensitive to gluten. If you are sensitive to gluten, even complex carbs like whole-grain wheat could wreak havoc on your ability to lose weight and lead to a variety of other health woes. Although gluten free and low-carb are not one and the same, you can follow Atkins and be completely gluten free. As you progress through the Phases, once you hit Phases 3 and 4, closely watch your body’s reaction to whole grains. If you start experiencing discomfort or you are unable to continue to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, slowly cut back on the new carbs you have introduced until you start feeling better.
Your Guide to Gluten
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains. These include but are not limited to:
Whole Wheat Flour
Common foods that are usually made with wheat include:
You may not expect it, but the following foods can also contain gluten:
Breadcrumbs and croutons
Some lunch meats and hot dogs
Modified food starch
Seasoned chips and other seasoned snack foods
Seasoned rice and pasta mixes
In Bryan Walsh’s article “Eat Butter (Don’t Blame Fat)”, published in the June 23rd issue of Time, he covers the history of low-fat diets vs. low-carb diets, how the science evolved and why flawed studies wrongly vilified saturated fat. This “flawed” science started the fat-free trend; soon people were avoiding foods containing fat , feeling hungry all the time, and eating more low-fat products that contained refined sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup, trans fat and refined grains. Meanwhile, obesity, diabetes and heart disease levels continued to rise. Walsh contends that the effect fat, even saturated fat, has on the body is more complex—and harmless—than originally thought, and cholesterol’s relationship with carbs (as compared to saturated and unsaturated fat) is much more complicated. In other words, fat does not have the harmful effects on us as originally thought, but over consumption of carbohydrates, especially those with refined sugars, absolutely does.
As you know, those of us at Atkins have been way ahead of our time when it comes to healthy fats. Just a few months ago, I published a blog on a research roundup of studies highlighting the studies referenced in the Time article, showing that saturated fat, when consumed on a low-carb diet, does not raise the risk for heart disease, but is actually burned for energy. While I love digging deep into the science behind Atkins and sharing it with you (that’s my job!), it’s always encouraging when the mainstream media starts to realize the validity behind these studies and starts publishing articles that support the science.
If you’re doing Atkins, you’re following a plan that incorporates a balance of healthy fats (including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats), fresh vegetables, a variety protein, and you are limiting refined carbs, and added sugar. And according to the science, and finally some of the mainstream media, that’s exactly what you should be doing.
If you did not get a chance to read my previous blog on all the great saturated fat research, you can find it here:
You may still be wondering, and what you really want to know is, how can fat make you thin? Along with protein, fat helps increase satiety (the sense of being full). And because fat carries flavor, it makes food more satisfying. It takes about twice as many calories from refined carbs than from fats to provide the same level of satiety, making fat a better choice if you want to lose weight. Fat in your diet also slows the entry of glucose into your bloodstream, moderating the highs and lows of blood sugar that can lead to your renewed hunger soon after you eat carbs. Bottom line: Eat fats in place of carbs, and you’re less likely to overeat. These entwined properties are essential to the processes of both losing weight and then keeping it off.
Even as you’re getting comfortable with your new way of eating and feeling that the struggles with your weight is finally history, don’t forget this important point: the only constant in life is change. Some new occurrences may make it easier to maintain your weight loss or weight maintenance efforts; others will require renewed dedication. In all likelihood, at some point, you’ll need to make your adjustments to your Atkins lifestyle. As long as you know how to do so, you’ll do just fine.
Many people discover a new interest in physical fitness while losing weight on Atkins. Perhaps you join a swim team or start regularly jogging, playing tennis or engaging in another activity. Or maybe you leave your desk job for one that involves more physical labor or move from the suburbs to the city and walking becomes your usual mode of transportation. In any of these scenarios, it’s likely that you’ll increase your daily energy use, enabling you to eat a bit more—either as whole food carbs or as healthy, natural fats—to stay or achieve your current weight goal.
Let’s say that you experience other changes. Perhaps you suffer from an injury and spend several months in a cast. Or you have a new baby in the house and find yourself stressed and sleep-deprived. Maybe your doctor prescribes antidepressants to help you deal with a family crisis. Or a new job requires frequent travel, interfering with your fitness regimen. Chances are that any of the above will reduce your daily energy use, meaning you'll need to adjust your carbohydrate intake.
