Atkins Diet: Foods, Benefits, Side Effects, and the Success Stories

Atkins diet is a low carb diet program based on the fact that carbohydrate restriction is critical to weight loss.

The Atkins Diet is a popular plan developed in the 1960s by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins. The diet plan restricts carbs (carbohydrates) while maintaining protein and fats.

Several studies have proven over the years that low-carb diets play a crucial role in weight loss. A major reason for the effectiveness of low-carb diet plans for body fat reduction boils down to the increased intake of protein and other macronutrients.




Eating more proteins lessens the appetite for food, causing a minimal intake of calories.

You can accomplish your weight loss goals while you eat a diet rich in protein and fat, and very low in carbs. This doesn’t mean that you’ll starve yourself by depriving yourself of food.

Atkins diet focuses more on lean proteins, healthy fats, and high-fiber vegetables as part of the plans.

The goal of this weight loss diet plan is to change your nutritional pattern to help you lose weight. This nutritional plan also ensures that you keep your weight off permanently.

Apart from weight loss, the Atkins diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating. The foods you eat on this plan boost your energy and help improve certain health conditions, like high blood pressure or metabolic syndrome.

Read on to gain a full insight into what the Atkins plan is about. What are the foods you should eat, benefits, side effects, and success stories?


Foods on Atkins Diet Plan

This diet plan is very simple and straightforward. All you have to know is that you need to cut the consumption foods high in carbohydrates and sugar food sources.

The diet recommends the intake of more no-carb or low-carb foods, protein, and healthy fats.

Foods to Eat

  • Meats: Beef, lamb, chicken, pork, bacon, and others.
  • Fatty fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, etc.
  • Eggs
  • Low-carb vegetables: Kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and so on.
  • Full-fat dairy: Butter, cheese, cream, and full-fat yogurt.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, etc.
  • Healthy fats: Coconut oil, avocados, Extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil.
  • Herbs and spices such as curry powder, cinnamon, thyme, cayenne pepper, cumin,five-spice powder, paprika, chili powder, dijon mustard, oregano, basil, parsley, tarragon, black pepper, and garlic (whole or ground)

Food to Avoid

  • Sugar: Soft drinks, candy, ice cream, fruit juices, cakes, and others.
  • Grains: Wheat, rice, rye, and barley.
  • Vegetable oils: Soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, etc.
  • Trans fats found in processed foods
  • High-carb vegetables: Carrots, turnips, etc. (induction phase only).
  • High-carb fruits: Bananas, apples, oranges, pears, and grapes (induction phase only).
  • Starches: Potatoes, sweet potatoes (induction phase only).
  • Legumes: Lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc. (induction phase only).
  • Chips, cookies, candies

Drink Allowed

  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Green tea
  • Alcohol is also okay in small quantities. Stick to dry wines with no sugar content, and stop taking high-carb drinks like beer.

Drink to Avoid

  • Beer
  • Sweetened yogurt
  • Juice


Phases of The Atkins Diet

The foods allowed on the Atkins diet are eaten in stages. You start with veggies before adding other foods, like beans/legumes, fruits, and whole grains. The Atkins Diet has four phases.



Phase 1: Induction

The first phase of the diet plan runs a strict regulation of “no carbs” consumption. You have to cut out almost all carbohydrates from your diet.

The only sources of carbs you are allowed to take are mainly from vegetables, and it should be 20 grams of net carbs a day. Your diet pattern at the stage should be as follows:

  • Eat protein such as fish, shellfish, poultry, meat, eggs and cheese at every meal
  • Include oils and fats in your diet
  • Drink eight glasses of water every day
  • Avoid most fruits, baked foods, bread, pasta, grains, nuts, and alcohol.

Some people, especially vegans, may decide to skip this phase and start the next stage. Depending on your weight loss goals, you can choose to kickstart from any of the first three phases.

The induction phase lasts for two weeks. Click here for a comprehensive list of suitable foods for this phase.


