This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. The opinions and text are all mine (and not that of a licensed professional).
Do you guys remember when I spent a few weeks in Europe last summer?
Or more accurately, when I spent a few weeks eating my way through Europe last summer?
That trip was everything and more on so many levels, and that’s in large part because I didn’t deprive or guilt myself out of any experience — especially on the food front.
My little Eat, Pray, Carb-load set me back a lot in terms of clothes-that-still-fit… But it was so worth it.
I’m not kidding. I had either pizza or pasta (and wine — and bread) for dinner every single night during my time in Italy.
… We’ll get to that, though — I’ll be resuming all my travel content/posts in a week or two. I decided to hold off in December because of the holidays, but exciting stuff to come!
In the meantime, here’s two posts to read now or pin for later: (1) The top 10 things I did traveling Europe for six weeks and (2) How to plan your next (or first) international trip.
My “diet” has never even come close to perfect, but that’s actually how I prefer it.
Just before the holidays, Atkins reached out and asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing their latest book, “Atkins: Eat Right, Not Less.”
Sounds like a cookbook, right?
Nope. It’s not — or not entirely, since it does feature easy-to-replicate recipes. And considering I’m not really a great cook, I can accurately say that the book actually actually has a little something for everyone.
Admittedly, I used to think of Atkins as a four- letter word — diet — so I wasn’t initially sold on the ‘ol book review since diets don’t work for me. Never have.
I know all about Atkins and the science behind their low-carb programs (as I’m sure you do), but I’ve never actually tried to pursue a low-carb lifestyle. Or what’s even worse: I didn’t realize just how many carbs I was eating on a daily basis.
(Hint: A FREAKIN’ LOT)
Damn. Okay, I’m in.
In the name of research and resolutions, let’s see what I can learn (and share).
*Just in case you haven’t heard of Atkins, it’s a science-based nutritional lifestyle that focuses on low sugar and carb consumption (with optimal protein and good fats), which I’m going to break down below. (Low, not “no” — yay!)
Allegedly, it’s what Kim K. did to lose all that baby weight she gained during her second pregnancy. The team informed me that she used to do it during her college years with her dad, too!
… Say what you want, but the girl looks good.
I read their book — “Atkins: Eat Right, Not Less” — in full over Christmas break. Like, highlighter-in-hand style. I’ve even (successfully) recreated some of their tasty low-carb recipes since.
Here’s what I thought…
Review: My Honest Opinion
I will tell you up-front, I didn’t agree to read through Atkins’ newest book because I don’t want to eat carbs… I do. Especially on days when I teach or work out, I need them.
I wasn’t hoping it would launch me into some sort of “New Year, New Me, No Carbs!” mindset either.
That initial realization of not being more familiar and mindful of what I was putting in my body was the inspiration. We could all stand to be a little better to ourselves, yeah?
As for the outcome, I’m really glad I read it — and I’m not just saying that because this is a sponsor post.
I’ll explain why — along with eight good-to-know facts I from the book — but I can honestly say that educating myself on the benefits of being (even slightly more) carb-conscious actually made me want make a habit of it as well.
And best of all — like I actually could, too.
Summary: What’s it about?
“Atkins: Eat Right, Not Less” is an educational, illustrative guidebook for anyone who wants to better understand the many benefits of living a low-carb and low-sugar lifestyle.
It’s written by Colette Heimowitz, a nutritionist who has 25-plus years of experience helping people with nutritional issues. (She’s also the brand’s VP of Nutrition and Education.)
The book itself is beautiful to flip through — lots of full-page, mouth-watering illustrations. It’s broken down in two sections — “Eat Right, Not Less” and “Let’s Get Cooking,” the latter of which features 100 healthy, whole food recipes.
… Recipes that are so easy to follow that the Non-Kitchen Queens among us can even make them. (Me!) Meals like cinnamon waffles, hearty buddha bowls, egg-and-avocado concoctions and almond butter smoothie bowls — just to name a few.
The appendix also makes it really easy to search by recipe, ingredient and so on.
