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The Atkins Diet Promise

Think you can cut back on carbs as you start on your weight reduction diet? Atkins diet promises to be one of the best diets for quick weight loss.


About the Atkins Diet

It’s that time of the year when New Year resolutions are plaguing your thoughts. If losing weight has been on your mind, your Google search bar will probably only show searches for best diets for weight loss. If you have tried all the fad diets and failed, but are still unwilling to give up, well, your search ends here! Here is a simple and easy diet plan that only needs discipline to be followed.

The Atkins Diet plan is one of the oldest and most successful weight loss plans that has been around for over three decades, but has only recently gained popularity, what with everyone wanting to look like a million bucks overnight – and why not?


Healthy Atkins Foods

The Atkins diet includes a variety of healthy foods


How Does the Atkins Diet Work?

Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients (nutrients that form a large part of our diet) found in food – the others being fat and protein. When eaten, the body converts most carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) that provides energy. This is used to fuel cells such as those of the brain and muscles. When eaten in excess, however, our body turns most of these carbs to fat which find convenient repositories in our bodies.

The Atkins diet works on the theory that, when you cut back on the carb intake, the metabolism switches from metabolising glucose to burning the stored fats. This leads to the production of ketones that the body uses as energy sources. Dr Robert Atkins, who proposed this diet plan based on the research of Dr Alfred W. Pennington, who recommended removing all starch and sugar from meals, calls this the metabolic advantage. The Atkins Diet, with a comprehensive four-stage plan, promises to be a healthy lifelong approach to losing and maintaining weight. The best part? Dr. Atkins claims that the science behind the Atkins principles has been proven by over 80 clinical studies! Coupled with appropriate exercise, this could well be one of the best weight loss programs ever.

The difference between Atkins and other fad diets is that it promises that you’ll be able to maintain your weight-loss since you are not completely staying off foods that you like, merely regulating their intake. That way, you won’t give in to cravings and simply regain weight – which means you can have your cake, and eat it, too! 


What’s on the Menu?


Atkins Foods

Some of the foods that are a part of the Atkins diet


Phase 1

  • Fish: Flounder, herring, salmon, sardines, sole, tuna, trout, cod, and halibut
  • Poultry: Cornish hen, pheasant, goose, quail, chicken, duck, turkey, and ostrich
  • Shellfish: Clams, crab meat, mussels, oysters, shrimp, squid, and lobster
  • Meat: Bacon, beef, ham, lamb, pork, veal, and venison
  • Eggs: Devilled, fried, hard-boiled, omelettes, poached, scrambled, and soft-boiled
  • Fats: Butter and mayonnaise (no added sugar)
  • Oils: Olive oil, sunflower, vegetable oils, grape seed, sesame, canola, walnut, soybean, and safflower
  • Artificial Sweeteners: Sucralose, saccharine, and stevia
  • Beverages: Clear broth/ bouillon, club soda, decaffeinated or regular coffee and tea, diet soda, flavored seltzer, herb tea, unflavored soy/almond milk, and water (at least 8 glasses a day- filtered water, mineral water, spring water, tap water)
  • Cheese: Parmesan, goat cheese, blue cheese, cheddar, Gouda, mozzarella (whole milk), cream cheese, Swiss, and feta
  • Vegetables: Alfalfa sprouts, heart of palm, dill pickle, spinach, Broccoli, sauerkraut (drained), chicory greens, lettuce, turnip greens, olives (green and black), avocado, endive, watercress, radicchio, tomato, daikon, onion (red, white), zucchini,  button mushroom, artichoke, arugula, radishes, fennel, okra, spinach, escarole, cucumber, cauliflower, beet greens, bok choy, leeks, shallot, celery, collard greens, asparagus, broccolini, bell pepper (red, green), cabbage, green beans, mung sprouts, jicama, eggplant, cherry tomato, kohlrabi, pumpkin, rhubarb, Swiss chard, garlic, snow peas, kale, scallion, turnip, tomato, Portobello mushroom, yellow squash, and spaghetti squash
  • Salad Garnishes and Dressing: Crumbled bacon, sour cream, grated cheeses, hard-boiled egg, sautéed mushrooms, red wine vinegar, Caesar, ranch, lemon juice, blue cheese, balsamic vinegar, and Italian (creamy)
  • Herbs and Spices: Basil, black pepper, dill, oregano, tarragon, parsley, cayenne pepper, cilantro, chives, ginger, rosemary, sage