The Longer View
If you’re 40 years old, exercise regularly and have no health issues, you may be able to continue to manage your weight by staying at your current level of carb intake for years to come. But numerous factors—some in your control and others not (including your genes)—influence your metabolism, which in turn determines your carbohydrate intake. Aging tends to slow your metabolism; so can certain drugs and hormonal changes. As long as you’re attuned to the implications of such changes, you can stay in charge of your weight by either eating fewer carbs, upping your activity level (which works for most people) or both.
Abide by these ten tips, and you’ll make your goal weight your lifetime weight.
1. Rely on satisfying foods. Protein, healthy fats, and lots of fiber .
2. Don’t skimp too much on calories. Starvation will lead to a slower metabolism.
3. Remember the magic number. Never, ever let yourself gain more than 5 pounds without taking action to restore your goal weight.
4. Keep sipping. Drink plenty of fluids. Don't confuse thirst with hunger.
5. Steer clear of trigger foods. You know which are your personal trigger foods.
6. Keep moving. Staying active with some sort of exercise will increase the likelihood that you’ll keep your weight under control. Build more muscle and you will burn more calories.
7. Eat before you go. will take the edge off your hunger and make you more able to resist inappropriate items on the buffet table.
8. Take it with you. When at work, on the road, or even at a movie, pack snacks .
9. Compromise when necessary (and learn from the experience). When there are no good options, make the best choice available.
10. Prepare, prepare, prepare. If you’re eating out check the menu online beforehand.
If you are on the road, pack some hand held food like nuts to keep you fortified.
You’ll find many opportunities to customize the Atkins Diet to your needs, but the first decision you need to make—after deciding that Atkins is for you, of course—is which Phase you would like to start in. For many people, Phase 1, Induction, is a brief kick start Phase to get you off on the right foot before moving on. Others may remain there longer to lose more weight before transitioning to the next Phase. If you have more pounds to lose or certain health issues, start in Induction; otherwise you can start in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss, or even Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, if you prefer. Obviously, the more grams of carbs you’re consuming—and you’ll add progressively more in each Phase—the more slowly you will lose the excess weight. But some folks don’t mind a slower steadier weight loss pattern if it means having more variety and food options.
The following considerations should guide you in your decision about where to begin:
Amount of Weight to Lose
• If you have less than 40 pounds to lose, or your waist measurements are less than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, you can start in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) at 40 grams of Net Carbs, On the other hand, if you’re older, you might chose to start in Induction, as you will lose weight more slowly in Phase 2 (OWL).
• If you have more than 40 pounds to lose, you’ll probably want to start in Induction, but feel free to start in OWL if you want more variety in food options in exchange for slower weight loss.
• If you don’t have any weight to lose, and you simply want to feel better and have more energy, you can start in Pre-Maintenance at 60 grams of Net Carbs and work up from there until you find your optimal carb intake to maintain a healthy weight.
• If you’re over 50, your metabolism has probably slowed with the passage of years. Start in Induction and move to OWL after two weeks or more if the you’re losing weight easily, and you feel ready to move on.
• If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you should probably start in Induction unless you have less than 30 pounds to lose; in which case you could start in OWL and lose more slowly.
• If you gained and lost and regained weight for years (yo-yo dieting), you may have become resistant to weight loss. Start in Induction to get off on the right foot.
• If you have type-2 diabetes, we strongly suggest that you start in Induction and remain there or at least in the first few rungs in OWL until you get your blood sugar and insulin levels under control. (adding nuts is a convenient snack for diabetics, and they won’t have a profound impact on blood sugar). You will need to work closely with your doctor if you are on blood-sugar-lowering meds because your need for meds changes or diminishes dramatically while on Atkins.
• If your doctor has diagnosed you with Metabolic Syndrome—or if your waist measures more than 40 inches (if you’re a guy) or is it larger than your hips (if you’re a gal), and if you have high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, chances are that you have this condition, also known as pre-diabetes. Have your doctor check your blood sugar, blood pressure and insulin levels. Start in Induction, and remain there until you get your blood sugar and insulin levels under control.
• If you have high triglycerides, starting in Induction will help you improve your triglyceride level more quickly.
• If you’re a vegetarian, we strongly suggest that you begin in OWL at 30 grams of Net Carbs so that you can consume nuts and seeds from the start.
• If you’re a vegan, start in OWL at about 50 grams of Net Carbs to ensure adequate protein intake by including legumes.
Even if you decide to start in a later phase, be sure to read the information on earlier Phases to understand what foods you can eat and what to expect in your first few weeks on Atkins. And no matter where you decide to start, if your results don’t meet your expectations, you can always go back and begin at an earlier Phase.