Phase 2: Balancing

The balancing stage of this diet plan propels you to add few other nutrients to your diet. There is a list of suitable foods for this stage that specifies on 12 to 15 grams of net carbs as foundation vegetables. In this phase, you can:

  • add nuts, berries, and seeds to your diet,
  • include low-carb vegetables,
  • introduce a few fruits.

This is a carb balancing stage that allows you to learn how many carbs you can eat while still losing weight. You maintain this phase until you have about 10 pounds to attain your goal weight.


Phase 3: Pre-maintenance

In the third phase, you continue to multiply the range of foods you consume. You can add more fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains. This phase teaches you how to maintain weight loss.

Also, you can only proceed to this stage when you have a few pounds left to get your weight goal. This stage has to be maintained until you lose the number of pounds you have set out to drop.

This is the phase where weight loss has to be accomplished.


Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance

You move into this phase when you have achieved your weight loss goal. You have to keep eating the foods for step 4 to maintain your goal weight permanently. This feeding pattern helps to keep your weight off completely.

Stages 3 and 4 of the Atkins diet gives room for more high-carb foods than Stages 1 and 2. During the subsequent stages, you can include the following whole foods:

  • Fruits, e.g. citrus, apples, bananas, grapes, mangoes, papaya, pineapple, and other starchy fruits
  • Beverages like coffee, club soda, and tea
  • Legumes, like red beans, string beans, black beans, horse beans, and lima beans, etc.
  • All starchy vegetables, such as squashes, carrots, beetroot, corn on the cob, and sweet and white potatoes


How Does Atkins Diet Work For Weight Loss?

You are probably wondering how this diet plan operates. The abstinence from high-carb and sugary foods and intake of more foods low in carbs in the diet plan lead to weight loss.

This carbohydrate-restricted diet boosts the body’s fat-burning capacities.

Naturally, the body burns the glucose from carbs for energy. In case your organs are unable to use up the total quantity of glucose produced, glucose is then stored in your body as fat. The consumption of more carbs leads to the storage of more body fat.

The Atkins meal plan, therefore, recommends that you eat low-carb or no-carb foods. This means that you eat less of the foods that provide the body with glucose.

So, what happens when your body lacks glucose? Do you think you can’t survive?

When your body lacks glucose, it turns to the “glucose” stored in the form of body fat to produce energy. In other words, when you consume fewer carbs, the body burns fat for energy instead. And what next? You lose weight fast.


Can Atkins Diet Accommodate My Dietary Preferences?

Vegan or vegetarians would probably think the Atkins diet isn’t going to fit into their plans because of the meat option, right?

But the good news is that your dietary restrictions can not hinder you from following the Atkins meal plan.

1. For Vegetarians and vegans

Vegetarians and vegans may think the Atkins diet plan may not be suited for them because of the high consumption of meat. This isn’t true because the Atkins plan doesn’t necessarily require you to eat meat to lose weight.

Also, vegetarians can skip the first phase of Atkins 20, which limits carbs too much. Vegetarians get protein from the food sources below:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Soy
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • High-protein grains like quinoa

Vegans get protein from:

  • Legumes
  • Soy
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • High-protein grains like quinoa


2. For Gluten-Free Diet

If you’re on a gluten-free diet, it’s very easy to stick to that with the Atkins meal plan. Foods with gluten are high in carbohydrates. People on the Atkins plan also eat less gluten.


3. Low-salt Diet

Salt isn’t a required ingredient for your Atkins meal recipes. You should try to avoid canned and packaged foods because they often have added sugars and other carbs, and salt.




Benefits of The Atkins Diet

Though the ultimate aim of this diet plan is weight loss, it serves several other health-related benefits. Some of these benefits include:

1. Treatment for Diabetes

This low-carb diet plan has a significant impact on insulin and blood sugar. It regulates the blood sugar and insulin levels, and this is a major factor in the prevention or treatment of diabetes.

When you’re on a low-carbohydrate diet like the Atkins plan, you cut out all food sources that might cause blood sugar swings, insulin resistance, and weight gain.

