Low-Carb Diets for Weight Loss

Topic Overview

Although there are many weight-loss diets, statistics show that most people who lose weight on a diet regain that weight, and sometimes they gain more. The best ways to stay healthy are eating well and being physically active.

Two of the better-known low-carb diet plans are the Atkins and the South Beach Diet.

Atkins

The Atkins program is a four-phase eating plan for losing weight. The last phase involves how to maintain the weight loss.

Basic concept

Atkins promotes limiting carbohydrate grams. You limit nearly all carbohydrate in the first 2 weeks of the plan, then gradually add some carbohydrate back into your diet later.

How it works

  • Phase 1: Induction: During a 2-week induction program you eat no more than 20 grams of carbohydrate a day.
  • Phase 2: Ongoing weight loss: This is similar to the induction phase, but in Phase 2 you begin to add more foods to your diet and increase your carbohydrate grams. New foods include nuts, seeds, and some berries.
  • Phase 3: Pre-maintenance: When you are 10 pounds from your goal weight, you start Phase 3. You add 5 to 10 grams of carbohydrate to your diet each week as long as you are continuing to lose weight. You add new foods slowly.
  • Phase 4: Maintenance: After you have maintained your goal weight for about a month, you move into Phase 4. At this point, you know how many carbohydrate grams you can eat without gaining weight.

On the menu

  • Eggs, meat, fish (all proteins)
  • Olive oil, butter, cheese, olives
  • Lettuce, cucumber, tomato, broccoli, avocado (most vegetables)
  • Artificial sweeteners (such as Splenda)

Off the menu

  • Sugar and baked goods
  • Starchy vegetables, like corn and sweet peas (none in Phase 1, added back in later phases)
  • Bread, pasta, potato (none in Phase 1, added back in later phases)
  • Fruit (none in Phase 1, added back in later phases)
  • Alcohol (none in Phase 1, added back in later phases)
  • Nuts (none in Phase 1, added back in later phases)

This diet is very high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and quite low in fiber and whole grains. The minimum recommended intake of carbohydrate is 130 g.

The South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet is a three-phase eating plan for losing weight. The last phase is ongoing in order to keep the lost weight from coming back.

Basic concept

The South Beach diet promotes eating “good” carbohydrate and “good” fats.

How it works

  • Phase 1: During Phase 1, you eat three meals a day, plus snacks. You eat no high-carbohydrate foods during this time.
  • Phase 2: Phase 2 slowly adds fruit, whole-grain breads, and pastas back into your diet.
  • Phase 3: After you reach your weight loss goal, you move into Phase 3. You take the information you learned in the first two phases to create an individualized eating plan for life.

On the menu

  • Lean meats and shellfish
  • Meat substitutes and tofu
  • Eggs, cheese, nuts, and beans
  • Vegetables

Off the menu

  • Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta (none in Phase 1, added back in later phases)
  • Fruit (none in Phase 1, added back in later phases)
  • Baked goods
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol

This diet is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and it is low in fiber and whole grains. The minimum recommended intake of carbohydrate is 130 g.

For more information, see the topic Weight Management.

Related Information

Credits

Author Debby Golonka, MPH
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Diabetes Educator
Last Updated February 6, 2009

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