Atkins Diet: What You Need to Know

The Foods You Can Eat

The USDA Food Guide Pyramid
The USDA Food Guide Pyramid
USDA Food pyramid courtesy Food and Nutrition Information Center

The USDA Food Pyramid recommends a diet rich in carbohydrate consumption. As you can see in the image below, the foundation of the pyramid is a recommended six to eleven servings of carbohydrates daily.

The Atkins food pyramid looks very different from this one. In fact, one of the reasons the Atkins diet was popular in the 1970s and has become popular again today is because it allows dieters to eat more of the foods most diets restrict or would never even allow -- such as red meat and high-fat dairy products like cheese and butter. According to the Atkins Web site, the Atkins plan helps people feel less hungry and less deprived than many other diets.

The Atkins Lifestyle Food Guide Pyramid™ The Atkins Lifestyle Food Guide Pyramid™
The Atkins Lifestyle Food Guide Pyramid™
Image courtesy Atkins®

Unlike the traditional food pyramid, the Atkins pyramid places dietary emphasis on protein sources as opposed to whole grain foods. Additionaly, the Atkins plan doesn't set limits on the amount of food you eat. It only sets limits on the type of food you eat. For example, you cannot eat white rice or foods made with white flour like cake or pasta, but you can eat a large amount of fish, poultry, red meat, eggs and cheese. These foods are made up mostly of protein and fat, as opposed to carbohydrates. Furthermore, Atkins is different from most diets in that you don't need to count calories. In fact, many people on Atkins consume more calories than they were before the diet (one gram of fat contains 9 calories, while one gram of any carbohydrate contains 4 calories).

Since the Atkins diet occurs in four phases, what you can eat will differ slightly in each phase. As you go through the phases, you are allowed more and more carbohydrates, but they should consist mostly of fiber-rich carbohydrates like leafy greens and certain vegetables. White rice, white bread, potatoes and pasta made from "white" or processed flour remain forbidden-foods for the duration of the Atkins plan. At this point, you may be asking yourself "How can someone lose weight on a diet like this?"

Let's examine how the Atkins plan can result in weight loss.