The Atkins Diet, or any other high-protein, low-carb diet, severely limits the amount of starchy foods you eat daily. Many foods contain carbohydrates, but you'll find high amounts of them in bread, pasta, sugar, many snacks, potatoes and fruits. Meals on the Atkins plan usually consist of large servings of meats, fish and poultry, which contain no carbohydrates, and leafy green vegetables, whose carbohydrate content is negligible. As you progress from phase one, where you are only to eat 20 grams or fewer of carbohydrates per day, to the maintenance stage, where you've found the balance of carbs you can consume that doesn't cause weight regain or extreme cravings, the dressings you can put on those leafy greens changes slightly.
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Atkins Phase One Salad Dressings
During phase one of the Atkins diet, you consume almost no carbohydrates. The only foods permitted are meats, poultry, seafood and fish, eggs, fats and oils and most watery, fibrous vegetables. You could make a salad with tomatoes, spinach, chopped celery and a little mashed avocado and not exceed your carb limit in this phase. Top the salad with an ounce of shredded cheddar cheese or two tablespoons of Parmesan for extra flavor.
You are limited to the amount of dressing used, and it shouldn't exceed 3 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Bottled options specifically listed by the Atkins plan include Caesar, bleu cheese, ranch and creamy Italian; serving sizes are limited to 2 tablespoons. Alternatively, make your own dressing with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar or lemon or lime juice and a tablespoon of olive oil. Most fresh herbs are permitted even in phase one of the plan, so you could add them to a homemade dressing for more flavor. However, the plan limits lemon and lime juice to no more than 3 tablespoons total per day.
More Foods Allowed in Phases Two and Three
Use the same dressings as you did in phase one, but you can add ingredients such as yogurt or heavy cream to a homemade version when you reach phase two. A 1/4-cup serving of cooked beans, such as black or pinto, and 2 tablespoons of chopped nuts are other possible salad additions. Don't add all of these ingredients at once to your meal plan, though. You're only permitted an additional 5 grams of carbohydrates daily.
So, in the first week that you've moved to phase two, you might make a dressing to use all week that contains a total of 1/2 cup of low-fat yogurt. In week two, you can continue to use the dressing and add the beans to your salad one day. You continue to progressively add a little more daily carbs each week on phases two and three so that you can find the right amount of carbohydrates for your system and not initiate weight gain or cravings.
Maintenance Phase Still Contains Salad
Phase four of Atkins represents what you'll eat for the rest of your life to maintain your weight loss. In phases two and three, you experimented with adding more carbohydrates to find the level that's right for you. In phase four, you settle into that level. Salads still play a large role in your diet, and thus, so does salad dressing. You'll be able to enjoy a variety of salad dressings, as long as they don't have added sugar and you count the carbs in your overall total for the day.
Along with the dressings that have been permitted throughout the plan, you might be able to add a tablespoon or two of freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice to a homemade version. Otherwise, it's the components of your salad that change more than the dressing. You'll be able to enjoy a dish that contains a slight bit more starchy vegetable options, raisins or chopped fruit if your maintenance carb level permits.
The Atkins Diet as a Strategy
Like any diet, Atkins can help you lose weight because you limit your calorie intake by cutting back on carbs. Adhering to the dietary restrictions presented by the plan can be challenging, especially since weight loss is a gradual process and can take many months. Researchers remain divided on the merits of Atkins as well as other dietary strategies to lose weight. To lose weight, your best strategy is to simply eat less and move more.