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Atkins Advantage
The All-New Atkins Advantage Diet

Following years of criticism from health experts, an updated version of the Atkins diet, the Atkins Advantage, will soon be available in the UK. But just how different is it from the original diet that took the nation by storm a few years ago? Dietitian Juliette Kellow reviews Atkins Advantage

The All-New Atkins Advantage Diet

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Would you like some carbs with that? Listen to the hype surrounding the launch of the all-new, modern version of the Atkins diet and you’d be forgiven for thinking that bread, pasta, potatoes and rice are back on the menu in a big way. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth!

All New Atkins Advantage

The All-New Atkins Advantage Diet is written by Dr Stuart Trager and Colette Heimowitz, both of whom are linked to Atkins Nutritionals, the firm founded by the late Dr Robert Atkins. And at a quick glance, the book certainly gives the impression that it’s taken on board all the concerns that health experts have expressed over the past few years regarding low-carb and high-fat intakes with few fruit and veg. Sadly, in reality, little has changed in terms of the diet itself.

Atkins Diet But With Carbs?

Well-known for it’s incredibly low carbohydrate content, the new version of the Atkins diet encouragingly appears to be more supportive of carbs. The programme is not “anti-carb” explains the book. “Yes, some foods are off limits in the earlier phases, but there is room for all whole food carbohydrates when you do Atkins.” Great! That is until you start the plan itself and realise this is stretching the truth somewhat!

Just like the original plan, the new Atkins diet is divided into exactly the same four phases – and surprisingly, each phase follows exactly the same rules for carbohydrate intake.

Induction

The first phase – Induction – should be followed for two weeks, although the book says that research has shown it’s safe to follow for up to six months! During Induction, carbohydrate intake is limited to a tiny 20g a day (healthy eating guidelines recommend eating around 230g a day). This means bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, milk, fruit and most veg are off limits. Effectively, you are allowed 2 cups of mixed salad greens (lettuce, rocket or watercress, for example), 1 cup of cooked veggies and ½ avocado a day.

Ongoing Weight Loss

The second phase, Ongoing Weight Loss, allows you to increase your carb intake by 5g daily for a week at a time until you find your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing Weight. This is the maximum amount of carbohydrate you can eat each day to lose between 1 and 3lb a week. For some people, this may only be 25g carbohydrate, for others it might be 50g. Nevertheless, it’s still considerably lower than most of us are used to and really only allows for the introduction of a few more veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds. Bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and breakfast cereals are still off limits!

Pre-Maintenance

With just 5-10lb left to lose, you enter phase three or Pre-maintenance. During this phase, you increase you carb intake by 10g a day for a week at a time, allowing your weight loss to slow to no more than 1lb a week. By now you can start to include more fruits and small amounts of traditional starchy foods such as bread and pasta. It is only tiny amounts though – to put things in perspective, one slice of wholemeal bread contains 15g carbs!

Weight Maintenance

The fourth and final phase, Lifetime Maintenance, aims to help you maintain your weight. But for most people, this still means limiting carbs to less than 90g a day. The result: you effectively follow a low-carb diet for life.

Reducing Fat?

So with little, if any, change when it comes to your intake of carbs, you’d perhaps expect there to be more emphasis on reducing fat. This new plan certainly provides more information than the original diet about fat and explains the difference between saturates, monounsaturates and polyunsaturates. Plus, it rightly points out that trans fats (predominantly found in processed foods) are potentially the most harmful to health.

It also recommends more foods that contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats such as avocados, salmon and olive oil.

Still No Fat Limit

But ultimately, there is no limit given to the amount of fat you can eat. As well as continuing to recommend large amounts of meat, every day you are allowed to eat 85g to 115g of cheese, oils and butter in unlimited amounts, 2-3tbsp of cream and 2tbsp sour cream. It’s also made clear that there’s no need to remove the fat from meat or the skin from chicken.

Bottom Line

The Atkins Advantage diet is still high in fat and saturates and so continues to conflict with conventional advice to reduce intakes of these nutrients as recommended by most health experts and organisations in the UK.