Now that the weather’s warmer and school is almost out, it’s time for all those fun summer activities, like road trips, bike rides, hikes, days at the beach and more. I’ve put together a quick “how-to-eat” guide of some of my favorite tips that will help you stay fueled and on track with your weight-loss goals during each situation:
You’ll want portable food that’s high enough in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and low in sugar to keep your energy high and your hunger satisfied. Bring along a few cans of sardines, tuna, or pink salmon—they are high in healthy fat and protein and adequate in calories, they’re portable and can be eaten out of the can. Also: Smear stalks of celery with peanut or almond butter and pack them in Tupperware. Throw in some homemade trail mix (see the recipe below) and bottled water to round out the traveling menu.
Long bike rides:
You need fluids with vitamins, minerals, and protein, in an easy-to-carry container that fits neatly on your bike for long bike rides. Atkins Advantage shakes are the perfect solution—pour a chilled shake in a thermos bottle to take with you, and don’t forget to bring water, too. The homemade trail mix below is the perfect option for a convenient hand held snack.
Sightseeing requires easy-to-carry portable low-carb snacks that will sustain your energy and enthusiasm through a long day of low-intensity exercise. The perfect solution: Pack a high-protein sandwich of chicken breast, with lycopene-rich tomatoes on fiber-rich whole-grain bread and season with mustard. If you are still on the early weight loss phases of Atkins use a lettuce wrap instead of bread. Take along Atkins Advantage bars for on-the-go nutritious snacks.
Keeping up with your kids:
You’re going to be tempted to eat kid food, so create snacks that satisfy your sweet tooth without sacrificing good nutrition. You can enjoy frozen berries which are rich in antioxidants, with a splash of Greek yogurt. Top with slivered almonds and you’ve got good fat, fiber and protein in one terrific energy-giving snack. Your kids will like it, too!
Homemade trail mix is the way to go: Cut an Atkins Advantage bar into small pieces, and mix with ½ cup almonds, ¼ cup flaked coconut .½ cup unsweetened dried berries, and if you are beyond early phases of weight loss, add ¼ cup dried apples, and 1/8 cup raw oats. Toss together in a bowl, then throw the mix into a sandwich bag and you’re good to go!
Getting in swimsuit shape:
Midriff bulge—also known as the dreaded muffin top—is usually the result of eating too much sugar and processed carbs. Go for a higher protein, higher fiber, low-sugar eating plan for a couple of weeks prior to hitting the beach. For beach snacks, try cold chicken breasts, nuts, olives and tomatoes. Be sure to bring along an Atkins Advantage nutrition bar for the car ride or a between-meal snack.
Long plane rides:
The two biggest tips here are to avoid airplane food and to stay hydrated. You can do both by packing a carry-on with water, trail mix, Atkins bars and some high-protein snacks like sliced turkey roll ups. A fabulous tip for keeping skin from becoming dehydrated while flying is to cut an avocado in two, and eat it out of the shell with a spoon. It’s loaded with fiber and healthy monounsaturated fat!
Working out outdoors:
A protein shake is the way to go. Try making your own with whey or soy protein powder blended with frozen berries, or try a ready-made Atkins Advantage creamy vanilla shake with a piece of fruit like fiber and antioxidant-rich berries. The 15 grams of protein is just enough to fuel you for your workout without filling you up.
Fighting the summer heat:
The perfect solution: Slice some lemons, oranges and cucumbers and put them in a gallon jug of water. Drink this all day long. And carry a bag of frozen berries with you which are especially rich in antioxidants!
At the beach:
You’ll want high-water fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe. Cut into bite-sized pieces, mix with blueberries and grapes, and freeze. Take the frozen mix to the beach; they’ll taste great as they slowly defrost during the day. Bonus: Mix in some macadamia nuts for fiber, minerals and good fat. And don’t forget to bring plenty of bottled water.
I enjoy reading the blogs written by the many Community members on Atkins.com, as well as the Forums. It gives me valuable insight into what topics are trending and what people are talking about. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the “Fat Fast” or just plain fasting in general. Community members are recommending them to jumpstart weight loss on Atkins or to overcome a plateau. I am not an expert on fasting, but I can share my own observations from my own experience as well as observations from private practice regarding the Fat Fast.