Healthy Fruits and Vegetables

The Atkins diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables as a part of its diet


Phase 2

  • Dairy: Mozzarella cheese, yogurt (plain, unsweetened, whole milk), ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, and heavy cream
  • Nuts and Seeds (and their butters): Walnuts, macadamia, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, cashews, pecans
  • Fruits: Cantaloupe, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, gooseberries, boysenberries, blueberries, strawberries, honeydew
  • Juices: Lemon, lime, and tomato
  • Legumes (cooked or canned)
  • Lentils: Kidney, Lima, pinto, black, navy, great northern, and chickpea



Lentils are one of the food sources recommended in phase 2 of the Atkins diet


Phase 3:



Oats can be a great breakfast choice in phase 3 of the Atkins diet


Phase 4

  • Starchy Vegetables: Carrots, beets, rutabaga, peas, acorn squash, butternut squash, sweet potato, parsnips, potato, and corn
  • Fruit: Apple, grapes, orange, dates, banana, pear, clementine, grapefruit, apricot, pineapple, peach, mango, kiwi, pomegranate, papaya, plum, guava, coconut (fresh), figs, cherries, and watermelon
  • Grains: Wheat bran, wheat germ, oat bran, quinoa, whole wheat bread, oatmeal (dry, steel cut), polenta, grits, whole wheat pasta, barley, millet, and rice (brown)


Kid with Carrot

Foods of phase 4 of the Atkins diet is basically the same as phase 3 and carrots make the cut in these lists!


What’s off the Menu?


Phase 1

  • Bread
  • Grains: Wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and rice
  • Dairy (except cheese, cream and butter)
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar: Fruit juices, soft drinks, ice cream, cakes, candy, and pastries
  • Vegetable Oils: Cottonseed, soybean, corn, and canola
  • Trans-fats
  • Diet or Low-fat foods that are very high in sugar
  • Vegetables (induction phase only): Turnips and carrots
  • Fruits (induction phase only): Pears, grapes, bananas, apples, and oranges
  • Starchy Vegetables (induction phase only): Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and corn
  • Legumes (induction phase only): Lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc.
  • Deli salads
  • Nuts (induction phase only)



Just no.


Advantages of the Atkins Diet

  • Nutritional Approach: A nutritional approach that helps wean you off your carbohydrate (sugar) addiction. Think of it as a sugary rehab.
  • Eat Fat and Lose Weight: Foods such as steak, bacon, butter and cream are allowed on the Atkins diet, which are completely forbidden in other low-calorie and low-fat diets – brownie points scored for Atkins!
  • Increased Energy: With reduced carbs, there is significant amount of energy produced from fats, leaving you feeling energetic, light and good about yourself All this, without a fad crash diet for weight loss.
  • Physical Ailments: Controlled intake of carbohydrates regulates blood sugar levels and keeps cardiovascular and other common physical ailments like obesity, fatigue, water retention, etc. at bay 1.
  • Practical Weight Loss: Nutritional and practical weight loss that can easily be tweaked with low-calorie natural substitutes that are locally available.
  • Quick Weight Loss: There is quick weight loss, especially in the first phase, which is the most restrictive one. If that isn’t motivation for this diet, nothing else is.
  • No Hunger Pangs: As long as you stick to the permitted list of foods, there is no limit of how much you can eat. Also, restricting the carbs keeps your sugar levels in check so you don’t experience “hunger pangs”.
  • Simple to Follow: The Atkins diet is quite simple to follow. There is some basic carbohydrate counting you need to keep in mind, besides which, you are free to eat anything from the permitted list of foods.
  • Includes Healthy Carbs: The Atkins diet eliminates refined carbs from your diet such as white bread, cakes, etc. and encourages you to consume healthy carbohydrates. So you are able to differentiate between carbs that are good and those that are bad for you.


Healthy vs Junk Food

The Atkins diet promotes the consumption of healthy carbs vs unhealthy carbs


  • No Need to Count Calories: You only need to keep track of your carbohydrate consumption to lose weight; you don’t need to count the number of calories you are consuming.


