The "Atkins - Beach Diet"

The two diet formulas that my patients have had the most success with in losing weight, maintaining weight loss, and EVENTUALLY not feeling like they are really on a diet, are those outlined in the ATKINS DIET and the more recent SOUTH BEACH DIET.  

Both programs have many similarities, mainly that they are both “Low Carb” or low carbohydrate (starches and sugars are carbohydrates) diets.   I’d suggest reading Dr. Atkins last book, Atkins For Life (2003) AND/OR The South Beach Diet (Agastston, 2003).

The Atkins diet is basically a high protein, low carbohydrate diet that allows almost all lean meats, eggs, dairy products, beans, nuts, and simple greens – but avoidance of starches and sugar foods (no pasta, noodles, rice, breads, sweets).  Here is a more detailed outline:

Restricted Foods
Total carbohydrate intake is counted, without much regard to where it comes from, though in Atkins for Life he had begun to talk more about advising less glycemic carbohydrate. Still, added sugars and refined grains are pretty much off the list for the rest of your life (which is the norm with low carb diets).

Amount of Restriction
Starts out with a lot of restriction in the Induction phase. After that the amount of restriction is tailored to the individual, depending upon their response to the diet.

Amount of Structure
The phases are quite structured, with detailed instructions on adding small amounts of carbohydrate. Within that structure, however, the dieter has a lot of choice about what to eat and how much.  

Individual Variation
The program focuses on helping people find their individual carbohydrate tolerance levels. Atkins also introduces a concept he called "metabolic resistance," which will partly determine this level.    

Learning Curve  
The biggest hurdle is simply learning how many grams of carbohydrate are in each food you eat.  

Diet Phases
The Atkins diet has four phases: Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL), Pre-maintenance, and Maintenance. The length of these phases depends mainly upon how overweight a person is and how they respond to the diet. In his books, Atkins emphasizes the importance of each level, however, on the Atkins Web site it says, “Beginning with Induction is your choice -- you can begin Atkins at any of the four phases. However, Induction will jumpstart your weight loss as you cut back significantly on carb consumption.”

As dieters proceed through the phases, they add more carbs, focusing on nutrient-dense ones, and avoiding refined grains and sugars. All the while, they are monitoring their weight and staying at a carb level where they are still losing. Gradually, they transition to Maintenance, or Atkins for Life, the lifelong program. At this point, individuals are eating at a carb level, which allows them to maintain their weight. Emphasis is on wise carb choices, with sugar and refined grains remaining verboten.  


The South Beach Diet is a 3 stage diet that includes much of the Atkins Diet theory.  Below is an outline.

The designer of this diet is Arthur Agatston, M.D., a cardiac physician who initially designed the South Beach Diet to help his patients who had signs of insulin resistance syndrome, a risk factor for heart disease. The traditional “heart-healthy diet,” which is low in fat and high in carbohydrate, was not working for these people. The South Beach Diet combines some of the basic elements from Atkins, Protein Power, and the Zone in a simple, easy-to-follow way.

Restricted Foods
The diet starts out restricting saturated fats and most types of carbohydrates. Sources of carbohydrates are progressively added over the course of the diet, and a little more saturated fat in the final phase.

Amount of Restriction
The South Beach Diet starts out with a lot of restriction in the Phase One, which lasts two weeks. After that period, the diet becomes progressively less restrictive.  

Amount of Structure Dieters are encouraged to eat three meals and three snacks per day. Beyond that, after the first two weeks, there is almost no structure. No measuring or weighing of food, and no counting carbs. There are suggestions for adding carbs back in, but a lot is left up to the individual.   

Individual Variation You Should focus on how added foods are affecting them for guidance as to which foods to add and in what quantities.

Learning CurveVery easy to learn. There are lists of foods to avoid and to “enjoy,” and you eat what you want within those lists.

Diet PhasesPhase One lasts two weeks, and excludes most carbohydrates, including all fruit, most dairy products, and most sources of saturated fat.

Phase Two lasts until the dieter has completed weight loss.

Phase Three is maintenance. Carbohydrate is progressively added after the first phase.

As dieters proceed through the phases, they add more carbohydrate, focusing on foods with a low glycemic index (though Agatston seems inconsistent in some of his examples in this regard). All the while they are monitoring their weight and staying at a carb level where they are still losing. At Phase Three, individuals are eating at a carb level which allows them to maintain their weight, though they are encouraged to go back and forth between phases as needed.

What can you eat on the South Beach Diet? What shouldn’t you eat? Here are the essential food lists to go by.

Meats and Other Protein
On the South Beach Diet, meats and other protein sources (such as soy and eggs) should be low in saturated fat and without extra breading or other sources of carbohydrate. This list includes which cuts of beef, pork, and poultry fit into these categories, as well as a complete list of approved protein foods. 

Vegetables on the South Beach Diet are pretty much the same as a regular low-carb vegetable list, so I have linked to the main list. A few starchy vegetables can be gradually added on a limited basis after Phase One. See books for details.  

No fruit in Phase One. Fruit is phased in gradually after that period.  

Dairy Products  
Dairy is limited to fat free and some low-fat dairy products and cheeses, without added sugars.

Beans and Other Legumes  
Beans and other legumes, such as those on this list, are encouraged on the South Beach Diet.

Nuts and Seeds  
Nuts and seeds are allowed in limited serving sizes.

Fats and Oils
Sources of fats and oils (including mayonnaise, avocados) to be encouraged or avoided on South Beach.  

Condiments and Sauces  
Condiments and sauces that avoid sugars and saturated fats are the key.

South Beach Rules regarding beverages, including caffeine (limit to 1 to 2 cups per day) and alcohol (no alcohol in Phase One).

Sweet Treats  
The rules around sweet treats (always sugar-free).

Starches and Grains  
No starches in Phase One. Following this, some whole grains and and other starches can be phased back in.

The best thing about these diets is that most people that follow them eventually do NOT FEEL LIKE THEY ARE DIETING OR MISSING OUT ON ANYTHING.  THEY EAT AS MUCH AS THEY WANT AND ARE NOT HUNGRY !!  

Also, remember these simple, healthy rules:


All serving sizes are the size of your fist


All snacks should be within the confines of the diet


Drink WATER all the time.  This should always be your main source of liquid throughout any diet program!

You should always consult YOUR regular pediatrician's office in helping to monitor your weight loss program and follow cholesterol, glucose, and other blood tests as necessary.

Good Luck!

GO TO:  The 5-4-3-2-1-0 FIT PROGRAM  

Steven J. Halm, DO, FAAP, FACP
Founder, YourPediatrician.com, Inc



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