Friday, July 20, 2007

Rule Four: Starches, Sweets: No Longer Staples

Rule 4:
  • Eat absolutely no fruit, bread, pasta, grains, starchy vegetables or dairy products other than cheese, cream or butter. Do not eat nuts or seeds in the first two weeks. Foods that combine protein and carbohydrates, such as chickpeas, kidney beans and other legumes, are not permitted at this time.
For many the thought of not having a piece of bread, a side of pasta or rice, a bowl of cereal, etc. seems way too restrictive. With the low-carb products on the market, like low-carb bread, low-carb pasta, this rule seems silly - one that can be dismissed as long as they maintain rule 3 and keep carbohydrate at or below 20g net each day.

From this rule, we learn by implication - all carbohydrates are not created equal, and thus are not to be treated in a similar manner as you continue along to the long-term and maintain your weight. In baby steps, you'll be given opportunity to re-introduce many, many carbohydrate-rich foods, but for now, you're at square one and starting to learn how to eat well.

It is in this minimum two weeks period you eat those foods which are nutrient powerhouses - meats, poultry, eggs, fish, non-starchy vegetables, non-traditional fruits, good fats/oils and some dairy.

While critics focus on the limitations imposed on low-carbers - no sweets or starches in the first two weeks - often insinuating this is all one is allowed for the long-term, that's not the case.

This is a two-week period to "eat clean" from a limited selection of foods, designed to break you from the habits of old, establish good eating patterns, get back to basics that provide essential nutrients and lay the foundation of what your base diet will be later, when you are allowed to include more carbohydrate from a wide variety of foods.

By excluding bread, pasta, grains, starchy vegetables, most dairy products, nuts, seeds and legumes, this rule takes the focus off what many people consider highlights of their meals - starch; it resets emphasis on those things - protein, fat, nutrient-dense non-starchy vegetables and low-GL fruits - that in the long-term that will now be the foundation of your meal-planning well into maintenance.

Once you have a firm grip on this basic rule, and are eating in a pattern that no longer requires some sort of bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc. as a staple of your meals, you're on your way to understanding how these items may be re-introduced later as a complement in your habitual diet if you choose to include one or more of them.

Where before a meal may have been centered around your big bowl of pasta with maybe a small meatball or sausage, a crusty loaf of italian bread and perhaps croutons on your salad, over the long-term, as you mainatin your weight, your meals - if you learn from the rules of induction - are bulit upong your solid foundation of healthful eating - non-starchy vegeteables, quality protein, good fats and, by then, any additional foods you like and can tolerate well as a complement to your meal instead of the focus of the meal.

This rule fosters breaking the mindset that you need carbohydrate-rich foods to provide the majority of calories in each meal and at the end of each day - you don't - and by following this rule and waiting until the time is right to increase carbohydrate, you will be better able to assess what carbs you can and cannot tolerate in your meals as you progress - you'll better appreciate also how to portion your meals with these items "on your plate" in later in maintenance.

These foods, we often believe are staples will no longer be the main attractions in your meals when you're maintaining, but can still be a part of your diet in the long-term.

Trust the good doctor on this one and just don't eat anything that resembles bread, pasta, grains, etc. - no matter how low-carb they're promoted as.

During the first two weeks (minimum) avoid any and all processed products if you can.

Eat clean.

Keep it simple.


Appreciate how good real food tastes.

Take your time.

Plan along the way.

Try new foods that are allowed.

Focus on the delicious food that is allowed.

Enjoy your meals!

Enjoy eating!

It's worth it in the long-term!


  1. Sorry to comment on each rule, Regina, but why couldn't you have helped them to write Atkins for Life? I kept wondering, why do they want me to eat carbs? I just broke free of them! Now, I understand. Carbs are not the staple, the staff of life! They wrote that whole book and were not able to say it nearly as well as you just did! Great post!

  2. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Hey, not all low carb plans have "induction." I get your main point to quit relying on all those starches though. But Protein Power is one that doesn't require you to go through the "flu" to do it - in effect throwing your car in reverse while barreling down the highway, metabolically speaking.

  3. Comment away Charles!

    I really appreciate the input - and am really enjoying writing this one again (old copy is for reference right now) - I'm amazed at how much more I have to say now than I did years ago on this all!

  4. Hey, not all low carb plans have "induction." I get your main point to quit relying on all those starches though. But Protein Power is one that doesn't require you to go through the "flu" to do it - in effect throwing your car in reverse while barreling down the highway, metabolically speaking.

    Absolutely true! I used Atkins to lose weight and have previously written about the "pearls" within the rules, hence my using them again! Maybe we can/should ask Dr. Eades to do something similar about Protein Power? I for one would love that!

  5. Thanks, Regina. You may have to consider commiting this to book form one day. So many people "do" our beloved Atkins just for weight loss, never stopping to realize that all of these "rules" are teachers for the blessed day when weight loss stops. What good is weight loss when one doesn't reverse the destructive behavior that led to obesity in the first place? Looking forward to number 4. Have a great weekend!

  6. But, but, but, beans are good carbs! Everyone knows that. Just ask all the medical associations with lots of initials.

    They wouldn't mislead us would they?

  7. Anonymous11:12 AM

    Regina, I am on a low carb eating plan similar to Atkins.

    I can't thank you enough for these rules of healthy eating. I have cut and pasted them into a word document (with your name to give due credit), to help me along my path.

    Thanks again for such an incredible website and having the good sense not to trivialize Atkins by making it low calorie and even worse low fat.

    Thank you, thank you!

  8. Anonymous12:40 PM

    This series reminds me a bit of Jonny Bowden's "Living the Low Carb Life" - a great book that helped us navigate the various plans...only your series here is better!

    I really do hope you write a book about this Regina. It would certainly go a long way towards countering the old 'all bacon, all butter all the time' idea that seems so persistent.

    Had a funny conversation with my doctor yesterday - she wanted to know what I was eating, so I said, "Vegetables, turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, garlic, oils" which she replied, "Oh, like a Mediterranean diet". I then said, "No, I'm following the Dr. Atkins plan".

    There was a silence there for a few seconds, and then, "Oh, well keep that up".

    Anyway - thanks again for this great series you're writing. You're helping me (and I'm sure many others) learn how to do this thing as well as I can. You're making a big difference here. My weight loss is happening again(finally) - and that's because I've been paying attention to what you're saying.

    Thank you!