My husband and I do our own version of the Atkins Diet every 2 or 3 years, as a fairly rapid way to trim down and start eating healthy again.
We do NOT do it ‘by the book’.
I think that’s what makes a low carb diet like the Atkins Diet one of the easiest — and most effective — ways for us to lose weight fast. We look at it less like ‘a diet’ and more like a way to reset our weight after letting our bodies and our diets get sadly out of shape for too long.
How We Lose Weight Eating Low-Carb
During the first week, we try to stay under 20 carbs per day. We also try to drink more water than usual. And we try to snack less and use fewer condiments than we normally would.
During the second week and going forward (until we’re at a weight that we’re comfortable with), we try to stay within 20-40 carbs a day. It’s a very loose goal, remembering that fewer carbs would always be better, and a few extra aren’t going to kill us. We also pay very little attention to things like condiments, sweeteners, and dressings. So yes, we always choose the lowest-carb options, but we don’t measure how much of each condiment we’re ingesting each day.
When it feels right (it’s different for each of us), we slowly start adding in the following foods which become ‘legal’ in the later phases of the Atkins Diet:
- Vegetables (even more of the non-starchy vegetables than we have in Phase 1, or the first 2 weeks)
- Nuts (even more of the mixed nuts than we snack on in Phase 1, or the first 2 weeks)
- Seeds (especially sunflower seeds)
- Fruits (especially berries)
- Yogurt (especially greek yogurt)
- Cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese)
- Beans (ah, glorious beans!)
- Tomato juice (V8 juice for me)
- Starchy vegetables & whole grains (peas, corn, sweet potatoes, wild rice, brown rice, quinoa)
And finally, we always have a cheat day at the end of each week. Yep, it’s a reward of sorts — a light at the end of the tunnel — that motivates us and gives us something to look forward to, especially at those (rare) times when dieting seems challenging. It also gives us a day to socialize without nit-picking the food when we’re enjoying dinner with friends.
Sometimes (especially in the first 2 weeks), our cheat day simply means having one not-so-terrible’ meal — like a Mexican burrito minus the rice, or a burger at a restaurant minus the bun with semi-healthy sides instead of fries or potatoes. If we’re feeling the need, then we may cheat with 2 meals that day — it just depends. We always remain keenly aware of what we’re eating and roughly how many carbs we’re ingesting.
If we limit ourselves too much, we simply won’t stick with it.
Our theory on dieting, in general, is this: For a diet to work (for us), it has to be doable. And for us, that means it has to be somewhat enjoyable in order for us to want to continue doing it.
Our Weightloss Results On A Low Carb Diet
So, what are our results after doing a low carb diet this way?
In one month, Jim has lost 20 pounds so far. I don’t do scales. Never have. But I know that my clothes are fitting better, and my belly is shrinking. That’s all the motivation I need to keep eating low-carb.
Jim’s weightloss has been quicker and and more predictable. (I think this is the case with many guys in general.) I, on the other hand, have to stick it out a little longer before the weight falls off when I’m on a low carb diet. I also snack more than he does throughout the day, so that’s a few more carbs each day that my body has to burn.
Since I have high blood pressure (hubby doesn’t), I try not to go too far overboard on the bacon and eggs — which happen to be the easiest (and my favorite) things to eat on the low carb diet. While those are Jim’s daily go-to snacks on the Atkins Diet, I usually choose other things when he’s eating bacon & eggs. Other than that, we pretty much eat the same things.
I realize this ‘lazy man’s Atkins Diet’ may not be the best way for everyone to do a low carb diet. But it works for us.
If you are able to stick with the true phases and guidelines of the Atkins Diet, then you’re a better low-carb dieter than we are. We have simply decided that it’s better when we are realistic about our dieting and our eating habits. We know us. You know you. Do what’s best for you.
For us, success on a low carb diet means getting to a point where we’re eating far fewer carbs than we normally would.
Then, for maintenance — over the next 2 to 3 years — we try to eat:
Without measuring and restricting ourselves carb-wise (like the Atkins Diet itself requires), it may take a little longer to shed the pounds but it’s definitely doable. And we clearly feel better.
Others have said they feel sluggish and depressed and bored when they’re on a low carb diet. Not us.
Perhaps this is due, in part, to the types of low carb foods we enjoy…
Cheat Sheet: Low Carb Foods And Carbohydrate Counts
Following is the list of low carb foods and their carb counts that I keep in our pantry.
It’s not nearly as extensive as all of the foods you can eat, according to the official Atkins Diet Carb Counter, but it contains the foods that we tend to eat the most when we’re eating low-carb.
I use it as a shopping list and a handy guide for what we can eat & how much we can eat when we’re trying to lose weight on a low carb diet.
NOTE: I’ve rounded the carbs and substituted ‘generalized Atkins carb numbers’ for the actual numbers found on the product brands we purchase regularly.
