Selecting the Right Carbohydrates

As you move through the four phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, the trick is to increase your intake of carbohydrates that are unprocessed and full of nutrients.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Atkins approach is that it cuts out all carbohydrates. On the contrary, Atkins emphasizes the consumption of "good" carbs and discourages eating those that are refined and empty of nutrients. Moreover, as you move from one phase of Atkins to another, you gradually increase your intake of carbs until you find your threshold for carb consumption.

So when we speak negatively about carbohydrates, we're not talking about a spear of broccoli or a bunch of spinach. They're magnificent foods. Instead, we're referring to the unhealthy carbs—those lurking in the sugar bowl and the bin of white flour, along with milk, white rice and processed and refined foods of all kinds. Also in this category are concentrates, such as fruit juices.

During the weight-loss phase of Atkins, even your intake of potentially healthy carbohydrates such as fruits and whole grains must be controlled. But once you've bid adieu to some of your extra pounds, you can return to fruits and, later, some starches—as long as they won't upset your metabolism and reactivate the cravings that result in weight gain.

On all four phases of Atkins, you select from an increasingly liberal array of foods that are sources of healthy carbohydrates. Your overall intake of them also gradually increases. Once you've reached your goal weight, you can eat larger helpings of healthy carbohydrate foods, as long as you stay below your Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE), the level of carbohydrates you can eat without gaining weight. It's worth mentioning that each person has an individual threshold depending upon age, level of physical activity and other factors.

However, the refined and processed foods mentioned above simply aren't good for you—ever. Nor are certain cooking methods, such as deep-frying. As you increase the percentage of carbohydrates while advancing through the different phases of Atkins, the percentage and actual amount of fat and protein you consume will diminish. Here are a few carb foods you should be avoiding and others you can replace them with:

Instead of ...
have ...because ...
Milkcream, or cream mixed with watercream has more fat and less carbs than milk.
Breakfast cerealeggscereal is usually made of refined grains and is packed with sugar; served with milk, it packs a real high-carb whammy.
Orange juiceblueberries or other berrieswhen fruit is juiced it loses the fiber, which slows down the impact of its sugar on your metabolism.
A burger with a rollburger without the rolla roll made with white flour will raise blood sugar. The meat itself is nutrient-dense, provides protein and is satiating.
Pastasautéed spinachpasta is usually made of white flour. During Induction, a vegetable side dish does not raise carb intake greatly. In later phases, substitute controlled carb pasta.
Regular sodawater or club sodaall regular soft drinks are extremely high in sugar. The best choice is water or club soda; second best is a drink sweetened with Splenda™.
Chips or crackersnutschips and crackers are made with white flour, often with sugar and usually with hydrogenated oil. Get the sensation of crunch from nutritious nuts instead.
Salsaguacamoleguacamole is the perfect party fare for Atkins followers.
Mashed potatomashed cauliflowermashed potato will raise your blood sugar; mashed cauliflower has a similar consistency with far fewer carbohydrates.
Fried chickenbroiled chickenThe problem isn't the chicken; it's the flour and hydrogenated fat in which it is fried. Grill, broil, roast or bake instead.
Meat loafpork chopsmeatloaf is usually full of white bread crumbs or other fillers. Stick with cuts of meat that have no "hidden" carbs.