Foods that lead to all these conditions eventually cause diabetes. With the Atkins meal plan, you consume healthy fats and lean proteins, while foods like fruits, starchy veggies, pasta, and bread are removed from your diet.

The absence of these starchy and sugary foods in your diet causes your body to release less insulin. This helps to equalize blood sugar levels and burn stored fat.

A study published in the Journal of the American Diabetic Association found out that fasting glucose and some lipid fractions (triglycerides)in diabetic patients improved when consuming lower carbohydrate-content diets.


2. Lower Risk of Heart Disease Factors

Abnormal triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the body contribute to heart problems.

The Atkins plan contains saturated fat from healthy sources, such as grass-fed beef or coconut oil, which raises HDL cholesterol levels and lowering risk factors for cardiovascular problems.

This diet allows you to eat a balanced, unprocessed diet that results in healthy weight loss.

Apart from its weight loss value, The Atkins meal plan can reduce LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, which are responsible for heart disease and heart attacks.


3. Treats Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most popular endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age. The risk factors for PCOS may include obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin resistance.

Because low carbohydrate diets have shown to lower insulin resistance, a pilot study was carried out to examine the effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome.


4. Reduces Dementia Risk

Low-carb diets enhance cognitive performance and reduce the risk of cognitive problems like dementia.

Researchers believe that people that consume foods high in carbs have increased insulin resistance, which might lead to higher levels of inflammation and lower circulation of blood to the brain.

That is why low-carb diets are prescribed to better cognitive performance.

A 2012 study concluded that the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and the prevention of insulin resistance might protect learning and memory ability with aging by safeguarding brain-signaling mediators. A low-carb diet plan, like the Atkins plan, works efficiently to prevent insulin resistance and improve your cognition.


5. A cure for Acid Reflux

Several findings have shown that a low-carb diet may help relieve acid reflux. Typically foods with caffeine or that are high in fat have shown to contribute to acid reflux; however, a low-carb diet may help prevent symptoms usually brought on by those foods.

Other recorded benefits of the Atkins diet include its usefulness in the treatment of acne, headache, cancer, narcolepsy, epilepsy, and related diseases.


Side Effects of The Atkins Diet

Though low carb diet plans like the Atkins have been praised for the powerful impacts on weight loss and some other health conditions, we must not forget to keep some of the side effects in mind. Atkins diet may cause the following side effects or worsened symptoms in some people.

  • Fatigue, lack of energy or weakness as a result of low-calorie intake
  • Difficulty in exercising due to weakness or loss of interest in being active due to feeling tired
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive tract problems, such as constipation (usually due to low fiber intake)
  • Indigestion is caused by high fat intake.
  • Low carb intake may drop the levels of serotonin which causes irritability or mood swings
  • Bad breath
  • The diet plan may cause kidney problems.
  • The risks of osteoporosis and kidney stones may be increased.
  • People on the Atkins meal plan who eat more meat as the source of protein have a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Low level of concentration.

I do not intend to scare you with all these possible side effects. Just like any dietary plan you may decide to adopt, the Atkins plan may be susceptible to the above-listed side effects.

It doesn’t mean you will necessarily experience the adverse effects of the Atkins dietary plan.

However, it is essential to note that you may need to practice constant self-awareness if you intend to reduce your carb intake drastically for weight loss.

You have to be conscious of how you feel, your energy, sleep, moods, and digestion to eat the adequate quantity of that works best for you personally.


A Sample Atkins Menu For One Week

This 7-day menu is suitable for the first phase of this diet plan. But you have to add more fruits and vegetables rich in carbs as you move on to the other stages.


Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables, fried in coconut oil.
Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil, and a handful of nuts.
Dinner: Steak and veggies.



Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.
Lunch: Leftover chicken and veggies from the night before.
Dinner: Cheeseburger (without the bun), with vegetables and butter.



Breakfast: Omelet with veggies, fried in butter.
Lunch: Shrimp salad with some olive oil.
Dinner: Ground beef stir-fry, with veggies.



