Make no mistake: Vegetables are essential to the Atkins Nutritional Approach.
Certain friends may have warned you that you're going to ruin your health by doing Atkins. According to many self-appointed dietitians, Atkins restricts consumption of vegetables and therefore promotes heart disease and cancer. So if some misguided individual tells you that you won't eat vegetables when you do Atkins, wave a stalk of celery at him or her. He is wrong. Most of these finger-wagging critics haven't bothered to read Dr. Atkins' books or learn the principles behind his nutritional approach. If they had, they'd know Atkins followers actually eat more servings of vegetables at every phase of the program than most other Americans do. In addition to protein and healthy natural fats, certain vegetables are the foundation of the Atkins way of eating. Vegetables do contain carbohydrates but, in most cases, these are exactly the kinds of carbs you should be consuming. But the key word is "most."
Rather than promoting the standard dietary fiction that all vegetables are equally healthful and should be consumed in unlimited servings, Dr. Atkins has dared to draw distinctions: A serving of spinach is better than a serving of peas; broccoli is more health-protective than potatoes.
Because controlling carbs will stabilize blood sugar, most people doing Atkins limit the amount of vegetables they eat. Eating too many veggies, especially starchy ones such as beets, potatoes and carrots, can undermine your weight-loss and weight-maintenance efforts. To spend your carbohydrate grams wisely, choose vegetables that provide the most antioxidant protection in combination with the fewest grams of carbs.
During the Induction phase, you'll eat three cups of certain vegetables each day, primarily salad greens and other raw salad ingredients. You can also have up to one cup of vegetables that are slightly higher-carb (but still permissible) all-stars. Here's where you'll find kale; Swiss chard; cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts; beta-carotene-rich peppers and pumpkin; and lycopene-dense tomatoes, which help protect against prostate cancer. As you gradually increase the amount of allowable carbs during the Ongoing Weight Loss, Pre-Maintenance and Lifetime Maintenance phases, your veggie intake will continue to increase.
These two categories of vegetables are an important and tasty part of Atkins from Induction on. They're also the first foods you will increase when you gradually add carbs as your weight-loss progresses. Rather than spend, say, five extra carbs on a quarter of an apple, you could have eight stalks of asparagus. Which do you think would make you feel fuller? Which would do more for your overall health? So go ahead and enjoy the rich diversity of vegetables. And tell those naysayer friends of yours that this is one eating program that doesn't make you choose between a healthy body and a shapely physique. With Atkins, you can have both!