Saturday, November 29, 2014

How To Do Atkins Right: 10 Mistakes to Avoid

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Spring has sprung! The weather is getting warmer, and the days are getting longer, which means it’s also a great excuse to overhaul any healthy eating habits that may have fallen by the wayside during the chill-inducing months of one “polar vortex” after another. Here’s how to do Atkins right and avoid making some all-too-common errors:
·       Mistake #1: Counting Total Carbs, not Net Carbs. On Atkins, you need to count Net Carbs, which are the grams of total carbs minus grams of fiber, which has virtually no impact on your blood sugar. Don’t forget to count lemon juice and other acceptable condiments and include 1 gram of Net Carbs for sugar substitutes. And most important, don’t use your carb allowance for foods that are high in sugar and starches and low in fiber. Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking no carbs are better than 20 grams of Net Carbs and eat only protein and fat. You can download the Atkins Carb Counter to track your daily carb intake.

·       Mistake #2: Skimping on Veggies. Make sure you are eating 12 to 15 of your net carb grams in the form of foundation vegetables. This translates to about 6 cups of leafy greens and 2 cups of cooked veggies, which means you could have a big salad at lunch, a side salad at dinner and still have several servings of your favorite cooked veggies.

·       Mistake #3: Saying No to H2O. Eight daily cups is the standard recommendation, but the larger and more active you are, the more you need. As long as your urine is clear or very pale, you’re drinking enough. Two cups can come from coffee or tea (caffeinated is fine), herb tea, sugar-free sodas or broth. Don’t ever skimp on fluids in a misguided effort to see a lower number when you hop on the scale. Not drinking enough water actually makes your body retain fluid as a protective mechanism.

·       Mistake #4: Going Salt-Free. A little salt (or broth or tamari/soy sauce) can help you avoid experiencing weakness, headaches, muscle cramps or lightheadedness as your body transitions to primarily burning fat for energy. Since Atkins is a naturally diuretic diet, you don’t need to avoid salt to minimize water retention. The symptoms can be the result of an electrolyte imbalance caused by losing minerals along with fluid. Caution: continue to limit salt if you’re being treated for hypertension or your doctor has advised you to limit sodium intake.

·       Mistake #5: Not Eating Enough Protein. Eat 4–6 ounces of protein at each meal, depending on your height and gender. Four ounces may be enough for a petite woman; a guy may need 6 ounces. A very tall guy may even need a bit more. But eating too much protein—or eating only protein and not vegetables—or conversely, skimping on protein, will interfere with weight loss and/or leave you hungry and subject to carb cravings. 

·       Mistake #6: Being Afraid of Fat. You need dietary fat to help stimulate the burning of body fat, and natural fats are fine when you control carb intake. Always accompany a carb snack with either fat or protein. For example, have cucumber slices with a piece of cheese.

·       Mistake #7: Eating Hidden Carbs. Read package labels so you can avoid added sugars and other sneaky carbs. Just because a package says it’s low in calories doesn’t mean it’s low in carbs. Avoid low-calorie products unless they’re labeled as low carb. Likewise, use full fat versions of mayonnaise, salad dressing and the like. Low-fat versions of packaged foods almost invariably add sugar to replace the flavor carried by oil. If the label is unclear, look up the food in the Atkins Carb Counter.

·       Mistake #8: Picking the Wrong Low-Carb Products. Use only Atkins low-carb products. Most of these have been tested to ensure that the impact on your blood sugar is minimal, and most are coded for Phase 1. 


·       Mistake #9: Becoming a Slave to the Scale. Weigh and measure yourself weekly or use weight averaging. Your weight naturally varies across a three or four-pound range from day to day so weighing yourself daily is setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Moreover, if you are working out, you may actually be building muscle even as you shed fat, which may keep your weight constant, even as you trim inches and your clothes fit better. (Muscle is denser than fat and therefore takes up less space.)