Breakfast: Eggs and veggies, fried in coconut oil.
Lunch: Leftover stir fry from dinner the night before.
Dinner: Salmon with butter and vegetables.



Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.
Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and a handful of nuts.
Dinner: Meatballs with vegetables.



Breakfast: Omelet with various vegetables, fried in butter.
Lunch: Leftover meatballs from the night before.
Dinner: Pork chops with vegetables.



Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.
Lunch: Leftover pork chops from the night before.
Dinner: Grilled chicken wings, veggies, with some salsa.


Success Stories of The  Atkins Diet


1. Brittney and Corey Polk: Age 38



This couple started their Atkins journey on February 5, 2016. They found out that their regular wardrobe was getting a little too tight. Brittney is 37 (almost 38), and her husband is 38 (nearly 39).

For them,  it was time for us to feel young again. And the Atkins plan helped them achieve their goal. Here is Brittney’s testimony:

We made the decision and headed to the grocery for Atkins items. The first time we pretty much bought one of everything that was available at the store. Of course, we got it nailed down to our favorites and looked forward to new items when they came out.

We still use Atkins products but I think the most important lesson we learned from the products was counting carbs and being able to translate that into other foods to learn what we could and couldn’t eat.

Once you understand the numbers you can branch out into preparing fresh foods and still use Atkins for quick and easy meals when on the go or have limited time to prep a fresh meal.

We have used all the frozen meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner), we use all the bars for breakfast or a quick lunch.

We use the snacks for all times of the day when hungry and we keep stuff in the car or purse for emergencies. The new Atkins shakes are also a really nice treat for something different but filling.

So, how much weight did they lose? Her husband’s weight on Feb 5 was 250. After following the Atkins meal plan, he weighs 193.

That’s 57 pounds with only a few times at the gym. For Brittney, she weighed 170 on Feb 5. But now, she weighs 131! She was able to shed off  39 pounds. The couple said:

All of this in only 6 months! Our friends and family are so impressed with the hard work that we’ve put in. My brother started Atkins a month ago and has lost 28 pounds! This has become more than just a diet, it’s a lifestyle!


2. Stephanie Elleson: Age 34



Stephanie lived with obesity for fourteen years. One day, she felt the need to lose weight when she couldn’t play with her son for more than 15 minutes. She became exhausted in a short time. Out of the desire to be the best mom, get healthy, and be happy, she had to start her weight loss journey. Here is Stephanie’s statement:

I had tried Atkins before, but I lose motivation and quit. This time I did my research and found different foods and recipes that made me feel like I wasn’t being deprived!

Whenever I craved something with a high carb count,I would find an Atkins or low carb alternative.

I looked at it as a lifestyle change and not a diet, and here I am 70 pounds lighter in only 7 months. The Atkins lifestyle has changed my life! I feel like time is being reversed. I look younger, feel younger, and am healthier than I was in high school! Atkins for life!



3. Stacy Haines: Age 54



Stacy still lost weight at her age. So, don’t ever think your age may be a setback for you to follow the Atkins plan. Stacy said:

I started gaining weight shortly after my daughter was born. Before I knew it I had ballooned up to 273 lbs. Being 5’3″ that was a huge amount of weight. I heard about the Atkins program and decided to give it a go.

I loved the food on the program. It was so easy to follow. Although the weight loss is great….the best part of my story is that to this day I still follow the program.

Also, I have introduced my friends to the Atkins program. I enjoy the energy I have. I love the compliments I get. And I know I will follow this program for the rest of my life.





Low-carb weight loss diet plans like the Atkins meal plan are healthy eating habits that serve other purposes beyond weight loss. The Atkins plan isn’t only restricted to lose weight; you could simply use the diet plan to eat clean and stay healthy.

For whichever goal you might decide to achieve with the Atkins meal plan, be sure to see a nutritionist or a doctor to know if you’re fit and healthy enough for the meal plan.

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