Atkins what to eat

How To Do Atkins Right: 10 Mistakes to Avoid

Everyone makes mistakes, but you can learn from ours and save yourself some time and heartache! Here’s how to do Atkins right and avoid making some all-too-common errors:

Mistake #1: Counting Total Carbs, not Net Carbs. On Atkins, you need to count Net Carbs, which are the grams of total carbs minus grams of fiber, which has virtually no impact on your blood sugar. Don’t forget to count lemon juice and other acceptable condiments and include 1 gram of Net Carbs for sugar substitutes. And most important, don’t use your carb allowance for foods that are high in sugar and starches and low in fiber. Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking no carbs are better than 20 grams of Net Carbs and eat only protein and fat. You can download the Atkins Carb Counter to track your daily carb intake.

Mistake #2: Skimping on Veggies. Make sure you are eating 12 to 15 of your net carb grams in the form of foundation vegetables. This translates to about 6 cups of leafy greens and 2 cups of cooked veggies, which means you could have a big salad at lunch, a side salad at dinner and still have several servings of your favorite cooked veggies.

Mistake #3: Saying No to H2O. Eight daily cups is the standard recommendation, but the larger and more active you are, the more you need. As long as your urine is clear or very pale, you’re drinking enough. Two cups can come from coffee or tea (caffeinated is fine), herb tea, sugar-free sodas or broth. Don’t ever skimp on fluids in a misguided effort to see a lower number when you hop on the scale. Not drinking enough water actually makes your body retain fluid as a protective mechanism.

Mistake #4: Going Salt-Free. A little salt (or broth or tamari/soy sauce) can help you avoid experiencing weakness, headaches, muscle cramps or lightheadedness as your body transitions to primarily burning fat for energy. Since Atkins is a naturally diuretic diet, you don’t need to avoid salt to minimize water retention. The symptoms can be the result of an electrolyte imbalance caused by losing minerals along with fluid. Caution: continue to limit salt if you’re being treated for hypertension or your doctor has advised you to limit sodium intake.

Mistake #5: Not Eating Enough Protein. Eat 4–6 ounces of protein at each meal, depending on your height and gender. Four ounces may be enough for a petite woman; a guy may need 6 ounces. A very tall guy may even need a bit more. But eating too much protein—or eating only protein and not vegetables—or conversely, skimping on protein, will interfere with weight loss and/or leave you hungry and subject to carb cravings. 

Mistake #6: Being Afraid of Fat. You need dietary fat to help stimulate the burning of body fat, and natural fats are fine when you control carb intake. Always accompany a carb snack with either fat or protein. For example, have cucumber slices with a piece of cheese.

Mistake #7: Eating Hidden Carbs. Read package labels so you can avoid added sugars and other sneaky carbs. Just because a package says it’s low in calories doesn’t mean it’s low in carbs. Avoid low-calorie products unless they’re labeled as low carb. Likewise, use full fat versions of mayonnaise, salad dressing and the like. Low-fat versions of packaged foods almost invariably add sugar to replace the flavor carried by oil. If the label is unclear, look up the food in the Atkins Carb Counter.

Mistake #8: Picking the Wrong Low-Carb Products. Use only Atkins low-carb products. Most of these have been tested to ensure that the impact on your blood sugar is minimal, and most are coded for Phase 1. 

Mistake #9: Becoming a Slave to the Scale. Weigh and measure yourself weekly or use weight averaging. Your weight naturally varies across a three or four-pound range from day to day so weighing yourself daily is setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Moreover, if you are working out, you may actually be building muscle even as you shed fat, which may keep your weight constant, even as you trim inches and your clothes fit better. (Muscle is denser than fat and therefore takes up less space.)

Mistake #10: Not Recording Your Progress. Use a journal. You’ll be entering your weight and measurements weekly, but you will want to record your food intake and Net Carb count daily. This way, you can quickly see if you’re consuming more carbs than you think you are. You can use Atkins’ free tracking tools to track your progress.

Way back in November, I tried the Atkins diet that Kim Kardashian followed to lose her baby weight in an attempt to see if it was even doable, and I survived. Not only that, but in one week I lost a whopping 3 pounds — and went immediately back to my old ways. Now that “New Year, new me” season is upon us, here are some facts on the diet for anyone looking to make a similar (albeit maybe not so Kardashian-esque or temporary) transformation.

1. Atkins was the staple diet of the early 2000s.

Though Atkins began in 1972 when Robert C. Atkins released his book, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, it didn’t become crazy popular until the early 2000s, when he released his second book.

2. Krispy Kreme and the pasta industry were not fans.

According to a New York Times article, the doughnut giant blamed Atkins and other low-carb diets like it for a huge drop in sales. The pasta industry was also in hot water (no pun intended) at the height of the Atkins craze, NPR reported—pasta sales were down by as much as 10 percent. It wasn’t until Atkins filed for bankruptcy—due to decreasing popularity—that it seemed carbs were king again and pasta makers were safe.

3. The key is to eat low carb, not low cal.

Atkins works by reducing sugar and carbs (which later turn into sugar) so that the body doesn’t burn these for fuel but burns fat instead. In that sense, you’re counting your net carb intake—AKA, those bites of bread and pasta you just can’t resist—rather than count calories.

4. There’s two diet plans to suit your needs.

If you follow Atkins, there are 2 plans to choose from: Atkins 20 and Atkins 40. With Atkins 20, you start by eating only 20 net carbs per day and eventually add more carbs (and food options) as you move through its four phases. This plan is recommended for people who have 40 or more pounds to lose.

