Atkins Diet – Plan, Phase 1,2,3,4, Food List and Side Effects

A phenomenal change took place in the year 1972 in the history of medical science with the introduction of an innovative dietary regime which put forth a new kind of dietary practice that was basically meant to curb the consumption of carbohydrate in order to lose weight without curtailing on the intake of food of a high calorific value. The credit for developing such a unique diet goes to the famous heart specialist, Dr. Robert Atkins whose works, Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution & Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution have truly revolutionized the process of properly maintaining ones diet so as to keep the heart strong and to maintain mental and physical fitness.

What is Atkins Diet?

Officially known as the Atkins Nutritional Approach, it is based on the ground that the consumption of refined carbohydrates such as sugar, corn syrup rich in fructose and flour burns the glucose to produce energy instead of the fat stored in the body which is the task of the Atkins Diet. The process of breaking down of the lipid molecules in the liver to convert it into ketone bodies and fatty acids inorder to produce energy is known as Ketosis or Lipolysis. Instead of raising the blood sugar level which is the work of high caloric carbohydrates, Ketosis occurs when the blood glucose levels are actually low. This kind of nutritional approach also claims to ease metabolic activities and particularly is beneficial for diabetic patients.

Atkins Diet Plan (Program)

The Atkins Nutritional Approach is a steady and highly efficient technique of diet maintenance which is followed in 4 different phases, namely Induction, Ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance and lifetime maintenance. In spite of being distinctive in nature each phase is a development over the other. A detailed study of all the four phases follows:-

atkins diet food

Picture 1: Atkins Diet Food

Atkins Diet Phase 1 : Induction

Also known as the Atkins Diet Induction process, this phase basically follows a ketogenic diet in order to usher in the state of Ketosis. Such a diet restricts the intake of carbohydrates to more than 20 g net carb per day so as to prepare the body to switch gear to an alternative energy source in order to lose excess weight and remain healthy. The normal duration of this phase is 2weeks but it may also extend up to 3weeks or more depending on the ability on the endurance ability of the individual. It also helps to come over the symptoms of high blood sugar levels such as mood swings, fatigue and brain fog. In the 1st phase the dieters are supposed to abide by the Atkins Diet menu plan which harps on the consumption of protein and fat rich food.

Atkins Diet Phase 2 : On Going Weight Loss (OWL)

As the name suggests, the second phase also called the stage of Ongoing weight loss is an ongoing slow and steady process of reducing excess weight to only around one to two pounds per week. Although this phase permits the intake of carbohydrate derived from vegetables and fruits yet the measurement scale called the Critical Carbohydrate level for Losing helps dieters to keep the intake of carbohydrates within prescribed limits. There is no particular duration for this phase and it is continued by adding carbohydrates by an amount of only 5 grams a day until one gains the desired weight within five to ten pounds. This phase also helps in choosing the best among the available food options for the betterment of ones health. Once the desired weight is achieved in this phase we may proceed to the next.

Atkins Diet Phase 3 : Pre- Maintenance

The third stage of this nutritional approach called the Pre-Maintenance, extends for 8-12 weeks and ironically permits the intake of carbohydrates to a greater extent than what was permitted in the 2nd phase. Within this phase there is a measurement scale or point called the Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium which determines the amount of carbohydrates that one can take in without either gaining or losing weight. This phase allows us to choose the items from among those available on the Atkins Diet Carb Counter. It permits the introduction of carbohydrates slowly in the diet on the basis of the carbohydrate ladder which recommends the addition of 10-30 grams of carb per week. This phase is crucial in the sense of stabilizing the weight of the dieters as well as establishes a proper food regime which the dieters are supposed to abide by all through their life. It is also characterized by the diminishing of Ketosis.

Atkins Diet Phase 4 : Lifetime Maintenance

After the weight is stabilized and the perfect carbohydrate intake level is achieved, one reaches the last phase of this diet, the rules of which should be followed lifelong. Here it is necessary to continue to follow the dietary regime that is put forward by Dr. Atkins and a slight act of complacency may lead to the reversal to the old dietary habits which shall not only be harmful for the body but shall also put all the efforts in vain. It is in fact the cumulative benefits of all the above phases that is reaped in this phase.

Atkins Diet Food List

The Atkins diet menu is basically restrictive for the first phase and tends to become liberal from the second phase onwards. The Atkins Diet Sheet is given below for the systematic understanding of the dietary practice that Dr. Atkins has formulated.

