For years, the high protein, high fat, ketogenic Atkins weight loss plan has been associated with a meat-heavy diet. But now the company has revamped its approach to feature more vegetables and fiber. In an exclusive interview on Jan. 15, Atkins Nutrtitionals vice president of nutrition Colette Heimowitz explained to me how vegans and vegetarians can take advantage of the changes to boost their weight loss.
Part of the challenge for plant-based dieters: Getting enough protein, says Colette, author of "The New Atkins Made Easy: A Faster, Simpler Way to Shed Weight and Feel Great -- Starting Today."
"A great deal depends on how you define 'vegetarian.' If you eat eggs and dairy, you should have no difficulty," she said. She's included recipes for vegetarians in the cookbook: "The New Atkins for a New You Cookbook: 200 Simple and Delicious Low-Carb Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less."
And although it's more challenging for vegans, it's not impossible.
"The trick is to get sufficient protein from seeds, nuts, soy products, soy and rice cheeses, seitan, legumes, and high-protein grains like quinoa," Colette emphasized.
She recommends that vegans make the following modifications:
- Start in Ongoing Weight Loss at 40 to 50 grams of Net Carbs so that you can have nuts, seeds and nut butters immediately.
- If you don't have much weight to lose, start in Pre-Maintenance at 50 grams of Net Carbs, in order to include small amounts of legumes, whole grains, and most other plant protein sources from the start.
- Make sure you're getting sufficient protein in plant sources.
The low carb, high fat ketogenic Atkins diet bases its success on getting the body into a state of ketosis. At that point, your body burns fat for fuel. Therefore, says Colette, vegans and vegetarians will need to make sure to get enough fat in their diet.
"In order not to interfere with fat metabolism, add extra flaxseed, olive, canola, walnut, and other oils to salads and vegetables to make up for less fat in most protein sources," she said. She's created a workbook to offer guidance on creating menus and meals, with a handy food journal: "The New Atkins for a New You Workbook: A Weekly Food Journal to Help You Shed Weight and Feel Great."
Some examples of protein-rich vegetarian and vegan foods suggested by Colette include: Almond milk, tofu, soy milk, tempeh, veggie burgers, soy noodles and black soybeans.
Another important consideration: Getting enough iron.
"If you eat eggs and dairy, you should have no difficulty getting the iron you need. Legumes are an excellent source of iron, although they're higher in carbs than other veggies," said Colette.
And for vegans, "nuts and some vegetables, including leafy dark greens, contain iron."
In addition, for weight loss success for both vegans and vegetarians, Colette emphasizes portion control.
"Regardless of the phase you're in, vegans and vegetarians need to be especially careful with portion sizes in order to keep carbs under control," she added.