You can learn more about “Atkins: Eat Right, Not Less” here, including where you can pick up a copy for yourself.
… Now, onto the good stuff!
Book Review: 8 Things I Learned
1. You’re eating more carbs than you realize.
I’m going to risk sounding ignorant in admitting this, but did you know there’s carbohydrates in pretty much everything? Apples? Garlic? … Even carrots and kale?
I did not — or I suppose I’ve never paid much attention to it.
Atkins’ suggests getting much of your daily carbohydrate intake from vegetables — and of course, carrots and kale are better than most other snack alternatives.
Mortified by this, I started food journaling a bit, scanning food levels to tally and track what I was eating. Some days, my carb intake was well over 250 g — even on days I wasn’t working out!
I read that the average American adult consumes around 300g a day, too — or well above their suggested daily intake (based on lifestyle, natch).
If you’re in the same boat (and are interested in making small changes in your lifestyle in order to be healthier), I’d suggest following my lead: Keep a food journal and learn how to read food labels, first-and-foremost.
I know, sounds tedious. But once you get into it, it’s kiiiinda weirdly and obsessively fun. (Anyone with me on this?)
2. Sugar often plays charades.
Sugar is often disguised as some other ingredient on food labels, so it’s important to know how to identify different types of it. Look for words like maltrose, dextrose, corn syrup and so on.
The book educates you on carbs that contain “hidden sugars” – carbs and foods we may think are healthy (or “fat free”) that actually turn into “bad” sugar when digested.
What happens next? Your body scrambles to convert sugar to energy and “put it away” during digestion. Or “queue it up,” that make sense?
Essentially, our bods’ can only absorb sugar and convert it to energy when it’s broken down into Glucose (good sugar) and relatively simple sugars — it’s the reined stuff — the “hidden sugars” — that you need to watch out for first-and-foremost.
I apologize in advance for this next part, okay?
Did you know a store-bought bagel has the same impact on your blood sugar as if you gulped eight teaspoons of granulated sugar?
I do now — and I’m honestly still recovering.
Thank the lawd I didn’t know this in my New York days… (Or maybe that would have been a good thing.) I miss my Bodega guy…
3. You’ve got options — and “no carbs” isn’t one of them. (Yay!)
“On” Atkins, there’s lots of resources and recipes to ensure you’re meeting your goals, getting nutrients and feeling satisfied — from meat and veggies to pasta and potatoes (yes, really!).
I say “on” – but you’re not actually on a program – it’s more about learning to eat to better-fuel your body (and lifestyle). Atkins allows for a flexible, fits-for-you approach to lowering your carb and sugar intake. That’s all. It’s not about following a program explicitly —it’s about becoming more carb-conscious.
Personally, I don’t care for “programs.” My schedule is too unpredictable for me to stick to a program explicitly (and I just know myself and my eating habits), and this book is helpful as a general reference/guide. In particular, the grocery shopping lists are really helpful.
About Atkins’ more modernized eating approaches:
The initial phase is called Induction, or Atkins 20 — meaning you’re aiming to consume 20 grams of net carbs (Total Carbohydrates – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols/Glycerin (if applicable)) each day. There’s also Atkins 40 and Atkins 100 for those wanting a less restrictive plan. You can compare each plan via their website.
(FYI: It is suggested that those wanting to lower their carbohydrate consumption for weight loss should start with Atkins 20 if the desired result is 40+ pounds; or with Atkins 40 if less than 40, respectively.)
Note: I know that there are many other factors to consider when it comes to nutrition; but for the sake of accurately reviewing Atkins’ new book, I’m keeping this post as it relates to carbohydrates and sugar.
4. Small changes really do make a big difference..
Once you get in the habit of treating carb consumption as it works with your lifestyle, you’ll know how your favorite foods, snacks, meals better fit into your days and weeks.
It’ll become easier and more natural to grocery shop, make small substitutions and meal prep — and a result, meet your nutrition and weight goals.
That’s how this becomes a lifestyle.