With Atkins 40 you can eat, you guessed it, 40 net carbs per day. With this plan you eat three meals and two snacks per day, and you have way more food options. This option is good for people who have less than 40 pounds to lose, are breast feeding, or just need a little more variety in their meals.

5. Atkins lets you eat lots and lots of cheese.

A diet that lets you eat cheese? Yup, it exists. Atkins advocates eating both dairy and healthy fats, so you can keep munching on that fancy brie, or have yourself a little pat of butter—no problem (as long as you account for the net carbs, of course).


6. You’ll have to pack on the protein.

Atkins is big on protein with every meal. In fact, at three 4- to 6-ounce servings on Atkins 40, it’s a large part of your daily food intake. The good news is you can get your protein from lots of places, including eggs, poultry, seafood, buffalo (hmmm), and even bacon.

7. You’ll also have to put your alcohol behind lock and key.

Unfortunately, alcohol is not a part of either Atkins 20 or 40. Though the occasional glass of wine is no biggie, alcohol consumption slows down weight loss, so if you’re really looking to lose weight, you should avoid drinking a whole bottle. Approved alcohols include: wine, rye, scotch, vodka, and gin—but lose the juice, tonic water, and non-diet soda, they’ll add unwanted carbs and ruin your hard work.

8. Vegetarians and vegans can get in on the action too.

Atkins is an EOD (Equal Opportunity Diet) so non-meat eaters can follow the food plan by getting their protein from eggs, cheese, and soy products. Vegans can eat seeds, nuts, soy products, soy and rice cheeses, and high-protein grains like quinoa.

9. The diet has been recently revamped to include a lot more plants.

Atkins recently released a hip new version of its diet plan called Eco-Atkins. The new diet focuses on getting 31 percent of calories from plant proteins, 43 percent from plant fats and 26 percent from plant carbs, so basically this is the diet for vegetarians. US News & World Report ranked the diet 20 out of 38 in best diets overall, No. 5 in best fast weight loss diets, and 8 in best plant-based diets. Unfortunately, there’s little guidance on the diet (it doesn’t even have an online presence), making it kind of hard to follow.

10. They have frozen meals and recipes galore to keep you on track.

Let’s be real: Frozen meals are def not the most appetizing thing in the world, but they do cut out the math of having to calculate net carbs yourself (they’re printed on the box), and they’re fast. Atkins has a variety of frozen meals, including breakfast options, a range of American options, and even global choices. My recommendation? Try the beef merlot or meatloaf—they’re bomb. However, save yourself the disappointment and steer clear of the chicken options.

If you prefer to cook your own meals, Atkins also has a lot of easy recipes on the brand’s website that are actually good, and help you keep track of your net carbs. My favorite was the cauli mac and cheese (no, it didn’t actually have pasta) because that cheese sauce was insane.

Sam Gutierrez

11. You can also get fresh meals delivered.

Not into frozen, but also not into cooking? That’s cool. If you’ve got the cash, you can get fresh Atkins meals delivered to you. You can subscribe and get a personalized meal plan, or order a la carte.

12. Counting carbs? There’s an app for that.

Atkins wouldn’t make it in the 21st century if it didn’t have a carb-counting app. The app functions like most others of its kind, but in addition to having the nutrition info for basically every grocery item on the planet, it includes data for Atkins products and recipes. So basically, you just type in words and never actually have to do math to figure out your carb intake, making dieting a no-brainer.

13. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better.

If you’re dieting, it means you’re most likely really changing your eating habits, and that’s obviously not going to be easy. According to the Mayo Clinic, people on Atkins tend to have initial side effects, including headaches, dizziness, weakness, fatigue and constipation. Of course, these side effects might occur with any diet, so it really is up to you: Is the gain worth the pain?

14. It may or may not have other health benefits.

Atkins marketing never fails to mention that aside from helping to lose weight, the diet plan also reduces risk for heart disease and diabetes. But as the Mayo Clinic points out, that may be a result of better eating that you would see with any diet — not just Atkins.


15. It initially advocated unlimited cheese and meat.

Part of the reason why some doctors were initially skeptical of Atkins is because at first, it advocated eating cheese, meats, and fats liberally. Since then, the diet has undergone some changes, namely advocating for more moderation in dining on meat and dairy. Some experts are still not entirely convinced about a high-fat and protein diet, but little extensive research has been done.

16. Some prolific stars are fans of the diet.

Many stars have been rumored to use Atkins to maintain their weight. Among them are Robbie Williams, Jennifer Aniston, and Catherine Zeta Jones, though The Mask of Zorro actress threatened to sue anyone who associated her with the diet. But two high-profile celebs, Kim Kardashian and Alyssa Milano, are confirmed believers.

17. It’s kind of expensive.

Atkins, by virtue of making you eat fresh, non-processed food, is a pricey diet to maintain. When I had to buy all my food fresh and skip the occasional Wendy’s or Chipotle bowl, my grocery bill nearly tripled, jumping to $135 for one week of food, as opposed to my usual $50.

And I’m not alone. According to a Forbes article that compared the costs of following different diet meal plans, the Atkins diet meals came out to an average of $100.52 per week, 84.6 percent more than the national average spent on weekly groceries. Atkins may be less than other weight-loss alternatives, like a new treadmill or surgery, but it will definitely run up a hefty bill.

