The Atkins Diet is a low-carb regimen designed to induce a state of ketosis. During ketosis, the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates, leading to rapid weight loss, reduced appetite and a reduction in carbohydrate cravings. The carbohydrate levels allowed on the Atkins Diet range from 20 to 100 grams per day, depending on the phase and the dieter's physiological reaction to carbs.
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The Atkins Diet restricts carbohydrates significantly during the first phase, which is intended to last two weeks. This phase allows 12 to 15 grams of net carbs, which are measured as total grams of carbohydrates minus the total grams of fiber, per day. These carbs should mainly come from nonstarchy vegetables. Allowed vegetables include spinach, lettuce, arugula, fennel, bok choy, radishes, cucumber, chives, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, eggplant, kale, okra, leeks, collard greens, summer squash, zucchini, onion, pumpkin, peas, jicama, parsley, peppers, artichoke, avocados, tomatoes and turnips. Three to 4 ounces of solid cheese, such as blue cheese, cheddar or Swiss, can also be part of your daily carb allotment during the first phase. Salad dressings with less than 2 grams of carbs per serving are also allowed.
In the second phase of the Atkins Diet, your daily carbohydrate allowance increases by an additional 5 grams of carbs per week. Soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese and ricotta, are allowed back into the diet. Nuts and seeds are another carbohydrate option you can reintroduce during phase 2. Fruits allowed include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and honeydew melon. Lemon, lime and tomato juices can be used in cooking.
When you are at 10 pounds from your goal weight, you should move into the third phase of the Atkins Diet. During this phase, you can add another 10 grams of carbohydrates to your daily menu every week. Starchy vegetables are allowed in phase 3, including carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes. All types of beans and lentils are allowed during this phase, including black beans, kidney beans and lentils. Fruits are also reintroduced, so you can now eat apples, pears, plums, peaches, watermelon, grapes, cherries, kiwis, grapefruit, oranges and mangoes. You may also choose to use part of your carbohydrate allotment on whole-grain pasta, brown rice or oatmeal. During phase 3, you will establish the exact level of carbohydrates your body can handle without switching off fat-burning and regaining weight.
Phase 4 of the Atkins Diet is the maintenance phase. You can continue to eat all the carbs that you ate in previous phases as long as you keep your total carbohydrate intake below the threshold you established in phase 3. Depending on your physiology, this may be between 45 and 100 grams per day. No food is completely forbidden during the maintenance phase, and even high-carb foods can be enjoyed occasionally in moderation.