The Atkins Diet, developed by Dr. Robert Atkins, relies upon restricting carbohydrates in order to encourage ketosis, a state in which the body's fat stores metabolize quickly. On the Atkins diet, you count grams of carbohydrate present in each food item and choose foods higher in protein and lower in sugar, based upon each of the four phases of the diet.
The Induction phase of the Atkins Diet, which last two weeks, calls for severely limiting the number of daily carbohydrates the dieter eats to no more than 20 grams. During this time, you may eat as much red meat, chicken, fish, bacon and eggs as you please, as long as these items do not have additional breading or sauce. Also permitted are turkey, Cornish game hen and quail, as well as lobster, salmon, shrimp and crabmeat. It's important to drink lots of water during this phase. The dieter may also eat up to three cups of fiber-rich salad greens or fresh vegetables per day. Choose from lettuce, mushrooms, celery, cucumber, parsley, peppers and chives. Some vegetables are slightly higher in carbs, such as cabbage, onion, kale, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli and tomatoes. You may include these, but limit to one cup per day during the first two weeks. Add spices to add variety to your meals during the Induction phase. Try cilantro, basil, garlic, rosemary and tarragon to flavor your fare. While milk is forbidden during this phase of the Atkins Diet, you may eat up to four ounces of aged cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella, Swiss cheese, parmesan or blue cheese. Avoid other foods and count the number of carbs to make sure you stay below the limit.
Once the two-week Induction phase is over, you may have a wider variety of foods, but still limit high-carb items. During the Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) phase, you may eat more of the induction list vegetables but only up to 5 grams of additional carbohydrates per day, putting your maximum number of carbs for this phase at 25 grams. You may also eat a few berries, seeds or nuts and a small amount of whole grains as long as you do not exceed a total of 25 grams of carbohydrates per day. Remain in the OWL phase until you are within ten pounds of your weight goal, then shift to the Pre-Maintenance phase to lose the remaining weight gradually. During this phase, you may increase your carbohydrate intake to 50 grams per day at the rate of five extra grams each week, as long as you are still losing weight. Along with the foods from the Induction and the OWL phases, you may add more nut varieties, including almonds, cashews, macadamias and pecans. You may begin eating carrots, peas, beets, lentils, black beans and yams in amounts that don't exceed your carbohydrate limit. A small amount of fruit is acceptable now, so choose a few cherries or strawberries or a small amount of watermelon or cantaloupe. After reaching your weight goal, you may add additional foods as you choose, but keep in mind that a diet rich in high carbohydrates may result in weight gain. Dr. Atkins suggests eating a variety of foods, but limiting portions of milk, bread and other starches. An occasional small sweet treat isn’t out of the question. Weigh yourself weekly, and if you weight more than five pounds above your ideal weight, return to the Pre-Maintenance phase until you lose those pounds.
Side effects of the Atkins diet, especially in the early phase where carbohydrate intake is the lowest, may include irritability, headaches and bad breath. Pregnant women should not follow this diet. If you are on medications or have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, high blood pressure, gallbladder problems or any other kind of medical condition, talk with your doctor before beginning the Atkins Diet.