·       Mistake #10: Not Recording Your Progress. Use a journal. You’ll be entering your weight and measurements weekly, but you will want to record your food intake and Net Carb count daily. This way, you can quickly see if you’re consuming more carbs than you think you are. You can use Atkins’ free tracking tools to track your progress.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Skin You’re In: 7 Low-Carb Foods You Should Eat for Good Skin

The Skin You’re In: 7 Low-Carb Foods You Should Eat for Good Skin

There are plenty of reasons why a low-carb diet like Atkins is beneficial—it helps you lose weight, plus it lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But did you know that the Atkins Diet is good for your skin, too? 

Breakouts, sensitive skin, how your skin looks and feels and even how quickly your skin ages may be affected (to some extent) by the food you eat. Why is this? To start with, the typical American diet is too high in omega-6 fatty acids (typically found in processed and fast foods) and too low in omega-3 fatty acids (found in seafood like tuna and salmon, walnuts, canola oil and flax seeds and more). When this ratio is out of whack, inflammation sets in. What is inflammation? It is your body’s response to a perceived threat—whether it’s a splinter in your finger, sunburn at the beach, a zit or a sprained ankle. In fact, inflammation is actually part of the body’s natural healing process. But when your body becomes imbalanced, it loses its ability to produce anti-inflammatory chemicals to counteract that inflammation. In addition to an out-of-balance omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, high stress levels and excess body fat contribute to chronic inflammation. Another important weapon in controlling inflammation is avoiding foods that spike insulin levels, such as simple carbohydrates, sugar and white flour. Simple carbs and white sugar and flour also raise your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which also leads to breakouts. So, in simple terms—that delicious cookie that looks so tempting not only adds inches to your waistline but years to your face and maybe a couple zits to boot!
Another important weapon in your “good skin” arsenal is foods high in antioxidants. Free radicals damage the membrane of skin cells (leading to inflammation, sun damage and an increased risk of skin cancer). But antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are found in fresh fruits and vegetables, protect the membrane of the skin cells from those nasty free radicals. 

The Atkins “Good Skin” Food List

1.    Seafood
Salmon, tuna and mackerel have the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids and are acceptable in every Phase of the Atkins Diet. In addition, studies show adding fish to your diet can also help reduce the inflammation associated with psoriasis and even eczema. Tuna is also rich in selenium, which helps prevent breakouts. Try to eat seafood at least three times a week.

2.    Nuts, seeds and flax 
Walnuts, almonds, pecans and other nuts and seeds are packed with omega-3s. You can add nuts and seeds into your plan after two weeks on Induction or when you move to Phase 2. You can also add flax seed to muffins—the Muffin in a Minute recipe has a ¼ cup of flax seed and is perfect for any Phase. 

3.    Olive oil 
It’s a great source of omega-3s and antioxidants. Look for extra virgin olive oil that is “cold pressed” or “expeller pressed.” A serving is 1 tablespoon, and your skin needs at least 2 tablespoons of oil a day to keep it supple and moisturized. You can cook with olive oil or use it to make salad dressing, or just drizzle it over your salad. 

4.    Fruit
Berries and many other fruits are full of free-radical-fighting antioxidants. Starting in Phase 2, you can add fresh blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cantaloupe or honeydew melon, and you can add even more fruits in Phases 3 and 4. 


5.    Vegetables 
You can never have too many vegetables and all the healthy antioxidants they provide. Even in Induction, you should be eating between 12 and 15 grams of net carbs of a variety of vegetables every day. Pile on the leafy greens, plus squash and pumpkin. Once you hit Phases 3 and 4, you can have sweet potatoes, which are a good source of vitamin A. 

6.    Green tea
It’s rich in polyphenols called catechins, which are anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Some research shows that green tea may also have some UV-protective properties, meaning it could help protect your skin from cancer-causing sun rays. To get the biggest boost, drink three cups of freshly brewed a day (vs. decaffeinated, instant or ready-to-drink versions, which are less potent). 