Okay, let’s talk specifics, huh?
5. It’s a numbers game.
The key point to monitor is your net-carb intake with Atkins — or the total amount of carbs you’re aiming to consume each day — 20g, 40g, 100+g, etc. This can be calculated by adding up (or planning out) your meals each day.
It’s easy, promise: Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols/Glycerin (if applicable)
Since not all foods come with labels (like fruit), you’ll want to do your research. For example: there’s actually quite a few fresh foods that contain high carbohydrate and sugar counts, like grapes and bananas (around 12g and 19g, respectively).
In addition to Atkins’ new book, website and app (and other resources), you can use apps/sites such as My Fitness Pal to look up nutritional information.
You can (should) also check out the resources I’ve gathered together on Pinteres for ya, too; like these handy carb-counting charts — data on those apps are often user-submitted so they can be inaccurate at times.
I’ve learned to make lots of smart food swaps throughout my weight-loss journey, some of which are below:
Net Carbohydrate Totals (approximate, in grams)
Starbucks Turkey Bacon breakfast sandwich: 24 g
swap with: Three egg-white omelet (0 g) with 1/2 avocado (2 g) and salsa (3 g): 5 g
Grilled chicken breast (0 g) with one cup brussels sprouts (5 g) and one medium-sized sweet potato (22 g): 27 g
swap with: Grilled chicken breast (0 g) with one cups steamed broccoli (3 g), & 1/2 sweet potato (11 g): 15 g
Deli chicken sandwich on whole wheat bagel with honey mustard, mayo (o g!), lettuce, tomato and 1/2 avocado (2 g): 32 g
swap with: Deli turkey wrapped in lettuce with cheddar, tomato, sprouts and 1/2 mashed avocado: 4 g
Handful of pretzels: 22 g
or 1/2 cup store-bought trail mix: 24 g
swap with 1 oz (~24 nuts) almonds: 3 g
or Atkins’ blend sweet & salty trail mix: 4 g
Vanilla Blueberry KIND bar: 21 g
swap with: Atkins Harvest Trail bars: 5 g
or: string cheese: 0 g
or: ham or prosciutto with melon: 11 g
6. Your body knows how to switch to fat-burning mode.
Now you see how quickly carbs can add up — which ultimately presents the body from going into fat-burning mode, yeah?
Here’s how that works: You’re equipped with two main sources of energy — carbs and fat. When carb count is low enough, your bod switches gears.
Phase 1 of the Atkins program (Atkins 20) is called “Induction,” which teaches your body to switch to fat-burning mode, jump-starting weight loss as a result.
Again, even if you’re not following a plan directly, you’ll probably see similar results if you take the time to estimate your overall carbohydrate intake, reduce it (or half it) and track your progress.
Then, you can carbo-course correct — adjusting it based on whether or not you’re seeing the results you desire.
7. Yes, you can have alcohol.
… Hey, I was wondering too. So let’s talk about it.
Atkins suggests not drinking during the first two weeks of the program (again, if you’re following it) since the body is adapting to a new metabolism of fat burning.
Generally speaking, though, your best bet is champagne or dry wine (red or white).
Hard liquors and spirits such as tequila or vodka contain virtually no carbohydrates, but beware of mixers like tonic, juice and soda that can add up on the carb front.
My drink of choice is usually a bit of bubbly or vodka with water and lemon — although you can’t go wrong with a dirty martini.
(I mean, yes — you definitely can — but you know. #moderation.)
Last but not least:
8. You don’t have to eat less — you just have to eat right.
… Bringing it back full-circle.
Your body is unique from anyone else’s, so it’ll likely take some trial-and-error to see what works for you; however, the effectiveness of the Atkins’ approach has been scientifically backed for over 40 years. If you’re getting the right nutrients and being conscious about your carb and sugar intake, you should be well on your way to reaching your weight-loss and/or wellness goals.
But, gals: Remember that every day is different, so it’s natural that your body’s needs will be too.
It’s okay to treat yo’self!
Thanks to Atkins for partnering on this post