Atkins 20®, Phase 4: How to Maintain a Healthy Diet & Weight
You did it! You’ve reached your weight loss goal and are finally in Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance. This is not so much a phase as it is a continuing healthy lifestyle. In general, the foods you eat in this phase are the same ones you’ve already been eating, but there are some foods you unsuccessfully tried to reintroduce earlier that you can now handle. You can experiment with these foods at any time as long as you remain near your goal weight.
Many struggle with the question of how to keep the weight off after a low carb diet. Luckily, moving through the phases of Atkins 20® has prepared you to do just that!
See details below on how to maintain a healthy weight in Atkins Phase 4.
Phase 4 is ongoing. Keeping the weight off after you’ve achieved your goal can be tricky, but this phase will help you learn how to turn your low carb diet into a low carb lifestyle.
The purpose of Atkins Phase 4 is to transition to a permanent way of eating, so you should continue adding ingredients like full-fat yogurt, fruits, and whole grains to your diet. Finding more foods you enjoy will make it easy to maintain a healthy weight without getting bored in your eating routine.
The goal of this phase is to equip you with the knowledge to stay in control of your weight. While this could mean continuing your Phase 3 lifestyle, it might also include adjusting your carb intake if your tolerance changes or you regain a few pounds.
PHASE FOUR: LIVING A LOW CARB LIFESTYLE | ATKINS LIFESTYLE
If you can accept that Phase 4 is a lifestyle and act accordingly, most likely you will never have to “diet” again. Does that mean you won’t ever regain a few pounds? Of course not. But now you possess the tools and skills to turn around any situation. Here’s why:
- You’ve transitioned from phase to phase, gradually increasing your carb intake, as you worked toward a permanent way of eating.
- By reintroducing foods one by one, you know which, if any, could spell trouble for you.
- You now know which foods you can do without and which you can love but must eat in moderation.
- You’ve learned how to be alert to signals of cravings or undue hunger and how to respond before you lose control.
- You’ve discovered how to substitute certain low-carb foods for high-carb ones, treat other foods as garnishes, and more.
- More important, you’ve come to trust the Atkins program and experience the pleasure of feeling good, both physically and emotionally.
PHASE FOUR TIPS FOR A LOW CARB DIET
You’ve reached your goal weight but maintaining weight loss can be a challenge for anyone. Read the low carb lifestyle tips below to help you stay on track.
Maybe you over-indulged a little on vacation or an injury prevented you from exercising. Not to worry. Cut roughly 10 grams of Net Carbs a day from your intake until you return to your goal weight. Give or take a couple grams, here are some options you can eliminate:
- ½ banana
- 1 cup watermelon balls
- ½ large grapefruit
- 2 carrots
- ½ baked potato
- ¾ cup beets
- ½ small sweet potato
- ½ cup cooked oatmeal
- ¼ cup brown rice
- 1 slice whole-grain bread
- Scant ½ cup lentils
- ¾ cup shelled edamame
- 1/3 cup chickpeas
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
To make entertaining easy, focus on dishes that you can make ahead and that are self-serve and require minimal utensils.
Prepare these easy low-carb dishes and your party will be a hit!
- Cheese and meat platters
- Veggie trays (low carb dip recipe)
- Antipasto trays (olives, peppers, marinated artichokes hearts and mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes)
- Relish trays
- Shrimp cocktail
- Deviled eggs
- Before you leave for the restaurant, read through the restaurant’s menu online. Deciding what to order before you sit down allows you to make a healthy, informed choice and can help you avoid making a last minute unhealthy decision.
- Eating a light snack before you go out to eat can help prevent you from overeating at the restaurant. Choose something that’s healthy and filling but that won’t ruin your appetite, such as veggies and guacamole or a few turkey or ham roll ups .
- Many restaurants offer complimentary bread or baskets of tortilla chips to start off the meal. If you have a hard time resisting the temptation of the break basket, politely tell the server that you don’t need the basket or ask if it would be possible for them to take it away earlier than usual. If bread or chips come with salsa, hummus or guacamole, ask if you can substitute sliced veggies instead.
- When an entrée comes with fries, pasta salad or other high carb sides, substitute low carb or veggies like asparagus or broccoli. Most of the time, restaurants will be more than happy to accommodate your request.
- Be mindful of your salad ingredients; don’t order salads that come in a shell (like a taco salad) and go easy on add-ins like croutons and tortilla strips. Additionally, be sure any meat you get with your salad is grilled, not breaded. If you are in the beginning phases of your low carb diet also avoid fruits higher in carbs like grapes and mango.
- Ditching the bread or bun when you order a sandwich can save you a lot of carbs. Oftentimes, a sandwich can be made into a salad or lettuce wrap; just ask. Otherwise, limit yourself to the sandwich filling, or take off one slice for an open-faced option if you are in the later phases of Atkins.
- Ordering breakfast? Avoid waffles, pancakes and French toast (even oatmeal) and order a low-carb omelet or scramble. Ask for a side of fresh fruit (berries or half a grapefruit are good low carb options) instead of hash browns or breakfast potatoes.
