Title: Advice for the Atkins Dieter
Author: D.V. Bowden
Date: 11.27.03

The Atkins Diet has become very popular again, and for good reason--it works. I know this because it has worked for me. I started Atkins in August 2002, and by January 2003, I had gone from 220 lbs. to 170 lbs. I have maintained that weight since then, by maintaining eating habits that limit the consumption of carbohydrates. In this column, I want to present some advice regarding products and foods that I have found useful in maintaining the Atkins regimen.

My first recommendation would be to buy the book. Reading Atkins’ explanations and advice is much better than just going on what you hear from other people. That being said, a good rule of thumb for limiting carbohydrate intake is to avoid eating anything white. Milk, bread, rice, sugar (don't think you can cheat by eating brown sugar--its just as bad), potatos--they're all white (more or less) and all contain lots of carbs. In the beginning phase of the Atkins diet, called the "Induction Phase," you will need to strictly avoid all these foods. Later, you will be able to eat some of them in moderation.

If you like to bake, or you use sugar in your coffee or tea, substitute artificial sweetener for sugar. Sweet 'N Low is good (and cheap). Sweet 'N Low contains saccharine, which used to carry cancer warnings. That worry has been debunked. Anything can be toxic in too large an amount. The studies showing cancer in lab animals were based on feeding them saccharine in outrageously large amounts, equivalent to a human eating a 55-gallon drum-full on a regular basis. Go ahead and use the Sweet 'N Low in your tea. It should go without saying that if you are a sweet-tea drinker, you should switch to unsweetened tea and sweeten it yourself at the table with artificial sweetener.

Atkins recommends Splenda, and I prefer it. It tastes like real sugar (it is a altered form of sugar), and is healthier than aspartame. Most diet drinks contain aspartame (aka Nutrasweet) and there are concerns about its safety (it tends to degrade over time into formaldehyde). Avoid it if possible. Diet RC brand sodas use Splenda instead of Nutrasweet.

Sugar is deadly. Cut it out. This especially includes all sugar-sweetened drinks, such as cola, soda, and fruit juice. Switch to diet soda, or better yet, start brewing tea. Wal-mart sells a Mr. Coffee brand tea brewing machine for under $20 that makes it easy. Drink as much water as you can stand. A Brita water filter makes it easier.

In the beginning, you will have to avoid bread, but later, you can start eating some again. Whole wheat generally has fewer carbs than white bread. Don't order a basket of rolls when you get to the restaurant. That big, fat, yeast roll will make you big and fat too. When you want to start making sandwiches again, try Nature's Own brand reduced carbohydrate bread. It has only 10 grams of real carbs (read the book) per 2 slices. Wal-Mart and most grocery stores carry it. Mayo and mustard contains no carbs. Ketchup does. Use more of the former, less of the latter. Hot sauce usually contains no carbs. BBQ sauce usually does. Watch it.

Avoid milk. Get Carb Countdown Dairy Beverage instead. It's really good. Comes in chocolate too, and the chocolate actually has even fewer carbs than the regular-flavour! Great stuff.

Bacon and eggs--they're not just for breakfast anymore! Neither has any carbs to speak of. Winn-Dixie sells a great low-cost Polish Sausage, Hickory Glen brand. No carbs either. $5.00 for a 2.5 lb package--that's hard to beat. It's good for sandwiches, or by itself. When buying meats, check the label. Processed meats sometimes contain carbs. Pick the ones that don't. Same thing goes for cheese. Check the label, and pick ones with few or no carbs. Potato chips are out--pork rinds are in. You'll hardly notice the difference. Salt & Vinegar pork rinds are great, if you can find them.

Nuts make a good snack. I like honey-roasted, which has surprisingly few carbs. The internet is full of low-carb recipes. If you like to cook, use them. Be careful when ordering or eating beans--many contains high amounts of carbs. Leafy vegetables usually contain low amounts of carbs, and lots of fiber. If you don't get enough fiber from vegetables, and often you won't, use a fiber supplement like Metamucil. Be sure to get the sugar-free kind.

Also avoid "low-fat" versions of foods. When the fat is removed, the companies usually put in sugar to make it taste good. Check out the amount of carbs on a bottle of regular ranch dressing vs. "fat-free" ranch. You'll see. Get the regular stuff. You've been fooled. Carbs are the cause, and fat the effect. Cut out the carbs, and your fat will take care of itself.

Note: There is one kind of fat that you SHOULD avoid, and that is trans-fat (see here, here and here). Anything that says on the label that it contains "hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated ANYTHING" contains trans-fat, and should be avoided. Most margarines are made of some kind of partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil. The only one I know that doesn't is Smart Balance brand. It even advertises the fact on the label. Use it, or real butter. Most processed foods contain partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil. Avoid them as much as possible.

If you want to keep your kids from getting fat in the first place, cut out the sugar in their diet and teach them to eat right--then they won't have to go on a diet later.

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