The Fat Fast is a low-calorie, high-fat program (1,000 calories/day and 80% fat). Dr. Atkins rarely and only recommended this approach with medical supervision in his private practice with severely metabolic resistant individuals for short periods in obese individuals who hit a plateau after months on Induction. However, doing such a low- calorie diet for an extended period of time may wreak havoc with your metabolism. When you follow very a low-calorie diet, your basal metabolic rate will slow down to compensate for the low caloric intake. This is your body's survival response to preserve its internal organs and muscle mass. If you are following the Atkins protocol correctly, you should not be taking in fewer than 1,500 to 1,800 calories daily. This energy supply should not cause a drop in your metabolic rate, but rather maintain the rate and preserve muscle while primarily burning fat (instead of carbohydrate) as a fuel for needed energy.
So I do not recommend the Fat Fast without medical supervision. All it does is shift water balance. You will see the scale move, but as soon as you start eating normally again, the weight will creep back to the same starting point. There are times when the body simply needs a break from weight loss. It has its own system, its own agenda and its own timetable. In the long run, it nearly always responds to sensible management by the person in charge—you. But in the short run, your body may decide to go its own way, for its own reasons, which perhaps we don't understand. The best way to deal with a stall is to wait it out and stick closely to the Atkins Diet protocol. If you are in a later phase of Atkins you can, however, drop back to a lower level of carbohydrate intake to see if that helps, but I would not recommend doing the fat fast. You risk creating a yo-yo dieting scenario.
If you are still in Induction when you hit a plateau, try climbing the carb ladder and add carbs in 5 net carb increments. I know it seem counterintuitive, but it actually works for some people. Once you get up to about 40 net carbs (assuming you are still maintaining and not gaining), then drop back to Induction level again. Sometimes that can work as well, because adding carbs will allow the body to relax a little rather than hold on tight to fat stores.
There was a time, before Atkins, when I was a vegetarian; I was a firm believer in fasting. I would do a vegetable juice fast one week a year, and an intermittent fast (IF) one day a week. I felt great being off all those carbs, and I attributed the well being to fasting and detox. I did, however, lose muscle mass every time, which I did not appreciate since I worked so hard in building it.
Then I got my master’s degree in nutrition, and I began to understand physiology and biochemistry better. What I came to realize is that the feel-good feeling from fasting was actually ketosis, not detox. So I began to do an Induction-type “Paleo” or, as some of you call it, “Primal Atkins” diet, during my experimental “detox" periods, and I never felt better. That was the beginning of my Atkins journey. There I remained, and here I am today 25 years later. There are times when I am too busy to prepare every meal and snack and depend on convenience foods, but then I do my own detox, which is a clean Induction, and I am back to feeling great. No fasting necessary.
As you can see I don't believe the Fat Fast or Intermittent Fasting (IF) is necessary if you are on a fat-burning metabolism. If you don't have a lot of weight to lose, and you are on a good exercise program, just because you are not losing weight, does not mean you are not burning fat. Your body is learning how to burn a new fuel. Once you are keto-adapted, which can take several weeks or several months, depending on the individual, this way of eating will take you to your natural weight. You may stall when you hit a set point, but eventually the scale will start moving again.
Just remember, on Atkins, if you do a very clean whole foods approach, your body will detox, and you will preserve muscle. Sure, you may lose a little weight on an IF, but it is mainly the shift in water balance. Once you start eating food again, the pounds will come back. With all this being said, although I don’t advocate fasting as a weight-loss technique, it is certainly acceptable if you are doing it for religious reasons. It is also acceptable to eat nothing after dinner and get a 12-hour fast in every night to give the digestion a break. Nothing wrong with that as long as you are meeting calorie requirements during the day.
Don’t forget loss of pounds is not the only way to measure success. Look at the other markers. Are you feeling better than you used to? Do you have the energy to do things you want to do? If so, then something is happening to your body. Do your clothes feel loser? Have you tried on those clothes that “felt a little too tight” just a few weeks ago? I hope you've followed my advice about measuring your chest, waist, hips, thighs and upper arms. If you're losing inches, the scale will eventually catch up.
If you are struggling with a weight-loss plateau on Atkins, check out this blog I wrote previously on the topic:
Now that the weather is getting warmer, and you are shedding layers of clothes, it’s natural to start thinking about new weight-loss goals. It’s easy just to resolve to eat less and exercise more. But a vague statement like that does not always work. It’s important to set goals and a timeline and plan ahead to improve your chances of success. Your goal is not to start on a crazy regimen of militaristic low-carb eating and intense exercise that will be impossible to maintain. Start by committing to an Atkins way of eating that’s realistic. By realistic, I’m referring to eating foods you enjoy while paying attention to the right carbs in the right amounts to allow your body to burn the fat that may have accumulated over the winter months. This will set the stage for a enjoyable way of eating that you can continue to stick with all summer long and beyond, while still achieving results.