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How the Atkins Diet Works

Drastically restricting carbohydrates to a mere fraction of that found in the typical American diet causes the body to go into a state of ketosis, which means it burns its own fat for fuel. A person in ketosis is getting energy from ketones, little carbon fragments that are the fuel created by the breakdown of fat stores. When the body is in ketosis, you tend to feel less hungry, and thus you’re likely to eat less than you might otherwise. However, ketosis can also cause a variety of unpleasant effects (such as unusual breath odor and constipation) in a small number of people.

As a result, your body changes from a carbohydrate-burning engine into a fat-burning engine. So instead of relying on the carbohydrate-rich items you might typically consume for energy, and leaving your fat stores just where they were before (alas, the hips, belly, and thunder thighs are popular fat-gathering spots), your fat stores become a primary energy source. The purported result: weight loss.

In slightly more detail, consider what happens when you eat a high-carbohydrate meal. Sugar from the carbohydrate quickly enters the bloodstream. To keep the blood sugar from rising too high, the body secretes insulin. Insulin allows the extra sugar to be stored in the liver and muscle as glycogen, but these stores are rapidly filled to capacity. The insulin then converts any extra sugar to fat — the stuff we’re trying so hard to get rid of.

According to the Atkins theory, if the body keeps on making “too much” insulin — as it tries to deal with the “excess” sugar — it may become less responsive to insulin and eventually may develop the metabolic disorder diabetes. The Atkins theory states that this should properly be called “unstable blood sugar” since the blood sugar level rises and then drops quickly.

This “first step in an unhealthy metabolic path” leads to “the early stages of diabetes.” However, a body in ketosis burns up excess fat, and in time — according to the Atkins theory — returns to normal metabolic function. Though all the fat in this diet may temporarily spike someone’s cholesterol level, this is usually short lived and soon rights itself with a lower cholesterol and triglyceride level as weight loss occurs — at least, that’s the theory.

For most people, the carb consumption must be no more than 40 grams a day for this biochemical mechanism to occur. Although exercise isn’t stressed, the Atkins theory holds that some people will need to add physical activity for ketosis to kick in. People are urged to supplement with vitamins, since they won’t be getting them from sources such as vegetables and fruits.

The plan allows you to eat foods that many dieters have only dreamed about. The diet is said to work even if other diets have left you feeling depressed and deprived. The Atkins diet at a glance:

  • Sets few limits on the amount of food you eat but instead severely restricts the kinds of food allowed on your plate: no refined sugar, milk, white rice, or white flour
  • Allows you to eat foods traditionally regarded as “rich”: meat, eggs, cheese, and more
  • Claims to reduce your appetite in the process

On the Atkins diet, you’re eating almost pure protein and fat. You can consume red meat, fish (including shellfish), fowl, and regular cheese (not “diet” cheese, cheese spreads, or whey cheeses). You can cook with butter, have mayo with your tuna, and put olive oil on your salads.

On the other hand, carbs are restricted (about 20 grams of net carbs per day, meaning total carbs minus fiber) in the first two weeks, which translates to three cups of loosely packed salad or two cups of salad with two-thirds cup of certain cooked vegetables each day.

There are no exceptions to these rules during the first two weeks because low-carb consumption (no fruits and only a few leafy green vegetables) is supposed to jump-start the weight-loss biochemical activity of the diet. You’re not counting calories (in fact, you may be eating more calories than you were before).

Later, the carb allowance is increased in the form of fiber-rich foods, but you do not return to eating refined sugar (by the teaspoonful or in desserts), milk, white rice, white bread, white potatoes or pasta made with the dreaded white flour. Those remain on a lifelong list of forbidden pleasures.

The diet does allow for adding fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods after the two-week induction period.

Then, over time, the transition from weight loss to weight maintenance is made by gradually increasing carbs so long as gradual weight loss is maintained.

Exercise in all phases as part of a healthy lifestyle is now emphasized more than when the diet was first introduced.

It is not essential to start in Phase One, also called the Induction Phase, but for most people it is the best place to start in order to kick start their weight loss. Many people confuse Induction with the whole Atkins diet but it is in fact just the first of four progressively liberal phases. The Atkins Induction Phase lasts two weeks, although if you have a lot of weight to lose you can stay in Induction longer if you wish. The aims of Induction are to:

  1. To switch your body from burning primarily carbohydrates (in the form of glucose) to burning primarily fat (including your body fat) for energy
  2. To jump-start weight loss
  3. To begin forming the eating habits that will make your weight loss permanent and improve your health

In the Induction phase, the idea is that you restrict your carbohydrates to 20g of carbohydrates a day. If you think this means boring food options or that you will be hungry, you will find that this is definitely NOT the case! At this point, telling you that you eat 20g of carbohydrates probably means nothing to you but don’t worry, part of the process is learning about this so that you discover exactly what foods work for you and your metabolism. This is important so that by the end of phase three you know exactly what to do to maintain your new slim figure. And counting carbs is a simple process once you get used to it.

What you eat on in the Induction phase

From day one on Induction – you can eat all types of meat, fish, shellfish as well as a huge range of salads and vegetables. Check out the Acceptable Food List for a complete list of the foods you can eat in Induction. You will notice that there are no carbs in meat and fish while the number of net carbs in the vegetables in phase one are quite low. In the Induction phase, 12- 15g of your daily carbs should come from the foundation vegetables listed under phase one.