  • Among the food which are rich in protein and over which there is no quantitative restriction are :-
  1. All kinds of unprocessed meat of pork, lamb, beef, venison, veal, mutton and ham and poultry of goose, turkey, pheasant, emu, ostrich, chicken, etc.
  2. All kinds of unprocessed fish and fish products such as of salmon, sardines, trout, sole, herring, catfish, snapper.
  3. Eggs of quail, chicken, goose, etc, are allowed in the form of omelet’s, poach, fry or soft-boiled.
  4. Shellfish such as of lobster, calamari, crab, oysters, shrimps, mussels, etc are permitted.
  • Fat rich products such as butter, linseed oil, seed oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, walnut oil, soya bean oil, sesame and grape seed oil and oil extracted from sunflower are allowed. Fishes such as salmon and sardines are the source of Omega 3 fatty acids and the above mentioned meat products also contribute to the consumption of fat.

atkins diet menuPicture 2 : Atkins Diet Menu

  • Diary products which are rich in fat and are deficient in carbohydrate such as goat, sheep and cow cheese, Roquefort cheese, cream cheese, Swiss cheese, mozzarella and cheddar are encouraged whereas those rich in carbohydrates such as imitation cheese, diet cheese, fresh cheese are strictly forbidden.
  • Most Spices and Condiments contain sugar or maltodextrin in some form or the other. So the food list recommends spices such as garlic, pepper, dill, rosemary, oregano, sage. It also permits the dressing of salads with lemon juice, oil and vinegar. Soy sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup and cream is allowed except for yogurt.
  • The vegetarian Atkins diet differentiates between two kinds of vegetables, namely salad vegetables and low carb vegetables. The salad vegetables which it allows are cucumber, lettuce, alfafa sprouts, olives, radacchio, escarole, radishes, fennel, celery, arugula, jicama, daikon, chicory, etc. The other type of vegetables include cabbage, onion, spinach, chard, turnips, tomato, zucchini, cauliflower, brussels, broccoli, eggplant, rhubarb, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, summer squash, avocado, artichokes, asparagus, etc. However those rich in starch or carbohydrates such as potatoes, green peas, corn and white rice are forbidden.
  • Beverages such as herbal tea, lemon juice, cream, bouillons, club soda are permitted. But coffee and tea should not contain caffeine or sugar in any form. And Dr. Atkins suggests drinking great volumes of water which is must in the diet plan. Moreover the consumption of alcohol is restricted to a certain extent as it insidiously contains sugar and carbohydrates.
  • Artificial Sweeteners which act as substitutes of sugar such as sucralose, saccharine, acesulfam potassium, aspartame, etc fall within the prescribed limits. Natural sweeteners such as maltose, fructose, dextrose as well as the consumption of honey or corn syrup should be avoided.
  • Although, most of the desserts contain sugar, yet, the desserts which Atkins diet favors are low carb ice creams, specially prepared cheesecakes with splenda and other ‘creative’ home made recipes which can satisfy one’s cravings.

In addition to this, the task of promoting Atkins diet products and foods has been taken up by the Atkins Diet Nutritionals which functions under the proper guidance of the master mind, Dr. Atkins.

Besides, the above mentioned Atkins diet menu offering the Atkins diet food to eat, one needs to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day in order to avoid constipation and the facilitation of metabolic activities as well as the proper excretion of waste products. Moreover, any dietary practice including Atkins Diet entails regular exercise and yogic practices in order to keep the dieter physically and mentally fit.

Atkins Diet Side Effects

Although there are no such side effects of the Atkins Diet yet it has been criticized on several grounds namely:-

  • It is highly deficient in nutrients and fiber.
  • In the veil of promoting a low carb diet it is actually a low calorie diet.
  • Too many restrictions imposed by this diet do not serve the purpose of the admirers of lip smacking delicacies.
  • The dietary regime is far too monotonous in nature
  • It aggravates the problem of obesity and gastroenteritis by promoting the consumption of spicy food rich in fats.
  • It is said to inhibit appetite and the intake of food.

All such criticisms are based on poor scientific grounds and are sidelined as misconceptions about the Atkins Diet.

Does the Atkins Diet Work?

The success stories (as we find on the internet) and the mass popularity of the Atkin’s dietary practice is itself an evidence of the strength of its scientific and medical pillars on which it is based and it also portrays the benefits that its followers have reaped over time.

The Atkins Diet is indeed a unique medical innovation that allows one to stay healthy in spite of consuming as much as one desires. The Atkins diet meals mostly devoid of carbohydrates reduces the extra bulk of the body and maintains the fitness of the body by substituting carb by other major nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and fatty acids. The Atkins Nutritional Approach can be truly called a ‘medical masterpiece’ which has brought in Dr. Atkins diet revolution in the world.


  1. hagnel September 30, 2010
  2. Pingback: MMMONLINE.ORG - What is Atkins Diet? November 4, 2010
  3. tammy January 1, 2011
  4. Samie June 1, 2011
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