Here’s how you can get started:
Do your meals need a makeover? Now that the weather is nicer, you can start grilling outside. What’s more delicious than a perfectly grilled steak seasoned to perfection, accompanied by a generous salad topped with an olive oil or creamy Italian dressing? And speaking of vegetables, it’s time to take advantage of all the spring vegetables coming in season, including artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, snow peas, Swiss chard, radicchio and more.
Don’t forget to spice up your snacks. Healthy snacks will keep your metabolism moving and your hunger at bay. Keep cut-up fresh vegetables on hand and enjoy with 1 tablespoon of ranch, blue cheese, Italian or homemade low-carb dressing. Roll up sliced ham, turkey, roast beef or smoked salmon with asparagus, cucumber or avocado and spread with aioli, mayo, cream cheese or egg salad. And speaking of eggs, cook up a batch of hard-boiled eggs for a protein-packed on-the-go snack or as deviled eggs or egg salad. Make snacking even more convenient by keeping some of your favorite flavors of Atkins bars and shakes on hand.
Now that the weather is warmer, it’s time to get moving. If you’re new to exercise, start slowly. Take the dog for a walk, hit the park with your kids, skip the elevator or escalator in favor of the stairs and park farther from your destination. Keep in mind that exercise is not a requirement of Atkins; you are losing weight because you are changing the way you eat—by burning fat for fuel, instead of carbs. But exercise does have many other health benefits. It can help you sleep better, improve your mood, boost your endurance, make you feel more energetic and can help manage or even improve a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, depression and diabetes.
Cardiovascular exercise is often considered a mainstay, but studies show that weight training is beneficial as well. It helps reshape your body more efficiently than just cardio because it helps build muscle, which is more metabolically active than fat. This means that you burn more calories, even when you’re not exercising. Weight training also helps increase bone density and maintain joint flexibility. In addition to all these benefits, a regular exercise routine will help you maintain the weight loss you’ve experienced with Atkins. You can squeeze cardio in just by taking a walk or brisk jog, jumping rope, running stairs or doing an exercise video or using a stair-stepper, stationary bike or treadmill. As far as weight training, you can buy an inexpensive set of resistance bands and get a full-body workout. Even push-ups and pull-ups are considered weight training because you are using your own body weight.
You can try these tips, and don’t forget to check out the forums in the Community for more great advice as you get started on your springtime slim-down. Remember not to try to make too many drastic changes at once or you may get overwhelmed or lose motivation. Start with your improving your eating habits, slowly add exercise to the mix, and enjoy the results!
Protein is a very important part of Atkins, and it plays a key role in your weight loss. When you combine it with healthy dietary fat and fiber from vegetables, it makes it easier to decrease your carbohydrate intake without feeling hungry. Protein also protects lean muscle mass, so you lose fat, and it moderates your blood sugar, which helps control your appetite for several hours. Think of it this way: You could enjoy a spinach salad with sliced tomatoes, and you might feel hungry a lot sooner than if you top your spinach salad with a serving of grilled salmon drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and sprinkled with an ounce of feta cheese. Suddenly you have a delicious and satisfying meal that will keep your appetite in check and your metabolism humming along.
To be clear, Atkins is not a high-protein diet. I suggest eating 4 to 6 ounces (cooked weight) of protein at each meal. If you’re a petite woman and you’re not very active, you may be satisfied with 4 ounces of protein. If you’re an active guy, 6 ounces should do the trick, and a very big guy may even want 8 ounces. On an average day, your protein intake will range between 12 and 18 ounces (cooked weight) a day. But don’t worry. I don’t expect you to weigh your food or count your calories. You can easily eyeball your protein portions using these guidelines:
4 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Smartphone
6 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Hockey puck
8 ounces meat, poultry, tofu, etc. = Slim paperback book
3 ounces fish = Checkbook
1 ounce hard cheese = Four dice or the size of an individually wrapped slice
The Truth About Red Meat
Red meat is a very popular (and delicious) protein source, although it has been vilified in the past, due to its casual association with a higher incidence of heart disease and diabetes. Such a sweeping judgment, however, ignores a significant difference between distinct subtypes of saturated fatty acids (SFAs). Foods like red meat, butter, cheese, poultry, eggs, pork and fish are primarily composed of palmitic and stearic SFAs, which have virtually no effect on “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, i.e., it is considered “neutral”. While studies to date have found no association with the consumption of fresh meats, there have been positive trends in risk when consuming cured and blackened meat, so it is best to eat fresh meats and limit processed meats. And when you consume saturated fat on Atkins, where your body is burning primarily fat for fuel, published research has shown that the level of saturated fat in the blood does not increase.