7.    Water 
When it comes to your skin, hydration is key. Water keeps your skin healthy and young by moving nutrients in and flushing toxins out. Focus on drinking the recommended eight glasses a day (or more). 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Constant Cravings? Kick Them to the Curb with Atkins: 13 Cravings-Busting Tips

Constant Cravings? Kick Them to the Curb with Atkins: 13 Cravings-Busting Tips

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Whether it’s a fresh-baked cookie, a piece of chocolate, a hot slice of pizza or a plate of salty French fries, most likely you’ve had the intense desire to throw caution to the wind and indulge. So you give in, just once, only to find yourself craving another cookie or a bag of potato chips in just a few hours. This cycle of eating too many carbs raises and lowers your blood sugar levels. We call this the carb rollercoaster, and it’s the culprit for those constant cravings. You can end your ride on the carb rollercoaster with the following craving-busting tips:


1. Stick with it. If you follow Atkins correctly, you teach your body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs by decreasing your carb intake. This eliminates the spikes and slumps in your blood sugar, and keeps your hunger at bay, as well as those cravings. When you first start Atkins, your blood sugar levels have not yet stabilized. After the first two weeks, your body should be burning fat for energy instead of carbs, which acts as a natural appetite suppressant.

2. Keep eating. If you are going too long between meals or snacks, your blood sugar will drop, leading to hunger and cravings. Keep your blood sugar on an even keel with three meals and two snacks a day.

3. Stick with a plan. If you plan out your meals and snacks each day, the right foods will always be at your fingertips, making you less likely to succumb to temptation.

4. Watch out for sneaky carbs. As always, be sure to read your food labels. You may be consuming foods containing hidden sugars or grains, and these foods could unknowingly trigger your cravings.

5. Have a drink. Of water, that is. Hunger and cravings may be confused with thirst, so make sure you’re drinking at least eight cups of water a day. Two cups can come from coffee or tea (caffeinated is fine), herb tea, sugar-free sodas or broth.

6. Don’t forget fat. Or protein. Make sure you have fat or protein with every meal or snack. Have half a Hass avocado, some cheese or olives for snacks. You can cook with canola, olive and most nut oils, as well as butter or coconut oil. Top veggies and other foods with butter, and use extra-virgin olive oil in your salad dressings. And you can enjoy eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry (unless it’s breaded or battered or sausages that contain fillers or other high-carb ingredients), beef, lamb, pork and all other meats (once again watching out for fillers and high-carb ingredients). All of these fat and protein sources fill you up and keep you satisfied.

7. Distract yourself. Sometimes hunger (and cravings) can be mistaken for pure boredom. Go for a walk, drink a glass of water, read a book or call a friend.

8. Watch your stress. Stress can mess with your blood sugar levels and trigger cravings for comfort food. Check out Atkins Recipessection for low-carb versions of your favorite comfort foods. Regular exercise can help decrease stress, as well as meditation, and taking the time to do activities that you enjoy.

9. Fruit. Foe or friend? Once you reintroduce fruit into your diet, you may find that it spikes your blood sugar and/or causes cravings. Make sure to pair it with fat or protein. Enjoy your berries with full-fat whipped cream or walnuts, for example.

10. Indulge in Atkins productsMany are formulated for every Phase, and you have your choice from bars, shakes and snacks to convenient frozen meals. There are even treats that will satisfy your sweet tooth—and this includes peanut butter cups and chocolate candies.

11. Find the culprits. As your progress through the Phases of Atkins and add back foods you have not eaten in a while, your cravings may return. Cut back by 10 grams of Net Carbs a day and eliminate foods you’ve added recently. Reintroduce foods slowly, one by one, to find the culprits.

12. Revisit Phase 1.  Congratulations! You’re losing weight or maintaining your goal weight. And then you get a little overly confident and start adding foods that aren’t acceptable on your Phase—potatoes, alcohol or a cookie, for example. Suddenly your cravings return and the number on the scale starts creeping up. Return to Phase 1 (Induction) for a week or to jumpstart your progress and stabilize your blood sugar levels.

13. Go cold turkey. A 2011 study in the journal Obesity shows that the fewer carbs you consume (especially when you eat fat and protein in their place), the less you will eventually crave those carbs and the more you will be able to control your hunger. This does not mean restricting all carbs; you need your 12 to 15 grams of Net Carbs of veggies every day and eventually we will learn what carbs (and how many grams of Net Carbs) you can continue to consume will losing and eventually maintaining your weight. But if there’s a food that continually causes your cravings to return, science shows it might be worth just eliminating it for good.

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