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The Atkins diet focuses on low-carb eating to help the body burn fat for fuel instead of carbs. Overall, the quality of many of the products were pleasantly surprising and some of the benefits included a reduction in bloating and irritability caused by hunger.
The Atkins Diet is a low-carbohydrate diet plan backed by research spanning over 40 years. First developed by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins, M.D., in the 1960s and published as a book in 1972, the Atkins Diet claims to be an effective diet for weight loss and improving health markers, such as cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
In 1989, Dr. Atkins began selling pre-made foods to help people maintain a low-carb lifestyle. Now a popular weight loss brand, Atkins is well-known for its short-term weight loss results. But even with its success, the Atkins Diet isn’t for everyone.
“It [a low carb diet] can quickly become high in foods that aren’t providing much health benefit,” says Paula Doebrich, a registered dietitian and owner of Happea Nutrition in New York. “When poorly planned, a low-carb diet may be high in saturated fat and animal products, which increases the risk of chronic disease, especially heart disease.”
The Atkins Diet is a low-carbohydrate diet designed for weight loss using portion control and specific food choices. It has three plan options:Atkins 20, 40 and 100. Each plan focuses on different macronutrient intake goals and food choices.
Atkins 20 is designed for those who want to lose more than 40 pounds, while Atkins 40 and 100 are designed for those who have less than 40 pounds to lose and want to focus on maintenance.
The diet is based on the premise that carbs are the main culprit in weight gain and by reducing carb intake, you can lose weight. The diet limits carbs to 20 to 100 net grams per day, depending on the plan you choose. Fiber, protein and healthy fats are the main focus of the diet, while carbs are limited.
There are four phases to the diet, according to the company: Induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance and lifetime maintenance.
The premise behind the Atkins Diet is that when carbohydrates are restricted, the body will burn stored fat for energy, which leads to weight loss. The diet is based on the glycemic index, which measures how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a food. Low-glycemic foods are thought to be better for weight loss because they don’t cause blood sugar levels to spike to the levels that high-glycemic foods do.
Diets that contain a lot of high-glycemic foods, such as baked goods and prepackaged snacks, can cause blood sugar levels to spike and subsequent energy crashes, which leads to cravings for more unhealthy, high-glycemic foods. Following a low-glycemic diet can help keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce the risk of weight gain.
Atkins takes a hybrid approach to dieting, with a focus on both education and pre-made food options. While the company sells food items such as bars, shakes and frozen meals, it’s not necessary to purchase these to follow the diet. The cost of Atkins depends on whether you purchase any of the company’s food products or paid resources—such as the Atkins books.
Atkins provides a host of free resources on its website, which includes recipes, tips and a progress tracker. The site also has an online community where you can connect with other Atkins dieters through forums and support groups.
The cost of Atkins products on its website can range from:
The company frequently offers online promotions when ordering directly from its website. If you sign up for the email list, you’ll get a code for 10% off your next order. Military veterans, service members and first responders receive a 15% discount on bars and shakes. There’s also a subscription offer where you can save 8% on every order with free shipping on orders over $50 when you have your products delivered on a recurring basis.
After creating a free account and choosing your plan based on your weight-loss goals, your online dashboard gives you access to recipes, tips, a progress tracker and the Atkins forums—at no cost. You can choose to follow the recipes or create your own dishes based on the nutritional guidelines.
If you want more structure and convenience, Atkins food products are available online and in many local stores, including Walmart, Target, Publix, Amazon and many others. These pre-made options can be used as meal replacements or snacks to help you stay on track.
“A low-carb diet is defined as a diet in which one consumes less than 130 grams of total carbohydrates (or less than 26% of total daily calories) per day,” explains Raman Ashta, M.D., a family medicine and obesity medicine physician at Nasa Primary Care in Melbourne, Florida.
While limiting carbohydrate intake to 100 to 130 grams a day is not overly restrictive for most people, notes Dr. Ashta, “the key is to eat healthy whole carbohydrates like whole grains, whole fruit, legumes, vegetables and nuts—and avoid processed carbs like sweets, soda, fruit juices, added sugar, pasta and bread.”