Picking Your Protein
For a full list of protein sources, click here:
And here are some guidelines for picking your protein:
I recommend selecting organically raised, free-range meat, poultry and eggs whenever possible. Not only are they more flavorful, they're also more healthful, because they don't contain harmful hormones including growth hormone, estrogens, and antibiotics. Follow these additional guidelines when picking your protein:
Eggs: Free-range eggs are about 20 times higher in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. You can also get omega-3-enriched eggs.
Cold cuts and hot dogs: Read your labels. Less expensive brands may be full of added sugars and other hidden carbohydrates. Processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, salami, olive loaf and the like usually contain nitrates and nitrites. Whenever possible, choose nitrite- and nitrate-free deli meats. For a delicious (and budget-friendly) alternative, roast a whole ham, roast beef or turkey breast and slice and freeze portions that you can defrost as you need.
Bacon, sausages and more: Most sausages, bacon and aged hams also contain nitrates and nitrites. Once again, read your labels and look for preservative-free brands. Just remember that what you do 90% of the time really counts. If you can’t find nitrate-free meats, just make sure you don’t eat them on a daily basis and remember that fresh is always best.
It can be a full-time job to keep up on the latest developments in clinical research on controlled-carbohydrate nutritional practices and the Atkins Diet’s reduced carbohydrate way of eating. This is why I thought it may be a good idea to post a research update every few months that summarizes the latest research for you and how it relates to Atkins.
Here’s what has happened in just the last three months:
1. Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids with Coronary Risk
Authors: Rajiv Chowdhury, MD, PhD; Samantha Warnakula, MPhil; Setor Kunutsor, MD, et al
Ann Intern Med. 2014; 160(6):398-406-406. doi: 10.7326/M13-1788
Background: Current guidelines suggest consuming more omega-6 polyunsaturated fat and less saturated fat is better for cardiovascular health.
Purpose: Review multiple studies (a meta-analysis) to analyze the connection between fat consumption and heart disease.
Conclusion: The results of this meta-analysis show no connection between saturated fat consumption and heart disease risk. The evidence does not support the current recommended guidelines.
What does this mean to you? This meta-analysis supports Atkins’ recommendations for fat consumption. Especially in the context of a low-carb eating program, the fat consumed on Atkins is burned for energy and does not raise the risk of heart disease.
2. The Cardiometabolic Consequences of Replacing Saturated Fats with Carbohydrates or Ω-6 Polyunsaturated Fats: Do the Dietary Guidelines Have it Wrong?
Author: James J DiNicolantonio
Open Heart 2014; 1:e000032. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2013- 000032
Background: Dietary Goals for Americans, published in 1977, proposed increasing carbohydrates and decreasing saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet. This increase in consumption paralleled an increase in the incidence of diabetes and obesity in the U.S.
Purpose: Are saturated fats as bad as we have lead to believe? This editorial discusses the data.
Conclusion: There is no conclusive proof that a low-fat diet has any positive effects on health; when carbohydrates replace saturated fat, it actually increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. A public health campaign is needed to educate everyone on the dangers of a diet high in carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods.
What does this mean to you? If you’re doing Atkins, you’re already doing exactly what Dr. DiNicolantonio (the editorial’s author) suggests by following a plan that incorporates a balance of healthy fats (including saturated fats), fresh vegetables, whole grains (eventually if your metabolism allows) and protein, and limits refined carbs, sugar and processed foods.
3. The Low-Carbohydrate Diet and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Epidemiologic Studies
Authors: T. Hu, L.A. Bazzano, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases (2014)
Background: Researchers analyzed multiple studies conducted from January 1966 to November 2013 comparing low-carb diets and low-fat diets. Randomized, controlled studies have shown that low-calorie low-carb diets are at least as effective as low-fat diets for weight loss.
Purpose: To compare low-carb diets to low-fat diets for weight loss and the improvement of heart disease risk factors.