The food list above will have given you an idea of the types of food you eat as part of this nutritional approach. The next step is to turn lists of food into meals. We found the easiest approach for the first two weeks was to simply follow the meal plans at the back of the New Atkins New You book. Alternatively the Starter Box comes with a Quick Start Guide with a two week meal plan. Another option is the meal planner on the Atkins site – it has hundreds of meals to choose from so whatever your preferences and tastes you will be able to put together a meal plan to suit you – check out the Atkins recipes here or click on ‘Create your plan’ on this page. The foods you get to eat on Atkins from day one really are delicious so prepare to enjoy!

The advantage of following one of the meal plans above is that the carbs are already calculated for each meal and add up to the recommended 20g per day. Feel free to repeat meals you like or substitute other vegetables, side dishes, snacks or desserts as desired as long as the carb counts are comparable. To check how many carbs are in a food just check the Acceptable Food List. You receive a carb counter book in your Starter Box which includes a comprehensive list of foods and their carb counts.

As you get used to counting carbs, it is a good idea to experiment with different recipes to make sure you find meals that will suit your tastes, budget, time constraints etc. After all, you will not stick to this way of eating if you don’t like the food so its worth putting in the effort to make sure you do customise it to your tastes and lifestyle. The New Atkins New You book has lots of tips to help everyone to follow this program no matter what your culinary preferences, whether you eat out a lot or whether you are vegetarian or vegan!

What is off Limits?

The part that everyone thinks is going to be the most difficult with the Atkins diet is the idea of giving up bread, baked products and foods like pasta. You probably won’t believe this now but once you stop eating high carb foods like this, you also stop craving them! So for Paul and I, passing up on a slice of toast or a scone is no act of will-power, we simply don’t want them anymore. And this kicks in very quickly – after two weeks or even less. So for now just take our word for it – it is much easier than you think it will be! Also it really is better if you do not cheat on this because if you do, you will just start the cravings all over again. So here is a list of what is off limits in Induction:

  • Caloric fizzy drinks
  • Fruits and fruit juices (other than lemon and lime juice and any fruits listed on the Acceptable Food List)
  • Foods made with flour or other grain products – bread, cereal, pasta, muffins, scones, biscuits, crisps, cakes and products like gravy and packet mixes which usually contain flour
  • Sugar, sweets and any foods containing added sugar – check the carb amounts on the label.
  • Junk food in any form.
  • Grains – even whole grains, rice, oats, barley etc
  • Alcohol (but don’t worry you can re-introduce it in a few weeks time in Phase 2)
  • Any vegetables not on the Acceptable Food List including starchy vegetables like potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Don’t worry however – there is a list of more than 50 other vegetables you can eat!
  • On Induction you can eat dairy products such as cream, sour cream, butter and the hard cheeses listed on the Acceptable Food List. However other dairy products including milk (especially low-fat or skimmed milk), cottage cheese, ricotta or yoghurt are off-limits.
  • ‘Low-fat’ foods or ‘diet’ products – they are usually surprisingly high in carbohydrates so steer clear.
  • Any foods with manufactured trans-fats – this may be listed as hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils.

The list above is not a complete list but use your common sense and stick to the Acceptable Food List and you’ll be fine. Also if you have any questions, just ask your Atkins Support Partner or contact us through this site or our facebook page.

Top Tips for Induction

Our top tips for Induction are:

  • Take some time to plan your meals for week one. This way of eating may be quite different from what you are used to so give yourself some time to prepare. This way of eating will become second nature in no time but it is going to require some extra time and effort at the beginning.
  • Although you will probably find you are eating more vegetables than you did previously, it is recommended that you take a daily multivitamin and an omeaga-3 fatty acid supplement.
  • Buy a notebook and write down what you eat and the amount of carbs at least for the first few weeks. We all selectively remember what we did (or didn’t eat!) otherwise. Believe me, this step alone will make a big difference.
  • Take a photo before you start. Wear something figure hugging and take a side and front profile pic. You will be so glad you did in a few weeks or months time when you can compare photos from then with the ‘before’ picture and see your progress. Also take your measurements – you’ll find a measuring tape in your Starter Box. This is important because sometimes you will see the difference in inches before you see it on the scales. The Starter Box also includes a weight and measurement tracker. The actual number on the scales is not important. You just need to know what it is so you can see what progress you’ve made in two weeks time.
  • Drink Bovril to replenish sodium levels

    One of the science based changes in the New Atkins is the recommendation to drink 2 cups of broth, half a teaspoon of salt or 2 tablespoons of regular soya sauce. For Irish readers, you might be familiar with Bovril.. As with any diet, you will lose a certain amount of water at the beginning. For some, this can be too much of a good thing as it causes you to lose salts as well and for some people this can cause them to feel tired or weak or to have headaches when they start the Atkins diet. Drinking 2 cups of Bovril will prevent these symptoms. And no this does not make Atkins a high sodium diet!

  • Don’t forget that sugar is off limits so remember to buy sweetner like sucralose (Splenda), saccharine (Sweet’N Low), stevia (Sweet Leaf or Truvia) or xylitol and have that in your tea or coffee instead of sugar (if you take sugar). Have no more than 3 packets a day and count each packet as 1g of carbs. Also a good idea to get one of the little containers to keep in your handbag (or pocket for the men?!). Most cafes will have sweetener however but still handy to have particularly when visiting friends.
  • Fresh cream – low carb alternative to milk

    Milk including skimmed milk is naturally rich in milk sugar (lactose) so its off-limits in Induction. However cream is an acceptable and delicious alternative in tea/coffee! Just buy fresh cream or double cream – it really is lovely – and once you try it you’ll never want to go back!

  • Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks every day. Don’t skip meals or go more than 6 waking hours without eating. You should definitely not be hungry on this diet!
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Don’t forget to stock up on your Atkins products so you have suitable snacks to hand at all times. Keep them in your desk at work, your car, handbag – that way you always have a healthy low carb option to hand – they are particularly good if you are out-and-about or busy.

    Advantage Dark Chocolate Crunch

    You can have two products a day and you certainly will not feel deprived when eating snacks like the delicious Chocolate Chip Daybreak bar or the Advantage Chocolate Crunch bar or the like! The shakes are delicious and very convenient as well. As well as tasting good, the bars (especially the Advantage range) are very filling so they will fill you up and stop you for reaching for unsuitable high-carb alternatives.

  • Check the amount of carbohydrates on labels of everything you buy – don’t assume anything is low in carbs. In Ireland, you can just go by the total amount of carbohydrates on the label (on the Atkins site you may see comments about deducting fiber from the carb amount – this is because the labeling is different in the US and includes fiber in the carbohydrate count). However, you will probably find you are buying much less food that comes with labels with this way of eating in any case i.e. meat, poultry, fish and vegetables.
  • Read the following article on the Atkins site with more guidelines on How to do Induction right for more info.

By starting the Atkins diet, you are embarking on a journey that will make a huge difference to your health and well-being – congratulations for taking that first step! Your Atkins Support Partner is there to help you, so be sure to take advantage of that. We look forward to hearing about your success!

Read about Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss here

The only exception was excess salt, which the research said was highly correlated with illness and death.

“To me, this study says that it’s time to change the conversation both at the policy level and among the general public,” Dr. Afshin said.

He and other experts said the findings underlined the importance of national policies to boost the availability of fruits and vegetables, especially in low-income countries where fresh produce can be costlier than processed food. Large food companies should be pressured to create healthier products, the experts said, and doctors should be encouraged to discuss the importance of a good diet with their patients.

“Let’s not just focus on the things we should be cutting out of our diet because to be honest, we’ve tried that for a while,” said Dr. Nita Gandhi Forouhi, an epidemiologist at University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine who wrote a commentary that accompanied the study.

Not everyone agreed with the study’s central recommendations. Dr. Arun Gupta, a pediatrician and nutrition activist in India, said he thought the authors should have placed more emphasis on the role that food companies play in the spread of unhealthy foods. “My fear is that this will take the pressure off industry, who can use the report to say, ‘We’re doing nothing wrong,’” he said.

The study had some limitations. There were notable gaps in diet-related data from poorer nations and some of the deaths, the authors noted, could have been attributed to more than one dietary factor, leading to an overestimation of the burden of diseases attributable to diet.

Eat More Fruits and Veggies

What color is your food? Taste a rainbow of color with fruits and vegetables!

A healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables can help aid in maintaining or losing weight and also decrease the risk of chronic diseases, including strokes, Type 2 Diabetes, some types of cancer and perhaps heart disease and high blood pressure.

Whether fresh, frozen, canned, dried or 100% juice, these 200+ taste sensations are quick, delicious and convenient, and will keep you healthy all year round.

  • 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 100% vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw, leafy greens
  • 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice or ½ cup of dried fruit

Did you know?
Less than 10% of youth eat enough fruits and vegetables each day. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. Aim for 5 – 9 servings each day!

Fun ways to add some color to your plate:

  • Pack fresh or dried fruits as a snack
  • Try a fruit parfait for dessert- layer low-fat yogurt, fruit, and granola
  • Offer 100% juice, with no added sugar
  • Try fun vegetable dippers such as cucumber, peppers, or carrots with low-fat dip
  • Make a large batch of trail mix at home using seeds, nuts, and dried fruit.
  • Mix vegetables into dishes, like adding peas to rice, or cucumbers to a sandwich
  • Add frozen cubes of 100% juice to glasses of water
  • Add smoothies to your day with fruits like bananas, strawberries, or 100% juice.
  • Roll it up: Make a fruit roll-up that travels anywhere. Start with whole grain tortillas and peanut butter then add your favorite fruits – fresh or dried.

Recipe for Fun! Blueberry-Pineapple Parfait

Blueberries are fresh in Virginia in May! Stop by a local farmer’s market or check the local section of your grocery for the freshest, Virginia grown blueberries, and then try this recipe.

Preparation time: 15 minutes (plus thawing time if using frozen berries)

Serves: 4

Cups of Fruits and Vegetables per Serving: 1


1 20-oz. can pineapple chunks, drained
1 container (8 oz.) low-fat lemon flavored yogurt
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed and patted dry
½ cup low-fat granola


In a small bowl, combine the pineapple with half of the yogurt.

In juice glasses, alternately layer the pineapple-yogurt mixture, blueberries, and granola.

Repeat the layering twice.

Top each parfait with a dollop of yogurt.

Each serving provides: An excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber.

Bouncing Blueberries:

While you are making a healthy snack, have your kids pretend they are sitting on top of a BIG blueberry and bounce to the next object that is in front of them.

Fruits & Veggies—More Matters®

Fruits & Veggies—More Matters® is a national public health initiative created to encourage Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables—fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice. More than 90 percent of Americans consume fewer fruits and vegetables than the daily amount recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Find tips, recipes, serving ideas and shopping advice at wwwfruitsandveggiesmoremattersorg.

