The Program: Ways to Customize Atkins, Your Diet Plan
Atkins with a Latin Beat
As the number of Latinos in the United States continues to grow, so, unfortunately do their rates of obesity and diabetes, making them one of the most at-risk populations in the nation. If you’re of Hispanic heritage and are overweight or have a family history of obesity or diabetes, you should seriously consider doing Atkins, which has been shown to reduce risk factors for type 2 diabetes and even reverse its progression.
Although traditional diets include lots of corn, rice and beans, most Latinos didn’t suffer from metabolic disorders in disproportionate numbers until they migrated to this country or started eating the typical American diet full of refined grains, sugar and other processed foods. Fortunately, you can honor your Hispanic culinary traditions and still do Atkins. (We understand that from Peru to Puerto Rico, and from Mexico to Cuba, each cuisine is different, so our recommendations are general in nature.)
Phase 1, Induction
- Start in this phase, regardless of the amount of weight you need to lose, adhering to the list of acceptable foods.
- Focus on eating simply prepared protein dishes flavored with traditional seasonings minus high-carb sauces.
- Like anyone in Induction, be sure to avoid unacceptable Phase 1 foods, which includes any legumes, starchy vegetables, anything made with flour or other grains and fruit.
Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss
- Follow the general guidelines on acceptable foods for OWL and read about transitioning to OWL (OWL).
- Continue to focus on eating simply prepared protein dishes.
- Introduce new foods following the Carb Ladder, preferably adding legumes (beans) only after you’ve reintroduced nuts and seeds, berries and additional dairy products.
- If you feel you must have legumes earlier, try adding one type of bean at a time—and always in moderation—as a garnish (2 tablespoons cooked). Stop eating them if they arouse cravings or slow your weight loss.
- You may try to introduce low-carb tortillas (or make your own, using Atkins All Purpose Bake Mix), but back off if they cause cravings or you can’t stop at two.
- If beans or low-carb tortillas turn out to be trigger foods and you can’t stop with a small portion, cease and desist.
- Hold off on grains (including corn and rice) and starchy vegetables until you reach Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance.
Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance
- Follow the list of acceptable foods for Pre-Maintenance, introducing fruits other than berries, starchy vegetables and whole grains, following the Carb Ladder.
- Continue to season protein dishes with traditional seasonings, but avoid carb-laden sauces.
- Continue to focus on foundation vegetables such as garlic, sweet and chili peppers, chayote, jicama, nopales, tomatillos, pumpkin, cauliflower and white turnips—along with that delicious fat: avocado.
- Reintroduce such starchy vegetables and tubers as calabaza, yuca (cassava root or manioc), potatoes, taro, arracache, yams (ñame), yautia and plantains in small amounts and one by one. Have them rarely, and be on the alert for signals that you cannot tolerate the carb load. Gram for gram, they’re among the highest-carbohydrate foods.
- Use brown rice instead of white rice, and keep serving sizes small. Do the same with corn (maize).
- Use legumes that are relatively low in carbs, such as black soybeans, pinto beans and red kidney beans.
- Treat all fruits, but particularly bananas, plantains, cherimoya and mangos, as garnishes, rather than major components of a meal.
- Continue to eat low-carb or corn (maize) tortillas in moderation. (A conventional 6-inch corn tortilla contains about 11 grams of Net Carbs compared to 3 or 4 grams for a low-carb one; a low-carb 6-inch tortilla is comparable in carb count, in contrast to the roughly 15 grams of Net Carbs in a conventional flour tortilla.)
- Avoid white flour and other refined grains.
Be Realistic About Lifetime Maintenance
Your long-term objective is to honor your culinary heritage without falling back into the same eating patterns that got you into trouble in the first place. This juggling act will inevitably involve some compromises. In the context of the American junk-food culture, the combination of starchy vegetables, beans, grains and tropical fruits, all key components of Hispanic cuisines, has likely led to weight gain and other metabolic danger signals in the past. So think of these foods as side dishes, rather than the mainstays of a meal. You may find that over time you can tolerate larger portions as long as you steer clear of refined grains and most processed foods. Nonetheless, it’s unlikely that the high-carb quartet of beans, whole grains, starchy vegetables and tropical fruits will ever again become the mainstay of your diet even when you reach Phase 4, Lifetime Maintenance.