Disadvantages of the Atkins Diet

  • Weight Gain: The diet promises and promotes rapid weight loss. If not practiced carefully or if practiced in desperation, it could cause a vicious cycle of anxiety and weight gain. There is a possibility of regaining lost weight if you falter or do not exercise alongside diet plan.
  • Unpleasant Symptoms: Sudden reduction of carbs from your regular diet may cause headache, nausea, dizziness, constipation, fatigue and weakness 2. Luckily, this is temporary, and merely reflects your body throwing a detox tantrum. 
  • Weight Gain Due to High Protein and Fat: Many allege that the high fat and protein content of food in the initial phase could promote weight gain, but this is likely only if carbs are also consumed. If necessary, a balance of the kind of food to be consumed can be achieved with sound dietary advice from a dietician.
  • Carb Counting Cumbersome: Alliterations aside, too many carb counts on the way to your goal can be quite tedious. Of course, noting down your newly reduced weight is well worth the math.
  • Health Risks: The Atkins diet recommends eating foods that are rich in protein. However, they may have high fat content and this may lead to an increase in “bad” cholesterol. The diet also restricts the consumption of fruits and vegetables, which may deprive the body of fiber that’s essential for digestion and healthy bowel movement. It may curb the antioxidants that are present in the fruits and vegetables, which would help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. 3.  


Seafood, Meat and Lentils

There is a high protein consumption in the Atkins diet and if not followed in balance with other foods, can lead to weight gain


  • Too Strict: A low-carb diet such as the Atkins diet may be difficult to follow as you may find the food restrictions quite strict. Then again, no pain, no gain! 


Side Effects

  • When the body begins to burn fat, the body enters into a state called ketosis that produces compounds called ketones. This may result in bad breath, insomnia, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and lethargy. 4.
  • Since high-fiber foods are eliminated from the diet such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, etc., you may suffer from constipation. 5.
  • In the long run, consuming foods high in fat content can lead to the risk of heart disease. 6
  • Restricting the consumption of dairy products may lead to lesser calcium available to the body, resulting in problems such as osteoporosis. 7.
  • High intake of protein may cause kidney problems or even weaken bones. 8.


Common Myths and Misconceptions of the Atkins Diet


The Atkins diet focuses on eliminating carbohydrates

This is not true! For centuries, we have been told that eating a balanced diet aids in weight loss. Atkins does not claim otherwise. It is a healthy diet plan that focuses on reducing the intake of carbs so that the body uses up fats by starting with a few protein and fat-rich foods, since excessive intake of carbohydrates can lead to blood sugar imbalance9, weight gain and cardiovascular diseases10. The diet then gradually works on adding food items from all food groups with regulated intake. In other words, a little bit of sugar, spice and everything nice will tip the scales in your soon-to-be svelte favor.

Breads High in Carbs

High carb foods such as bread are not allowed on the Atkins diet in order to reduce the sugar levels in your body


The Atkins diet plan is decades old and irrelevant

Like all other diet plans, Atkins continues to evolve, keeping in mind studies conducted periodically on the relationship between the right quality and quantity of food intake and weight loss. 


The Atkins diet is only for non-vegetarians

Although most recommended diet plans for Atkins give a list of high fat and protein food to eat, which includes a variety of non-vegetarian food items, the diet plan can be modified to suit the tastes of vegetarians and lacto-ovo-vegetarians as well by simply including soy-based food and nuts for proteins, and using olive oil and coconut oil as sources of plant-based fat. The choices are numerous, and you’re the Bachelor(ette) in this particular food paradise! 



Soy is a good source of protein in the Atkins diet


The Atkins Diet Is Unhealthy

On the contrary, Atkins is a natural, effective way to lose weight and for weight management in the long run. In fact, the Atkins diet encourages you to eat healthy, balanced foods that are nutrient-dense including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, good fats and lean proteins. It limits the intake of processed sugar, trans-fats and refined carbohydrates. Eating these kinds of foods helps you burn more fat, leaving you feeling satisfied, energetic, and less hungry.