Conclusion: Both low-carb and low-fat diets can help you lose weight and decrease your risk of heart disease, although low-carb diets may be more effective at decreasing waist circumference. The researchers concluded that a low-carb diet can also be recommended to diabetic patients to help them lose weight, but they emphasize that a healthy low-carb diet should emphasize dietary fiber intake derived from whole grains, fiber-rich fruit, low-carbohydrate vegetables (such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables), avocado, olive and vegetable oils, soy, fish and chicken, and restrict or eliminate consumption of processed and unprocessed red meat as well as starchy vegetables and refined grains.
What does this mean to you? When it comes to decreasing your risk of diabetes and heart disease, while losing weight and slashing inches from your waist, Atkins may be just what the doctor ordered.
4. A Non-Calorie-Restricted Low-Carbohydrate Diet is as Effective as an Alternative Therapy for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes
Yoshifumi Yamada, Junichi Uchida, Hisa Izumi, Yoko Tsukamoto,
Gaku Inoue, Yuichi Watanabe, Junichiro Irie and Satoru Yamada
Internal Medicine, January 2014
Background: In a six-month, randomized controlled trial, 24 patients with type-2 diabetes were either put on a low-carb diet or a calorie-restricted diet.
Purpose: To determine the effect of the two diets on average blood glucose concentration, which is an indicator of blood sugar levels. Reductions in total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, blood pressure, markers of atherosclerosis and renal function were also measured.
Conclusion: The low-carb diet significantly improved blood sugar levels and triglyceride levels compared to the calorie-restricted diet. And although calories weren’t restricted on the low-carb diet, after six months, calorie intake for both groups was almost the same.
What does this mean to you? If you have type-2 diabetes and you have tried calorie-restrictive in the past without success, a low-carb diet like Atkins can help manage your type-2 diabetes while helping you control your calorie intake without feeling hungry.
Fat has long been the vilified third cousin of the nutrition world. But with Atkins, we have learned that fat can be your friend. Countless studies show that replacing sugars and refined carbs with natural healthy fats may help you lose weight, and keep it off. As long as you are burning fat for fuel, it’s not being stored as that fat that loves to reside on your belly, hips and thighs. Fat also helps you feel full, and it carries flavor, which makes food that much more satisfying.
One of my favorite fats is olive oil. It is a monounsaturated fat, and it should be a staple of your diet on Atkins. It has many heart-healthy benefits, it’s rich in antioxidants, and it will add depth and variety to your meals. You can use it when sautéing food, or you can make your own salad dressing by adding a tablespoon to lemon juice or vinegar. Drizzle some over steamed asparagus (or any veggie) and finish with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper for a simple, yet perfect, side dish. The options are endless.
When shopping for olive oil, look for the following qualities:
• Extra-virgin olive oil in dark green glass or in packaging that shields it from light. Never buy olive oil in clear, plastic bottles.
• The words “cold pressed"
• A harvesting date on the bottle
• Look for the California Olive Oil Council Seal (COOC), which means:
o Less than .5% free oleic acid
o No chemicals or excessive heat during a mechanical extraction
This may not be revolutionary news to those of you who follow Atkins or have read many of my previous blogs, but according to a new editorial in the journal Open Heart, written by Dr. James DiNicolantonio, a leading U.S. cardiovascular research scientist, low-carb diets beat low-fat diets for weight loss, heart disease and longevity. As you may know, I have discussed several studies that show that a low-carb diet is better for weight loss and lowering heart disease risk than a low-fat diet, while larger observational studies have not found any proof that low-fat diets reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
According to DiNicolantonio, saturated fats were vilified in the past because of the belief that they increase total cholesterol (a flawed theory, also according to DiNicolantonio), and therefore must also increase heart disease risk. And since fat contains more calories, it was thought that by reducing the intake, it would naturally curb obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. These theories, based on flawed and incomplete data from the 1950s, led to the current dietary advice to replace saturated fats with carbohydrates or omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. Research now shows that eating refined carbohydrates is a dietary factor behind the surge in obesity and diabetes in the United States. And replacing saturated fats with omega-6 polyunsaturated fats—without a corresponding increase in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats—may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
DiNicolantonio says that a public health campaign is needed to educate the public on the dangers of a diet high in refined carbs and sugar, and that processed foods should be avoided at all costs.
Sound familiar? If you’re doing Atkins, you’re already doing exactly what DiNicolantonio suggests by following a plan that incorporates a balance of healthy fats (including saturated fats), fresh vegetables, whole grains (eventually) and protein and limits refined carbs, sugar and processed foods.