Eat Local, Buy Local at

One way to boost your fruits and vegetables is to shop local! Buying products grown and raised in Virginia means that you will get the freshest produce, meats, and seafood. Eating local can mean visiting a Farmer’s Market, farm stand, or choosing produce from the local section at your grocery store. Find more tips and ways to eat local and buy local at wwwvirginiafoodorg.

State and National Reports on Fruit and Vegetable Intake

How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Manage Your Weight

State Indicator Report on Intake of Fruits and Vegetables

The report, based on an external examination of the body and some hospital information, said Dr. Atkins had a history of heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension. His wife objected to an autopsy, Ms. Borakove said, so none was performed.

Responses to the report’s release came quickly from Atkins quarters. Dr. Stuart Trager, chairman of the Atkins Physicians Council, a group of physicians who work as consultants to the Atkins organization, said the Journal article ”was based on incomplete personal medical records that were illegally delivered to the newspaper in violation of federal law.”

He said Dr. Atkins did not have a history of heart attack, nor was he obese. He said that Dr. Atkins weighed 195 pounds the day after he entered the hospital following his fall, and that he gained 63 pounds from fluid retention during the nine days he was in a coma before he died. Dr. Trager said Dr. Atkins did have cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease that was probably caused by a virus, not by what he ate. While Dr. Atkins had an episode of cardiac arrest the year before his death, Dr. Trager said, he was unaware that he had had any history of heart attack.

”Old age was not particularly kind to him,” he said. ”This cardiomyopathy was a real bugger. But the physicians who were treating him had no reason to think it was diet related.”

Veronica Atkins, Dr. Atkins’s widow, issued a statement yesterday expressing her horror at ”unscrupulous individuals” who ”continue to twist and pervert the truth.” She added, ”I have been assured by my husband’s physicians that my husband’s health problems late in life were completely unrelated to his diet or any diet.”

Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, stressed that it was not Dr. Atkins’s health alone that interested him. ”I’m concerned about the Atkins machine trying to play the card that Atkins was healthy and thin into old age,” he said. In his view, the Atkins diet ”is an imminent public health threat.”

Dr. John McDougall, a member of the Physicians Committee and an internist who had debated Dr. Atkins, said there was no doubt that Dr. Atkins had lost weight after his cardiac arrest, but before that was a different story. ”I knew the man,” he said. ”He was grossly overweight. I thought he was 40 to 60 pounds overweight when I saw him, and I’m being kind.”

Atkins diet: A high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate weight-loss diet popularized by Dr. Robert C. Atkins that allows for unrestricted amounts of meat, cheese and eggs while severely restricting carbohydrates, including sugar, bread, pasta, milk, fruits and vegetables. The Atkins diet is based on the theory that eating carbohydrates stimulates the production of insulin, which in turn leads to hunger, eating, and weight gain. The theory is that people on the Atkins diet experience reduced appetite and their bodies use stored fat for energy versus burning glucose from ingested carbohydrate. Burning fat for energy is supposedly lead to weight loss.

On the positive side of the ledger, people on the Atkins diet usually like eating the high amounts of protein foods that may be restricted on other diets. Those who have been unsuccessful on other low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets often lose weight on the Atkins diet. The diet is easy to follow. No point system, calorie counting or complicated meal plans are involved.

On the negative side of the ledger, there is medical concern about the deleterious effects of a high-protein diet on kidney function, cholesterol levels, and the risks of heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer. The Atkins diet limits the amounts of fruits, vegetables, milk and other high-fiber foods which naturally provide essential vitamins and minerals. Atkins diet followers may also have difficulty maintaining this diet long term. The problem is taste. The only way to really satisfy taste without carbohydrate is by increasing fat. And this is another concern with the Atkins plan. The weight loss with the Atkins diet occurs predominately through a process called ketosis, and a majority of it (at least initially) is fluid loss. There have been no long-term randomized studies to support the safety of this diet.

Dr. Robert C. Atkins received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School in 1955 and went on to specialize first in internal medicine and then in cardiology. In 1963 he first tried a low-carbohydrate diet after reading about one in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Atkins later recounted that he lost weight so easily on the diet that he converted his fledgling cardiology practice into an weight-loss clinic. Aside from popularizing the diet associated now with his name, Dr. Atkins “championed the natural healing arts as a safe and effective alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery for many debilitating illnesses.” He believed that ozone gas can kill cancer cells and HIV and therefore treated many patients with ozone. Dr. Atkins died accidentally. On his way to work in New York City on April 8, 2003 he slipped on a patch of sidewalk ice and struck his head . He never regained consciousness and died on April 17 at age 72.



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Does The Atkins Diet work?

A diet that doesn’t count calories and doesn’t limit steak, cheese or bacon intake sounds perfect to most tastebud-owning humans. So perfect that at its height in the early 2000s, one in every 11 Americans was on it, including A-list celebrities of the time such as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jennifer Aniston. And if you visit the official website you can read countless stories of people claiming to have lost over 110kg.

We know what you’re thinking: what’s the catch then? No carbs.

Well, not exactly, but The Atkins Diet is partly responsible for the idea that carbs are to be avoided if you want to lose weight. This can be true, but the Atkins approach is strangely specific. During the induction phase – yes, the diet is structured into phases – you’re only allowed around 20g of carbs each day (or about one slice of white bread), and these should all come from greens. As you progress through phases this carb embargo gets less strict, but you can kiss goodbye to pasta, bread, cakes or anything like that for a while.

Does it work?