- At Italian restaurants, skip the pasta and pizza sections on the menu and head straight for the protein-based entrées. Choose a chicken, fish or beef dish instead of one that features pasta for a hearty but lower carb meal.
- Pack snacks in small containers or zip-top bags so you can track your intake of Net Carbs. Use a cooler with an ice pack, if needed, and include veggies with salad dressing; ham or turkey rollups; Greek yogurt with berries; nuts; olives; smoked salmon rolls; cheese; hard-boiled eggs and Atkins bars and shakes.
- Check if you will have access to refrigerator during your stay and stock up on the snacks listed above.
- If you know the restaurants where you’ll be dining, check out the menu in advance to pre-select your low-carb options. Having a plan before you go out to eat makes it easier resist any high-carb temptations.
- Try and stick with eating schedule. For example, if you eat five small meals per day at specific times, follow the same schedule even when you’re on the road.
- Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in a dish—either at a restaurant or someone’s house.
- Eat a snack or small meal before you go out to reduce your appetite.
- Eat only until satisfied, but not stuffed.
- Drink alcohol in moderation if you are beyond the early phase of Atkins, and watch out for drinks containing sugar or fruit juice.
- If your host pressures you to try something like cake or pie, say you’re full. Or politely take one bite, and say you’re full.
- If attending an event at someone’s house, offer to bring a low-carb option.
- If you are staying with family or friends for the holidays, talk to them in advance about their plans for meals, and offer to make some of your favorite low-carb recipes to contribute to the festivities.
- Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle with you and refill it frequently.
- Stay active. Walk instead of taking a cab. Check out your hotel gym or pull on your running shoes and go for a jog or walk outside. You can pack portable elastic bands in your suitcase for a quick do-anywhere resistance workout, or bring along a workout DVD. Staying with family or friends? Offer to walk their dog if they have one, enlist everyone to go on a walk after dinner or look into guest passes at local gyms.
PHASE FOUR: CONTROLLING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Maintaining your ideal weight doesn’t happen by itself. Living healthy should always be top of mind but it’s helpful to keep a checklist handy to remind yourself of how far you’ve come and why it’s so important. Reference the list below to remain in control of your hard-won new weight.
- Stay at your carb tolerance level, the number of daily grams of Net Carbs you can consume while maintaining your weight. This is the threshold you discovered when you maintained your weight for a month in Phase 3 (Fine-Tuning).
- Continue to have a minimum of 12–15 grams of Net Carbs in the form of foundation vegetables.
- Continue to have 4–6 ounces of (cooked) protein at each meal.
- Aim for no more than two servings of fruit a day.
- Continue to see fat as your friend and integral to weight management.
- Combine carbohydrate foods with fat and/or protein to moderate your blood sugar response.
- Continue to drink plenty of water and other noncaloric beverages.
- Adjust your carb intake if you become less (or more) active.
- Distinguish between hunger and habit.
- Continue to weigh and measure yourself once a week.
- Never let yourself gain more than 5 pounds (unless you become pregnant) without taking immediate action.
- Add new foods one at a time to gauge their impact on cravings and appetite.
- Engage in regular physical activity.
- Portion out ahead of time any foods, such as nuts or cheese, that you might be tempted to overeat.
- Keep reading labels, especially on any new foods.
- Stay alert to the possibility of carb creep.
- Plan ahead if you decide to take an occasional departure from your low-carb lifestyle.
LIST OF LOW CARB FOODS FOR ATKINS 20®, PHASE 4
By now you’ve learned to eat foods that boost metabolism. Phase 4 on Atkins is not so much a phase as a low carb lifestyle. This phase is designed to make the transition from Phase 3 to [the so-called] Phase 4 practically seamless, so you should have no fears about moving on once your goal weight is stable.
The Acceptable Foods for Phase 3 are the same as those for Phase 4. Of course, you may not have reintroduced all the foods you’ll try in the months and years to come, but as long as you’re alert to the potential of any individual food to cause weight regain, cravings, unreasonable hunger or any of the other symptoms of carb intolerance, you know what to do. As long as you comply with the program and stick to your ACE—which may require some modifications as you get older or make some lifestyle changes—you’ll be able to maintain your healthy new weight and say goodbye to on-again, off-again diets once and for all.
Use the list of low carb foods below to guide you through Phase 4. Be sure to pay attention to serving size to guarantee you are not exceeding the net carb limit per day. Browse through our 1,600+ low carb recipes for meal ideas to make using these ingredients.
New Serving Size
Acorn squash (cubed/mashed)
Sweet potato, baked
New Serving Size
Coconut, fresh, shredded
Pineapple, fresh, chunks
New Serving Size
Wheat bran (raw)
Oat bran (raw)
Whole wheat bread
Oatmeal (dry, steel cut)
Whole wheat pasta (cooked)
Oatmeal (dry, rolled)
Rice (brown, cooked)
* Be sure to check manufacturer’s food labels for most current NC count. Individual brands may vary.
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