With spring's warmer weather, it's time to pack away those winter clothes, but you may also discover that you packed on a few extra pounds that you had been able to hide under sweaters and jeans. Not to worry! Spring is also a time of new beginnings—it's an opportunity to fine-tune your low-carb eating habits so you can start dropping that winter weight. No matter what phase of Atkins you're on (or if you're following Atkins 20™ or Atkins 40™), here are some tips that can help:
Don't go to extremes. Cutting carbs and calories drastically in the hope of super fast weight loss will only set you up for failure. Think of Atkins as a lifestyle, not a quick fix. Focus on optimal protein intake, high fiber food choices and healthy fats. If necessary, you can move to an earlier phase of Atkins or cut your Net Carbs by 10 grams to jumpstart your spring slim-down.
Increase your activity level. Spring's longer days give you plenty of opportunity to add more exercise to your routine. Biking, hiking, walking and jogging will get your heart pumping.
Make the most of your veggies. Add variety to your meals with spring vegetables that are now in season—artichokes, asparagus, broccoli and spinach will brighten up any meal.
Stock up on super foods. Many are naturally low in carbs, full of antioxidants, and provide a wide variety of health benefits beyond just weight loss. Here is your super food shopping list:
• Salmon or sardines: Full of satiating protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is low on the food chain and thus less apt to contain heavy metals than their larger kin. If you get it canned, if it's packed in olive oil, it's tastier than the water-packed kind. The protein and fat work together to fill you up and minimize blood sugar swings.
• Extra-virgin olive oil: Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which lower LDL (“bad") cholesterol, raise HDL (“good") cholesterol and, according to research published in Diabetes Care in 2007, help shrink belly fat—the kind linked to heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Extra-virgin oil is made from the first pressing of the olives. Look for cold-pressed oil—it hasn't been subjected to nutrient-destroying heat.
• Avocados: This fruit that acts like a vegetable is another source of tummy-reducing, heart-friendly MUFAs, as well as oleic acid—shown to lower cholesterol—folate and vitamin E. Select blackish-green, pebbly-skin Haas avocadoes, which are higher in fat and lower in carbs than the smooth, bright green Florida ones. Have half an avocado as a snack, add chunks to a tossed salad or take a few minutes to make guacamole.
• Almonds: Almonds (and most other nuts) combine protein, healthy fats and fiber—a perfect recipe for satiety, so you're less apt to experience cravings. Eating almonds has also been shown to lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease. According to a 2003 study in the International Journal of Obesity, overweight people who ate almonds lost more weight than those consuming the same number of calories but no nuts (and therefore less fat). Aim for up to two 1-ounce snacks a day.
• Blueberries: Another member of the belly-banishing club is the blueberry—even as part of a high-fat diet—according to a study on rats at the University of Michigan. Researchers say more research is required to confirm these results in humans, but a related study on men with heart disease who drank blueberry juice for two weeks showed improvements in their glucose and insulin levels. Blueberries have long been known as a superior source of antioxidants.
• Broccoli: This member of the cabbage family—known as crucifers, they contain micronutrients that squelch cancer-causing agents—has lots more going for it. Packed with fiber, broccoli is filling, which naturally helps with weight control—and low in carbs and calories. It's full of vitamins C and A, calcium, potassium and folic acid. Enjoy it raw or cooked.
• Red bell peppers: The sweet red bell pepper leaves its unripe green brothers in the dust. A red pepper contains eight times as much vitamin A, almost three times as much vitamin C and almost four times as many carotenoids— including lycopene—which helps prevent prostate cancer— as a green one. Hot and sweet peppers alike contain substances that increase your body's heat production after consumption, meaning you burn extra calories.
• Seeds: Chia seeds expand up to 12 times their size in your stomach to help you feel full. Flax seed meal, which has 2 grams of fiber per tablespoon, fills you up at only 37 calories
For more tips on slimming down for spring, check out this article about spring-cleaning your pantry and kitchen.