“Research has supported the efficacy of low-carb diets for general health and chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), gut and mental health issues, cancer and much more,” says Valerie Goldstein, a registered dietitian and founder of Fuel Health—a virtual program for employee wellness and nutrition education—who was also a former supervisor of education and research at The Atkins Center For Complementary Medicine and Atkins Health and Information Service. If the Atkins diet is followed in the way it’s intended, says Goldstein, it can be extremely effective for weight loss and improving overall health.
While both Goldstein and Dr. Ashta agree that a low-carb diet like the Atkins diet can be safe and less restrictive than other weight loss diets, the National Library of Medicine cautions that it may not be the right fit for everyone, especially when it comes to cardiovascular and cholesterol concerns. Additionally, like Dr. Ashta, the National Library of Medicine cautions that “the quality of food matters,” on low-carb diets, meaning it’s possible for a low-carb diet to be harmful if the chosen foods include too much unhealthy fat and do not provide the appropriate nutrients.
As with any new diet, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor first, or a registered nutritionist, to make sure your personal health history and expectations line up with the diet requirements.
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I tested the Atkins 40 diet plan for one week, eating pre-made foods from its line of products as well as making some of my own meals following the guidelines.
I purchased a combination of frozen meals, shakes, bars, chips and cookies, which I enjoyed as snacks or quick meals on the go. The food was easy to find in my local grocery store and reasonably priced when compared to the other diet food brands lining the shelves.
After creating a free account on the Atkins website, I used the progress tracker to help log my food intake. I preferred using the smartphone app over the desktop version, as it was more user-friendly and offered additional features—such as the ability to scan barcodes to track nutritional information. The app also made it easier to search for recipe ideas.
I found the pre-made food relatively satisfying, which made it easy to stick to the plan. I didn’t feel deprived or like I was on a “diet” the majority of the week—a major plus. I enjoyed protein shakes for breakfast, occasional frozen meals for lunch and dinner and assorted snacks throughout the day. The shakes had a smooth texture and weren’t chalky like some brands I’ve tried. I could easily drink a shake for breakfast in the mornings and make it to lunch without feeling hungry.
The portion sizes of the frozen meals were a bit small, so I had mid-day urges to snack. However, the snacks—such as the protein chips and meal bars—were satisfying and helped tide me over until my next meal. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor of the products, as I’ve had mostly poor experiences with convenience diet foods in the past.
When preparing my own meals, I initially found the guidelines a bit overwhelming. I stuck with recipes from the Atkins website and app since they followed the specific nutritional requirements. After a few days of meal planning, I had the hang of it and felt confident in my food choices.
The biggest downside to the Atkins diet is the amount of cooking, meal planning and advanced preparation, which is time-consuming. If you don’t have the patience for it, the pre-made foods are a convenient option—but I personally wouldn’t want to eat them regularly or rely on them long-term. Some of the products are highly processed, which I try to avoid in my daily diet.
I recommend the free Atkins tools and resources to help you get started, as they make the low-carb diet more manageable. The app is especially helpful, as it takes the guesswork out of tracking your food intake and progress. There’s an abundance of value in signing up for a free account, even if you don’t purchase the products.
Overall, I was impressed with the pre-made food options from a flavor perspective and found the Atkins diet easy to follow—at least short term. Long term, you have to be willing to put in the effort to meal plan and cook most of your dishes from scratch.
Since I only followed the diet for one week, I can’t speak to the long-term weight loss results. However, I didn’t experience any serious side effects from following the diet, such as headaches. While I experienced a bit of fatigue in the first few days, adding in additional snacks helped ease that.
As with many diets, it’s about learning and making lifestyle changes—which takes time, effort and patience. The Atkins 100 plan offers the most food freedom and is less restrictive than the other two plans, making it a better option if you’re looking to stick with the diet long term.
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Lindsay Modglin is a nurse and professional writer who regularly writes about complex medical topics, as well as travel and the great outdoors. She holds a professional certificate in scientific writing from Stanford University School of Medicine and has contributed to many major publications including Insider and Verywell. As a passionate advocate for science-based content, she loves writing captivating material that supports scientific research and education. In her spare time, you can often find her exploring nature with her husband and three children.
Jessica is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience in both lifestyle and clinical health topics. Before Forbes Health, Jessica was an editor for Healthline Media, WW and PopSugar, as well as numerous health-related startups. When she isn’t writing or editing, Jessica can be found at the gym, listening to a health or true prime podcast, or spending time outside. She also really enjoys bread (even though she’s not supposed to eat it).


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