The Atkins Diet can make you lose weight. According to a Stanford University study comparing four popular diets, Atkins came out on top for weight loss, while research at Temple University shows that the plan has secondary health benefits such as lowering cholesterol. But like most strictly prescriptive diets the problem isn’t so much its effectiveness, as much as how hard it is to stick to its rigid rules.

As well as the previously mentioned carb-heavy foods, rice, pasta and cereal are also forbidden – most fruit is relatively frowned upon too. You’ll have to fastidiously use kitchen scales and know the macros (the fat, carbs, protein breakdown of food) of everything you eat. That’s a ball-ache in and of itself, but what if you’re going out for a meal with friends or on a date? Or your office is heading for drinks? Too bad, you’re going to have to stay at home with your grilled chicken and broccoli, or be that guy with the Tupperware and special dietary requirements. Unless you’ve got the stoic resolve of a Tibetan monk, before long it’s more than likely you’ll be joining the 95% of dieters who abandon ship.

The four phases of the Atkins diet

Induction: The hardest phase, the aim of this is to enter a state of ketosis (see our article on the ketogenic diet for more details on this) where a lack of carbohydrates forces your body to consume fat for energy. This is achieved by cutting carbs to just 20g per day, and only getting these from greens. The idea being that due to the lack of energy (glycogen) from carbs your body will instead turn to your fat stores. As well as cutting down carb intake you should also aim to eat around 100g of fat and 150g of protein per day.

Ongoing weight loss: After two weeks of induction you enter the next phase and start climbing the ‘carb ladder’. This means you can slowly start adding other food sources such as nuts, blueberries and yoghurt as you try to find what Atkins diet terminology coins as ‘your personal carb balance’. Worked out using a black magic-esque combination of your age, gender, level of physical activity, hormonal issues, medications and how much weight you’ve been losing in relation to your carb intake (sorry, we know this is confusing, but we didn’t come up with it. Check out The Atkins Diet website if you want clarification of the physiological reasoning behind this phase). This continues until you’re within 4.5kg of your target weight.

Pre-Maintenance: This stage requires patience as you gradually increase your carb intake by 10g a week until you find the amount you can have while still maintaining your ideal weight. You can now add oats and starchy vegetables such as potatoes and yams. The objective here is to finally reach your target weight, stop upping your carb intake and then maintain that weight for a month.

Lifetime Maintenance: Though not necessarily a stage, the idea is that you maintain that target weight and if you start losing or gaining, you go back to adjusting your carbs by 10g a week until you’re back to equilibrium.

Finally, you’re released back into society as a thinner, but infinitely more anal human being.

If you can stick to it, The Atkins Diet works and if you have that kind of willpower and discipline more power to you. But for most of us it’ll be a struggle to stick with it and difficult to deal with the impact on energy and mood, especially for the first two ‘phases’. Making smaller adjustments to your diet such as cutting out sugary drinks and processed foods, reducing the amount of refined carbs you eat and skipping pudding more often might not have immediately dramatic effects, but in the longer run you’ll see a difference and should also start feeling more satisfied both physically and mentally. So whether you’re trying to shed your love handles, impress that special someone, or want to get more ripped for summer it’s the small changes that will get you there, and keep you there.

May 21, 2003 — Controversial diet maven Robert Atkins may no longer be around, but a tug-of-war still lingers over his belief the road to weight loss is paved with bacon cheeseburgers — hold the buns.

Now, two new studies may help resolve the dispute over the effectiveness of the so-called Atkins diet, which advocates low carbohydrate and high fat intake.

Popular among dieters but disputed by their doctors, the Atkins diet has remained a huge question mark in the quest for reliable weight loss. Many experts have remained critical of the approach, but with little evidence to back up their critique.

That is, until today, with the results of the first two studies to specifically examine the low-carb, high-fat diet. The new research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, compares the weight loss of severely obese individuals eating according to Atkins with those eating according to a conventional low-fat, low-calorie nutrition plan.

The results? While the Atkins dieters slimmed down significantly more than the traditional dieters, there was no weight difference between the groups after one year. The researchers also reported no differences in side effects during the year-long study.

And while the authors caution that additional research is needed, they also discovered an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol and a decrease in serum triglycerides among dieters in the Atkins group. Those results are positive because low HDL and high triglyceride levels increase an individual’s risk of developing heart disease.

So, while dieters might be pleased with the early results of the Atkins plan, the success may be short-lived, with the scale tipping right back to where it started. In part, say the studies’ authors, that’s evidence the diet plan is just not that easy for most people to stick to long-term.

“Any approach to calorie restriction that is not compatible with daily lifestyle patterns is difficult to maintain over the long term,” explains an accompanying editorial on the studies, written by Dr. Robert O. Bonow from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Ill., and Dr. Robert H. Eckel from the University of Colorado Health Sciences University in Denver, Colo.

Argues Dr. Patrick McBride, the director of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Wisconsin, “The low-carb, high protein Atkins diet “is not a diet that is nutritionally appropriate or palatable over a long period of time because it essentially cuts out major food groups including fruits, vegetables, and complex grains.”

Diet Experts Remain Divided

At any time, about 45 percent of women and 30 percent of men in America are actively seeking to lose weight. Unfortunately for them, these studies do not answer the million-dollar question: What is the best way to keep weight off?

Diet experts remain divided. While many feel a diet’s long-term success is what is most valuable, others believe there is always a benefit to weight loss, even if it is followed by an inevitable pound rebound.

And there are growing signs some of the country’s leading medical institutions are not only devoting increased research to low carbohydrate diets, but are beginning to offer them to their patients.