CHEESES, SAUCES & FLAVORINGS:
- Cheddar Cheese 1 oz = .5
- Mozzarella Cheese 1 oz = .5
- Cream Cheese 2 T = 1
- Parmesan Cheese 1 oz = 1
- Bleu Cheese 2 T = 1
- Swiss Cheese 1 oz = 1
- Feta Cheese 1 oz = 1
- Caesar Dressing 2 T = .5
- Ranch Dressing 2 T = 1
- Oil & Vinegar Dressing 2 T = 1
- Vinegar = 0
- Sour Cream 2 T = 1
- Natural Peanut Butter 2 T (Jif) = 4
- Fruit Preserves 1 T = 2
- Salsa 1 T = 1
- Garlic 1 t = 1
- Beef Broth = 0
- Chicken Broth 1 cup = 1
- Lemon 1 lemon = 5
- Equal Packets 1 packet = 1
- Stevia Packets 1 packet = 0
- Asparagus 6 stalks = 2
- Avocados 1/2 avocado = 2
- Broccoli 1/2 cup =1
- Brussel Sprouts 5 sprouts = 4
- Cauliflower 1/2 cup = 1
- Celery 1 stalk = 1
- Cucumber 1/2 cup = 1
- Edamame 3/4 cup = 3.5
- Green beans 1/2 cup = 3
- Kale 1/2 cup = 2
- Mushrooms 1/2 cup = 1
- Onion 1/4 cup = 4
- Peppers 1 pepper = 4
- Radishes 6 radishes = .5
- Snow peas/Snap peas (in pods) 1/2 cup = 3
- Tomato 1/4 cup = 4
- Water chestnuts 1/4 cup = 3.5
- Zucchini 1/2 cup = 1.5
MEATS & MORE:
- Low-carb tortilla shells 1 shell = 6
- Ham from Honeybaked Ham Company 4 oz = 4
- Roasted or Smoked Turkey from Honeybaked Ham Company 3 oz = 1
- Oven Roasted Turkey (Oscar Meyer) 1 oz = 1
- Hotdogs (Oscar Meyer jumbo beef) 1 hotdog = 1
- Meatballs (Kirkland brand from Costco) 1 meatball = 1
- Bacon = 0
- Shrimp = 0
- Steak = 0
- Salmon = 0
- Mahi Mahi = 0
- Sausage = 0
- Hamburger = 0
- Chicken (skinless breast or tenders) = 0
- Tuna (tuna salad) = 0
- Eggs (egg salad, deviled eggs, scrambled eggs, fried eggs) = 0
- Atkins Frozen Entree = 7
Awhile ago, we wrote about 10 snacks & desserts that are Atkins friendly. In addition to those, we also snack on many of the foods mentioned above.
For example, our go-to snack is usually 1/4 cup of mixed nuts (Kirkland brand from Costco).
Our next favorite snack is one of the many flavors of Atkin’s candies and Atkins snack bars (our favorites are 2 to 3 carbs per snack). But since the Atkins snacks are very high in sugar alcohols, they are like laxatives if you you eat too many of them! So to stay healthy (or if I won’t be near a bathroom), I’ll sometimes opt for celery and natural peanut butter. Many times, just squirting the juice of 1 lemon in a glass of water satisfies me for awhile snack-wise.
Here are the carb counts of a few of our favorite low carb snacks:
- Atkins Candy = 2 to 3
- Atkins Snack Bars = 2 to 3
- Atkins Shakes = 2
- Sugar-Free Jello = 0
- Cool Whip 1 T = 1
- Sugar-Free Popsicles 1 popsicle = 4
- Mixed Nuts 1/4 cup = 5
- Claussen Pickles (the kind that must always stay refrigerated, even when unopened) 1 tall slice = 1
- Coffee = 0
- Tea = 0
- Diet Soda = 0
- Lipton Diet Green Tea = 0
- Caramel Cafe Flavored Coffee (Keurig) 16 oz = 9
Low-Carb Tip: Portion Sizes
These handy tips will help you remember approximate portion sizes:
1/2 cup = the size of a cupcake wrapper
1 cup = the size of a tennis ball
1 ounce cheese = the size of a pair of dice
2 tablespoons = the size of a ping-pong ball
My Favorite Low Carb Recipes
One of my biggest frustrations on a low carb diet like Atkins is not being able to eat a lot of vegetables, especially in the early phases. I can’t help it, I like vegetables as sides with my entrees like steak, chicken, and fish. (Green beans, brussel sprouts, and asparagus are the lowest carb vegetables that we like — but even they get old after awhile.)
One lifesaver for us has been this Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes recipe.
When I was scooping them onto the dinner plate the very first time, Jim literally panicked. He thought I’d gone off the deep end and was serving him mashed potatoes! It wasn’t until I had him taste them first, that I told him what they really were. (Because I knew he wouldn’t eat it by choice otherwise.) He loved them! We now make Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes at least once a week.
A few other low carb recipes that I’m looking forward to trying:
- Zucchini Pizza Casserole
- Stuffed Burgers
- Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder Soup
- Cauliflower Pizza
- Lettuce Wraps
The Bottom Line: Eat Healthy
For the record, I don’t think the Atkins Diet is the healthiest way to eat — especially if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. So we never stay on a low carb diet for longer than 2 months at a time.
Without a doubt though, I do think that doing the Atkins Diet for a short time can help you lose weight… fast!
After that, then just continue to eat healthy. Period.
If (or when) our diet, our fitness, and how we look & feel have all gotten out of whack, then we run to the Atkins Diet again to shed a few pounds. After that, just start eating healthy again. It’s a cycle that seems to work for us!
Don’t miss our other low carb diet tips, and tasty low carb foods to try.