The Atkins diet, first created by Robert Atkins in 1972, is a weight loss and maintenance program meant to force the body to burn stored fat by limiting the amount of carbohydrates that one consumes. The diet is broken down into four phases, each of which is characterized by how many carbohydrates one is allowed to eat, and in what form; generally, calories, protein, and fat intake are not regulated under this diet. During the first phase, an Atkins diet meal generally consists of protein and vegetables, and, in the second stage, several forms of what are considered to be healthy carbohydrates are added back into the daily food choices. Once a person reaches phase three and four, whole grains are allowed, in small amounts.
In the induction stage of the Atkins diet, also known as phase one, nearly all carbohydrates are eliminated from one’s diet for two weeks, except for those found in vegetables. A typical Atkins diet meal at this stage will contain four grams of net carbohydrates at each of three meals, for a total daily intake of 12 net carbohydrates. The term “net carbohydrates” refers to the amount of carbohydrates that one consumes minus the amount of fiber consumed. Meat, poultry, and seafood make up the vast majority of the foods eaten during this stage, along with whole-fat cheeses and whole eggs. In conjunction with these, restricted amounts of vegetables are consumed during a typical Atkins diet meal, which account for most of a person’s carbohydrate intake.
Once the induction phase is complete, a person following the Atkins diet meal plan will typically start to add in other sources of carbohydrates. An additional five net carbohydrates are added to a person’s daily allowed 12 net carbohydrates each week. These additional carbohydrates are usually found in nuts, seeds, fruit, and soft cheeses, which are generally not eaten during the induction phase, as well as all of the vegetables consumed during the first two weeks. As with all phases, a typical Atkins diet meal at this stage will include large amounts of protein, as found in meat, poultry, seafood, and cheese, with a healthy portion of vegetables and a small amount of fruit, soft cheeses, or nuts.
The final two phases of this diet are generally the same. Each week, a person will be able to add an additional 10 net carbohydrates to his or her daily intake, and these can be found in the form of whole grains, such as brown rice and wheat bread. At this point, the amount of carbohydrates eaten at each meal will vary drastically by person. A typical Atkins diet meal at these final stages typically includes varying levels of all of the foods eaten in the first two phases of the diet, although the emphasis is still placed on protein, healthy fats, and vegetables, with small amounts of healthy whole grains added in. In the end, the only foods that are not eaten at all are those containing refined sugar, refined flour, or white potatoes.