Atkins Diet Encourages Only Eating Rich Foods Like Steak, Eggs and Bacon and No Fruits or Vegetables

The Atkins diet plan includes plenty of vegetables and, in the later phases of the diet, you can eat carbohydrate-rich whole grains and fruits. It is only in the Induction phase or the first phase of the diet that consumption of more lean protein is encouraged. This is to catalyze the fat burning power of the body and kick-start the weight loss process. Typically, after two weeks of the Induction phase, you can expand your food choices. However, the Atkins diet does give you the flexibility to skip this phase, at your discretion. 


Healthy Fruits and Vegetables

The Atkins diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables as a part of its diet in stages post the induction phase


You Can Eat All the Bacon and Eggs You Want on the Atkins Diet

During the Induction phase of the diet, it is recommended that you include specific amounts of eggs and bacon into the diet plan. However, the Atkins diet is not an all egg and bacon diet. In fact, the meal plan includes varied foods such as fish, poultry, lean meat, soy, eggs, etc. as a source of protein. The idea of the diet is to eat in moderation and eat healthy, with the added option of eating tasty.


The Atkins Diet Is Too Restricting

Again, untrue! The Atkins diet allows you to eat a wide variety of foods and only limits the consumption of refined carbs and sugars. The idea of the diet is to help you choose the right foods and the correct way to eat carbohydrate-rich foods so that you can maintain your weight loss for the rest of your life, or until death (or a sugar-obsession) do you part.


Atkins Is a Fad Diet

Atkins is not a fad diet; it has in fact changed the way that many people eat. The diet not only helps in weight loss, it also has several other health benefits. The best way to describe it would be as a healthy lifestyle choice.


You Do Not Have Any Energy When on the Diet Due to Lack of Carbohydrates

Your body has two sources of energy- carbohydrates and fat. When the body does not have enough carbs, it will start burning fat, which is the body’s backup fuel. You may notice lack of energy and fatigue in the initial days of the diet because the body is adapting to the metabolic changes. Usually, the body takes about 3-5 days to adapt from sugar to fat metabolism. When your body becomes accustomed to these changes, the symptoms will go away, unleashing the Queen’s Justice on your body’s stored fat – or at least, the justice of a ruthlessly balanced diet plan. 


The High Intake of High-Fat Meats and Dairy Products Raises Cholesterol Levels, Ultimately Leading to Heart Disease

The Atkins diet plan advises that you include all types of fat into your diet so that you get a healthy balance of fats. The diet also encourages you to consume healthy proteins such as poultry, lean meat, fish, eggs and dairy products along with healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and other plant-foods. Studies have shown that, when followed correctly, the Atkins diet provides a balance of monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats which is good for the body.


Chicken Eggs

The Atkins diet encourages the consumption of healthy, lean protein such as eggs


Atkins Is Deficient in Nutrients as It Excludes Fruits, Vegetables and Grains

The Atkins diet does not exclude vegetables, fruits and grains from the meal plan. The first phase of the diet is the strictest phase that permits 20 gm of carbohydrates. However, 60 percent of the carbs in this stage come from nutrient-rich vegetables. The diet also encourages the consumption of non-starchy vegetables with fruits that have a low glycemic index, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains after the first few weeks of the Induction phase of the diet.


Weight Loss on the Diet Is Due to Loss of Water Weight

As is the case with all diets, a part of the initial weight loss is due to loss of water weight. Once you get through 4-5 days of following the Atkins way of eating and cut your carbs, you will begin to burn fat, just as fast as myth-busting for the Atkins diet. 

Phases of the Atkins Diet


There are four phases to the Atkins weight loss program:

Phase I: Induction   

A strict high-fat, high-protein, low-carb phase where you restrict the carb intake to 20 grams a day in multiple small meals through the day and drink at least eight glasses of water. The objective of this phase is to shift metabolism from burning carbs to burning fat for energy production and the ultimate goal of this phase is to significantly reduce carb intake to 20 grams a day. This phase lasts for approximately two weeks, but can be extended till you are 15 lbs (~7Kgs) away from your goal weight.


Phase II: Balance/ Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL)

This is the phase where you lose most of the weight and work on finding the right carb balance for you. The goal is to add 5 grams of net carbs per week till you find your carb balance. There is no right number. It depends upon a person’s age, gender, physical activity, etc.