I have the chance to talk to people every day about Atkins, and I always find it interesting that there is still the misperception that all you eat on Atkins is bacon, eggs, heavy cream and beef. Nothing could be farther from the truth—when you follow Atkins, you may be surprised to find yourself eating more veggies than you ever did before. In Phase One (Induction), you eat 20 grams of net carbs each day, with most of them (12 to 15 grams of net carbs) coming straight from veggies. Initially you’ll be eating primarily what we call foundation veggies, which have a lower carb content and often a higher fiber count than the starchy veggies higher up the Carb Ladder.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to track every detail, you can keep track of your daily net carb intake in a journal, or you can enter your daily food into fitday.com, which is a free online food and fitness dairy. Enter the food, and fitday will do the math, telling you percentages of protein, fat and carbohydrate, calories and even nutritional content. If journaling and tracking is not your style, you can still succeed by using the cup method (see the ideas below).
If you want to eat your vegetables as part of your three daily meals, you might try getting 4 veggie net carbs with breakfast, 5.5 veggie net carbs with lunch and 5.5 veggie net carbs with dinner. If you want to keep it fairly simple, without having to make a lot of fancy recipes, here are some examples of what that might look like:
Sautee ¼ cup chopped broccoli and ¼ cup chopped onion in 1 Tbsp. real butter. Then add 2 beaten eggs to the pan. Stir over medium-high heat until the eggs are set. If you like, sprinkle 2 Tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese over the eggs in the last 30 seconds of cooking. 5 total net carbs, with 4 of them coming from veggies.
Here are some other combinations of veggies that you can easily add to an egg scramble or omelet that will total 4 net veggie carbs: ¾ cup chopped tomato and ¾ cup chopped spinach, ¼ cup chopped onion and ½ cup chopped mushrooms.
For a breakfast on the run, grab a couple of hard-boiled eggs, a slice of real cheese, and one of the following raw veggies to crunch in the car: 1-3/4 cup chopped cucumber, 1 cup string beans (green beans), 1-1/2 cups chopped cauliflower, 1 cup chopped green pepper.
Salad is a good way to get in your veggies! Start with 2-1/2 cups shredded romaine lettuce and add any of the following for a total (including the lettuce) of 5.5 veggie net carbs: 2 cups chopped cucumber, ¾ cup chopped jicama, 2-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms, 1 cup chopped green peppers, ¾ cup chopped red peppers, 2 cups sliced radishes, 1 cup chopped broccoli, 1-1/2 cups chopped cauliflower, ¾ cup chopped tomatoes, 1-1/2 cups sliced yellow squash. (If you want more than one added veggie in your salad, use half the measurement of one veggie, combined with half the measurement of another, like ½ cup green peppers and 1 cup chopped cucumber.) Plus, you can add 4 to 6 ounces sugar-free salad dressing
Of course, if you don’t like salad, you can just eat raw or cooked veggies, and use the following dinner ideas:
You can have another salad at dinner, or eat cooked vegetables. Add butter or even mayonnaise to hot cooked veggies. Here are some more examples for measuring and tracking raw and cooked vegetables:
How many cups of sliced raw veggies equal 5 net carbs?
• 1 avocado = 4
• 8 marinated artichoke hearts = 4
• 2 cup broccoli, raw = 4
• 1 cup cauliflower, raw = 3
• 1 cup jicama = 5
• 12 black olives = 2
• 12 radishes = 1
How many cups of sliced raw veggies equal 2 net carbs?
• 1 cup cucumber = 2
• ¼ red pepper = 1.5
• 5 cherry tomatoes = 2.2
• 1 cup broccoli, raw = 2
• 1 cup cauliflower, raw = 3
• 1/2 cup jicama = 2.5
• 12 radishes = 1
• 2 stalks of celery = 2
How many cups of cooked vegetables would equal 5 net carbs?
• 1 cup green beans = 6
• 1.5 cup cooked broccoli = 4.5
• 1.5 cup green cabbage = 4.5
• 12 spears asparagus = 5
• 1.5 cup eggplant = 4.5
• 1 cup kale = 5
• 1/2 cup button mushrooms = 5
• 1.5 cup zucchini = 4.5
• 1/2 cup spaghetti squash = 4
How many cups of cooked vegetables equal 2 net carbs?
• 1/2 cup green beans = 3
• 1 cup cooked broccoli = 3
• 1 cup green cabbage = 3
• 6 spears asparagus = 2.5
• 1 cup eggplant = 3
• 1/2 cup kale = 2.5
• 1/4 cup button mushrooms = 2.5
• 1 cup zucchini = 3
• 1/4 cup spaghetti squash = 2