For example, Harvard University is currently finishing up a study comparing an ultra-low carb diet with the American Heart Association’s low-fat diet. And, at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, obesity expert Dr. Terry Maratos-Flier says she has been recommending a “modified Atkins” that focuses on fish and chicken instead of beef and pork.

Even though the study found low-carbohydrate, high-protein eaters regain the weight at one year, “the low-carb group still weighs about five pounds less than the conventional diet group, suggesting that some people in that group may be maintaining weight better,” Maratos-Flier said.

And other experts seem to agree. “These two randomized, controlled studies add to the recently gathering evidence that low-carb diets may be an important weight control option for many obese, or severely obese patients,” explains Dr. Howard Eisenson, the director of the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center.

The Duke Center has been using low-fat diets since 1969. But, says Eisenson, “What we have been doing, for so long, does not provide enough lasting improvement, for enough of our patients, for us to be satisfied.” So, because he believes it is “time to open our minds to the possible benefits of a low carbohydrate diet,” Eisenson says Duke plans to introduce a new carbohydrate diet option to patients this summer.

There’s More to Weight Loss than Diet

On the flip side, argue critics like Dr. James W. Anderson, professor of medicine and clinical nutrition at the University of Kentucky, “The high fat diet does promote weight loss but reinforces unhealthy but popular eating styles.”

These unhealthy eating styles, experts say, could cause potential health problems if maintained beyond a year. Research has shown consuming high levels of saturated fat, as many Atkins dieters do, may have adverse health consequences.

Adds Anderson, who discourages his patients from the Atkins diet, “Using the Atkins guidelines long-term will raise cholesterol by 28 percent, whereas a low-fat diet will lower cholesterol by 20 percent.”

Ultimately, add Bonow and Eckel: “The recipe for effective weight loss is a combination of motivation, physical activity, and calorie restriction. Until further evidence is available, physicians should continue to recommend a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and a balanced diet.”

“If you were a politician,” I said, “at this point you’d be accused of flip-flopping.”

“Right,” she said, laughing politely. “Exactly.”

Changing course is a not-insignificant gesture in the business of diet sales, where entrenched ideologies are the norm. And where few messages have been as divisive as Atkins’s. In the wake of the 73-year-old doctor’s death, for example, when the New York medical examiner’s office inappropriately leaked medical reports that revealed he weighed 258 pounds, which his family attributed to 60 pounds of water weight due to a viral infection of his heart—not a diet-related issue—detractors jumped to claim otherwise.

“I’m concerned about the Atkins machine trying to play the card that Atkins was healthy and thin into old age,” Neal Barnard, president of the pro-vegetarian advocacy organization Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, told The New York Times in 2004. Another physician and member of the organization, John McDougall, claimed to have known Atkins and described him as “grossly overweight. I thought he was 40 to 60 pounds overweight when I saw him, and I’m being kind.”

Nearly half of Americans worry about their weight “all the time” or “some of the time,” according to a Gallup poll conducted last year. That implies a psychological hazard where the health effects of anxiety about weight may be on par with those of excess weight itself—or a misunderstanding of the meaning of “all of the time.” At least part of that is due to uncertainty about nutrition science, perpetuated by profiteering and ego. Recent studies have pointed to superiority of low-carb diets over low-fat diets in matters of weight loss and heart-disease prevention (though neither approach is without its shortcomings), a case well made by journalist Nina Teicholz in her 2014 exoneration of saturated fat, The Big Fat Surprise, which is the result of an exhaustive 10-year scientific and historical review.

Still, according to another Gallup poll last July, only one-quarter of Americans are trying to avoid eating carbs. Twice as many are trying to avoid eating fat.

“The general public is still thinking about low fat and low calories. Low fat, low calories. Low fat, low calories,” Heimowitz said, reiterating the mantra. “It’s failed the American population.”

Focusing on calories probably has failed the American population, but so has the fat-carbohydrate duality. The low-carb movement, like the low-fat movement before it, drew people into a macronutrient-centered approach that lumped all carbs together and all fats together, pitting them against each other in an oversimplified tug of war. The Atkins amendment this week is a partial step away from diet extremism, from the proprietors of what was once one of the most influential extreme diets.

That anyone today is consciously, drastically limiting carbohydrate intake is largely attributable to Robert Atkins, whose career arced from counterculture to $400-million bequeathment. Long before this century’s Paleo dieting, breadless sandwiches, and burrito bowls he would come to inspire, Atkins was telling patients in his Manhattan office to focus on eliminating carbs. No other diet had made such generous allowances for fatty meats as Atkins since the declaration of dietary fat as the enemy of health in the 1950s by influential, square-jawed biochemist Ancel Keys. By 1955 Keys had become so powerful that his low-fat attestations brought a prescription for a one-egg-per-week diet to the door of heart-attack-stricken President Dwight Eisenhower.

Lauren Giordano/The Atlantic

Eisenhower would go on to endure at least one subsequent heart attack, and his cholesterol levels continued to rise, before he ultimately died of cardiac disease. But Americans still took to Keys’s low-fat diet as salvation for decades. The American Heart Association endorsed the low-fat diet in 1961, and the original USDA food pyramid spread a swath of grains across its foundation, advocating six to 11 servings of bread, cereal, and pasta. Oils and fats (of all kinds) were sequestered at the very tip of the pyramid. As recently as 1999, Teicholz notes, the American Heart Association advised people to avoid fatty foods in favor of “gum drops” and “hard candies made primarily with sugar.”

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