Since this phase aims at finding your carb balance, you might want to take it slow, lest you go high on carbs on a whim and decide that being addicted to sugar is something you cannot give up. Ideally, you can stay in this phase until you are about 10 lbs (~4.5-5 kgs) away from goal weight.

This is the phase where you move from a primarily vegetable diet to a diet that includes fruits, nuts and a convenient choice of dairy products as well!


Atkins Diet Before After

You slowly begin to see the effort paying off in phase 2 of the Atkins diet


Phase III: Pre-Maintenance

The purpose is to find that point on the carb-intake curve where you can maintain your weight without having to cut down on your carb intake. The goal is to increase net carbs to 10 grams a week, till you find your carb balance. This phase lasts until you have reached goal weight and maintained it for a month.

This is the phase where you add carb-rich fruits and vegetables to the diet till you find the upper limit on the quantity of net carbs acceptable by your body, and formulate a diet meal plan that works best for you. 


Phase IV: Lifetime Maintenance

In this phase, you’ve reached your weight loss goal and have been able to maintain it for at least a month. You now slowly transition to a diet that allows you to maintain your weight for a long time ahead. The purpose is to chart out a diet plan for weight maintenance and stick to it to maintain your weight. This should ideally last through your lifetime!

By this phase, you already know what food quantity works best for you and are ready to chart a diet plan that you will follow for maintenance of goal weight.


Variants of the Atkins Diet

Atkins Diet has two kinds of plans- Atkins 20 and Atkins 40, the basic difference between the two being that the Atkins 20 starts the Induction phase with 20 grams of net carbs a day and Atkins 40 starts at 40 grams of net carbs a day, while the similarity is that both plans focus on food choices that do not raise your blood sugar levels.


Atkins 20

Atkins 20 is recommended for diabetic individuals who need to drastically bring a change in diet to regulate their blood sugar levels or individuals who have over 40 pounds to lose. It allows only vegetables to be the source of carbs in the initial phase. In this diet variant, you slowly add back certain food items back into your diet, so the acceptable food changes for each phase.


Atkins 40

Atkins 40 is for individuals who cannot suddenly bring down carb levels, especially if pregnant or breastfeeding, or the ones who have less than 40 pounds to lose. It also allows for a lot more food choices than Atkins 20. Atkins 40 allows carbs in your diet to be derived in one-thirds from all food groups. Here, the acceptable food remains the same through all phases, only the quantity of net carb intake changes as you constantly try to avoid trigger foods that will cause you to consume more carbs.


Who Is It For?

Many have claimed that Atkins Diet program is one of the few weight loss programs that really works. It works for anyone who has the intention and will to lose weight. However, for people with various medical issues, it is best to consult a doctor before you embark on a weight loss journey with diet restrictions.


Who Is It Not For?

It is not advisable for children to go on a diet. They need to eat healthy, good amounts at regular intervals. Pregnant or lactating women, individuals with a history of alcoholism, lowered kidney or liver function, diabetes (although according to Dr. Atkins, Atkins 20 can be followed by a diabetic) or any other medical ailment that requires constant intervention by a medical practitioner should consult before embarking on any diet changes or changes in physical routine.

Think there is a lot to soak in? Relax, for much to learn, you still have, young padawan.  Desperation to lose weight might get you anxious and anxiety will just add on the pounds. Hang in there, plan your exercise and diet well to enjoy your weight loss journey with one of the best weight loss programs around.  


Final Word

Over the years, the Atkins diet has gained a cult status in the dieting world and has proven to be an effective means of weight loss. Devised by the late Dr Atkins, the diet is a low-carb, high-protein diet, which works on the premise that when you cut out the carbs from your diet plan, your body will be forced to burn its fat reserves to provide energy and as you burn more calories while burning fat when compared to carbohydrates, you lose weight more quickly. However, the diet has also faced criticism on grounds that it lacks balance.

In the recent years, the new and updated Atkins diet has met with approval as it emphasises consumption of lean protein and encourages eating a wider range of vegetables, fruits and whole grains and recommends cutting down on processed foods, sugars and junk food.

As always, the mantra for effective and long-term weight loss is a healthy eating plan that includes all food groups and not only focuses on shedding weight quickly, but also keeping it off during your lifetime.