Furthermore, milk and yogurt continue to feature little in the new diet, predominantly because they contain carbs. This means many people will struggle to meet their daily requirement for calcium. Fibre intakes will also be low as fruit, veg and wholegrains continue to be severely limited, especially in the early stages of the plan. No surprises then that the new version of this diet recommends taking three daily supplements – a multivitamin, a fibre supplement and a supplement of essential fatty acids.

Is Atkins Advantage Actually Different?

So just what is different about the All-New Atkins Advantage Diet? To be fair there are only a few differences.

  • Firstly, whereas no time limit was given to the original Atkins diet, this updated programme is promoted as a 12-week plan. However, it is also made clear in the book that you can actually follow the new programme for as long as you need to shift those pounds.
  • It’s also recommended that you see you doctor before beginning the plan and have blood tests taken at the start and also at eight to 12 weeks to check cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • But perhaps the biggest difference is the much greater emphasis placed on exercise. An activity programme is given for each of the 12 weeks, starting off with stretching exercises in week 1 building up to cardiovascular workouts and strength training by week 12.

Juliette’s Verdict . . .

It’s great to see that exercise is included as an integral part of the plan but ultimately, there’s very little difference between this diet and the original. This means all the same problems exist.

The early stages of this diet will see exactly the same unpleasant side effects as the original Atkins diet including bad breath, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation. Meanwhile, the All-New Atkins Advantage Diet remains high in saturates, low in fruit, veg and wholegrains, low in fibre and short in some nutrients including calcium – and unfortunately, if followed in the long term, all of these may result in health problems.

Research Into Higher Protein Diets

The benefits of higher protein intakes for weight loss are now well documented. Research shows that protein has a satiating effect – in other words, it helps to keep us fuller for longer. This means eating more protein is certainly a good idea if we want to lose weight.

But increasingly, research shows that the hunger-beating benefits of protein are greatest when they are combined with good intakes of fibre – something this diet doesn’t do.

Juliette Recommends

For good health, I still wouldn’t recommend a diet that fails to encourage a reduction in fat and saturates whilst at the same time limits fruit, veg and wholegrains. Ultimately, the All-New Atkins Advantage Diet remains a long way from the balanced, nutritious diet that health experts continue to recommend. A thumbs up for the introduction of exercise, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Typical day’s diet during Induction

Breakfast

85g browned ground turkey with 2 scrambled eggs, seasoned with salt, red pepper flakes and hot pepper sauce.

Snack

25g Swiss cheese

Lunch

Chicken and mushroom soup made from 225g poached chicken and ½ cup sliced mushrooms simmered in 1 cup of chicken broth. Plus 2 cups of endive with 5 black olives and 2tbsp vinaigrette.

Dinner

225g roasted pork tenderloin with 3 cups romaine lettuce, 25g blue cheese, 2tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and 2tbsp vinaigrette.

Snack

1 stick of celery with 2tbsp nut butter.

Nutrition information

  • 1905 calories
  • 116g fat (of which 33g saturates)
  • 204g protein
  • 11g carbohydrates
  • 7g fibre

Typical day’s diet during Ongoing Weight Loss (25g carbs)

Breakfast

2 poached eggs with 1 small tomato and 2tbsp Hollandaise sauce

Lunch

2 thin slices of ham, turkey and roast beef, 1 hard boiled egg, 25g Cheddar, 1 slice of bacon and 3 cups of mixed greens with 2tbsp vinaigrette.

Snack

½ avocado

Dinner

225g grilled salmon fillet with ½ cup pea pods, ½ cup sautéed Chinese cabbage drizzled with sesame oil and 2 cups mixed greens with 2tbsp vinaigrette. Plus 25g walnuts with 175g reduced-carb vanilla yogurt

Nutrition information

  • 2065 calories
  • 157g fat (of which 45g saturates)
  • 140g protein
  • 23g carbohydrates
  • 8g fibre

What should I have every day?

For weight maintenance

  • 2000 calories
  • 70g fat (of which 20g saturates)
  • 45g protein
  • 230g carbohydrates
  • 18g fibre

For weight loss

  • 1500 calories (approx)
  • 50g fat (of which 15g saturates)
  • 45g protein
  • 185g carbohydrates
  • 18g fibre

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