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Atkins Diet for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Oct 26, 2022

Atkins Diet for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating

The Atkins diet plan is a low-carb diet approach that helps people lose weight and transition to a healthier way of eating. A lot of people have been trying this diet before other fad diets were developed. But, is it really effective? How does it work? Let’s find out.

What is the Atkins diet plan?

The Atkins diet or Atkins Nutritional Approach is a low-carbohydrate diet program that was originally developed by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins in the 1960s.

The Atkins diet is known to have jump-started the low-carb diet trend.

This diet encourages its followers to limit their carbohydrate intake and increase their fat and protein consumption.

What is the purpose of the Atkins diet plan?

The Atkins diet’s main purpose is to permanently change a person’s way of eating, as well as help them lose and maintain a healthy weight.

Aside from looking and feeling good, the Atkins diet also aims to reduce the risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.

The Atkins diet plan encourages its followers to eat healthier by consuming the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This diet is not a high-protein diet, but it does not prohibit you from consuming fatty proteins.

Unlike other diets, the Atkins diet lets you eat complete and nutritious meals without leaving you hungry.

Through the years, the Atkins diet has undergone a lot of changes, like increasing fiber-rich food intake.

Also, the diet plan currently caters to people who are following other food practices such as veganism and vegetarianism. This diet plan also started targeting certain health conditions that might surface at the beginning of a person’s low-carb diet journey.

The four principle of Atkins diet

The Atkins diet plan stands by its science-backed core principles, which include weight loss, weight maintenance, good health, and well-being, as well as disease prevention.

Weight loss

If you are experiencing difficulties with losing weight, trying out the Atkins diet will help you find ways on how to succeed in dealing with these obstacles.

Weight maintenance

With the Atkins diet, you will have a chance to maintain the weight you worked hard for as this diet plan will not starve you, unlike others.

Although they promote healthy eating, you will still get to enjoy the foods you’re used to, but with strict restrictions. This diet will also help you find the right level of carbohydrates your body needs, which is a great way to maintain a long-term healthy weight.

Good health and well-being

By trying out the Atkins diet plan, you can get your body’s nutritional needs by having a proper and nutritious diet and eliminating unhealthy food choices.

The Atkins diet helps stabilize blood sugar, which makes you feel less exhausted. This diet will make you feel good even before reaching your weight loss goal.

Disease prevention

People with chronic diseases will notice improvement with their health by following an individualized controlled-carbohydrate nutritional approach. This approach helps in slowing down a person’s insulin production. This means that you can burn significantly more body fat instead of storing them up.

Atkins diet plan and carbohydrates

Unlike other diets, calorie counting isn’t necessary for the Atkins diet. Instead, keeping an eye on your carbohydrates is essential.

Using a system known as the net carb, you will be able to track how much carbs there are in your food. Net carbs are the carbohydrates your body can absorb and convert into energy.

Net carb system

Whole foods: Total carbohydrates – fiber = net carbs

Processed foods: Total carbohydrates – fiber- sugar alcohols (if applicable) = net carbs

The goal of tracking your net carbs using the Atkins diet plan approach will help you identify the number of carbs your body really needs without losing or gaining weight.

Atkins diet plan

Phases of the Atkins diet

There are two kinds of Atkins approach you can try; the Atkins 20 or the Atkins 40. Atkins 20 or Atkins 40 is the number of net carbs you need to consume in a day.

If the 20 grams of net carbs is too difficult for you, then you can start with the Atkins 40.

No matter what approach you choose, your carb intake will increase as you progress.

If you’re just starting with a low-carb diet, you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or you want a wider variety of foods, then it is better if you start with Atkins 40.

Phase 1 (Induction phase)

The first phase of the Atkins 20 is when you strictly consume only 20g of net carbs per day, no more, no less.

For starters, you can get your 12g to 15g of net carbs from foundation vegetables like lettuce, cucumber, broccoli, okra, cabbage, tomatoes, and eggplants.

Aside from this, you also need proteins like poultry, fish, red meats, eggs, and cheese, as well as good fats and oils like mayonnaise (no sugar), butter, olive oil, vegetable oil, and canola oil.

During phase 1, take note that you cannot consume a wide variety of fruits, nuts, sweet treats, grains, pasta, bread, and alcohol.

Make sure that you only drink beverages that are included in the plan like unsweetened tea or soy/almond milk, decaffeinated coffee, and water.

You need to continue this phase for about two weeks or more (use your weight loss as a basis).

Phase 2 (Ongoing weight loss)

Continue getting 12g to 15g of your net carbs from foundation vegetables, but you can also start adding carb-rich foods in your diets, like fruits and nuts.

You can also gradually increase your net carbs weekly from 20g to 25g and so on.

  • Fruits: berries, cantaloupe, and honeydew
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, pistachios, peanuts, cashews, etc.
  • Fruits juices: lemon, lime, and tomato
  • Beans: kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, etc.

This phase helps you keep track of how many carbs you can eat while still losing weight or maintaining your carbohydrate balance.

Phase 2 can last until you’re about 5 to 10 pounds away from your weight goal.

Phase 3 (Pre-maintenance)

The 3rd phase is all about slowly losing weight so you can moderately familiarize yourself with the changes in your eating practices.

During this phase, you can also start adding 10g of carbs per week as long as you continue losing weight.

You can include whole-wheat products in your diet, as well as starchy vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes, and you can also add more fruits in your meals like pineapples, mangoes, oranges, and grapes.

The pre-maintenance phase will last until you reach your weight goal and maintain it for a month.

Once you reach your goals, then you have successfully found your level of carb tolerance.

Carb tolerance level is the number of net carbs your body can absorb without making you lose or gain weight.

Phase 4 (Lifetime maintenance) 

When you finally get to this phase, your average net carb intake would probably be about 40g to 120g per day.

But this might change when you consider other factors like your metabolism, age, gender, and level of activity.

The Atkins diet plan does not really focus on exercise, but if you combine regular exercise with this diet, then you most likely have a higher level of carb tolerance.

In phase 4 of the Atkins approach, you will definitely see and feel your progress. But you it’s important to note that this diet does not only focus on weight loss, but also on changing the way you eat and how you can stay healthy throughout your life.


Even though some adjustments in the diet plan have been made, it’s worth knowing that, once you begin the Atkins diet, you would most likely feel the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Recurrent headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Exhaustion
  • Constipation

You must take note that this diet is not suitable for everyone.

That is why, it’s best to consult your doctor before giving it a try, especially if you are taking certain medications, like diuretics and diabetic medication.

The Atkins diet plan is also not advisable for people with chronic kidney diseases. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please avoid trying out the Atkins 20, and proceed with Atkins 40.

Key takeaways

The Atkins diet is a great diet not just for weight loss, but to permanently change your eating habits. Following the Atkins diet will not only make you look and feel good, but it can also keep you healthy throughout your life.

Learn more about Special Diets, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Expertly reviewed by

Chris Icamen

Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Oct 26, 2022

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