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Popular Low Carb Ketogenic Diets

Now, here is a list 14 of the most popular low-carb diet plans and books and a summary of their requirements.

Atkins Diet

Perhaps the most widely known of all low carb diets is the Atkins diet. Created by Dr. Robert Atkins in the 1970s the Atkins diet is considered by some to be the most extreme low carb diet plan.

Dr. Atkins believed that nearly all obesity is caused by overactive insulin production and not by overeating. He believed that overeating could be caused by carbohydrate addiction and that most overweight people actually ate less than their slim counterparts. However, they crave and eat carbohydrate, which raises their insulin levels and suppresses fat burning.

Dr. Atkins is a proponent of ketogenic fat burning, which is achieved by eating fewer than 40 grams of carbohydrate each day. He advises his followers to buy testing strips so that they can measure the amount of ketones in their urine daily to confirm that they are in a constant state of ketosis. He also recommends the use of dietary supplements to help balance nutrition and the bodies systems.

The Atkins Diet is divided into four stages: the Induction diet, the Ongoing Weight Loss diet, the Pre-Maintenance diet, and finally the Lifetime Maintenance diet.

The Induction diet is very strict as far as carb elimination (20 grams or less per day), but generous in the allowance of fat and protein. It should be noted that low starch vegetables are the recommended source of carbs. This phase of the diet lasts 14 days and is followed by the Ongoing Weight Loss diet (OWL).

The OWL phase allows for the reintroduction of certain good carbs but the levels are kept below 40 grams a day. Dieters stay on OWL until they reach their ideal weight. Once the ideal weight is reached dieters transition into the Pre-Maintenance diet, where they experiment with reintroducing certain good carbs until they discover their carb tolerance level (the total carb grams they can consume in a day and not gain weight).

When dieters understand how much carb they can consume and they maintain their ideal weight, they will enter Lifetime Maintenance. Here they will continue to avoid sugar, processed foods, white flour and hydrogenated fat/oils.

The Atkins diet offers a number of approved foods and there are Atkins stores in many areas that sell diet compatible products.

Carbohydrate Addict's Diet

Husband and wife scientist team Drs. Rachael and Richard Heller introduced the term "Carbohydrate Addict" in their 1993 book The Carbohydrates Addict's Diet. The idea is that some people are addicted to carbohydrates just like alcoholics are addicted to alcohol and drug addicts are addicted to drugs. This addiction causes strong cravings, insulin resistance and weight gain.

Dr. Rachael Heller developed the diet to eliminate her own obesity and had maintained her dramatic weight loss for more than twenty years by the time the first book was written. The Heller's believe that insulin imbalance caused by carbohydrates causes the body to crave more food and interferes with serotonin release that would signal that the body is full. This leads to overeating and weight gain.

The Heller's recommend that the carb addict should limit his or her carb intake to a "reward meal", eat three times per day and avoid snacks until the person is out of the weight loss phase of the diet.

In addition to the diet plan, the Hellers also cover psychological triggers that can cause carb addicts to binge on carbs and gain weight. They encourage dieters to identify personal emotional triggers and how to avoid these triggers to help lose weight.

One of the most important theories of this diet is that being overweight is not the fault of the obese person. Why? Because the person's biology and the addictive power of carbohydrates is working against them.

Like all other low carb plans, the Hellers recommend that processed foods and many types of sugar should be avoided. However, they also state that some starchy carbs should be eaten with reward meals if desired so that the dieter will be more likely to stick with the diet for the long-term.

The Heller's believe that carb addiction is treated over the long-term with good nutrition and proper diet, but it is never cured and carb addicts must be vigilant to prevent future weight gain and carb binges.

Hampton's Diet

Dr. Fred Pescatore, a former Associate Medical Director at the Atkins Institute, developed the Hampton's Diet. This diet is a mix of low carb dieting concepts and the healthiest concepts of the Mediterranean diet. He encourages the liberal consumption of monosaturated fats to aid weight loss and prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. All of this is laid out in The Hampton's Diet, published in May of 2004.

His book includes a thirty-day meal plan, gourmet recipes and information about Australian macadamia nut oil, which he encourages dieters to use liberally. He suggests the use of special cold pressed virgin olive oil if you cannot afford the macadamia nut oil that he considers to be the best for your health.

There are a liberal number of recipes but most of them use expensive ingredients and are quite gourmet-style. World-class chefs and restaurant owners contributed many of the book's recipes to their own successful low carb creations enjoyed by customers worldwide.

Because of Dr. Pescatore's affiliation with Dr. Atkins, his diet is heavily influenced by the Atkins diet. The main points of difference seem to be more of an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, the use of healthier fats like macadamia nut oil and the suggestion that all skin and fat be trimmed from meat prior to cooking.

This plan has a lot of the same features as Atkins, but features tasty recipes and 30-day meal plans and more than 100 recipes.

The Glycemic Index Diet

Written by Rick Gallop, a former President of The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, The Glycemic Index (GI) Diet claims, "if you can understand a traffic light, you'll understand this diet".

Gallop divides food into three groups based on their glycemic index, how fast they cause spikes in blood sugar levels. He separates food into green light, yellow light and red light foods. Glucose is set at a GI level of 100 and all other foods are compared against it. Red light foods should be avoided, yellow light foods are avoided during the initial weight loss phase and eaten occasionally during the ongoing maintenance phase and green light foods should form the basis of your diet throughout.

No special foods need to be purchased. Simply look up where your favorite foods fit in the plan, eat green, sample some yellow and avoid red. Period. Gallop says dieters should expect to lose one to two pounds per week and need not start with a crash diet. While this is a low carb diet it is not as high protein as most of the other diets and encourages dieters to cut fats as well as carbs. He also encourages exercising for 30 minutes each day and eating three balanced meals that include carbs, proteins and fats.

According to Gallop, followers of the GI diet should consider it a lifestyle change that they will adhere to for the rest of their lives, not a diet. It isn't easy, though. For example consider this "Red Light foods" list and note all of the "good eats":

Baked beans w/pork

Refried beans

Alcoholic beverages

Regular soft drinks







English muffins

Hamburger buns

Hot dog buns

Kaiser rolls

Melba toast






Regular Granola Bars



White bread


White rice

Instant rice

Rice cakes

Cold Cereals

Cream of Wheat




Instant oatmeal




Tartar sauce


Chocolate milk

Cottage cheese


Cream cheese

Ice Cream

Whole/2% milk

Sour Cream



Coconut oil

Hard Margarine


Palm oil

Peanut butter

Regular salad dressing

Tropical oils

Vegetable shortening



Honeydew melon




Canned fruit in syrup

All dried fruit

Applesauce w/sugar

All fruit drinks

Prune juice




Regular eggs

Ground beef with 20% fat




Processed meat

Regular bacon



Sushi rolls

All canned pasta



Macaroni and cheese


Pasta filled with meat or cheese

Alfredo sauces

Sauces with sugar


Potato Chips


French fries


Ray Audette, the author of NeanderThin touts his diet as a way to "Eat like a caveman to achieve a lean, strong, healthy body". At the tender age of 33, Audette suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. After hearing from doctors that his condition was treatable but not curable, Audette decided to undertake nutritional research to find a better cure.

His research led him to adopt a "Paleolithic", hunter-gatherer diet, like that eaten by our human ancestors before they settled in agrarian societies. Within one week, his blood sugar levels were normal and after one month he had lost 25 pounds, his arthritic pain was relieved and he noticed improved muscle tone.

According to Audette, our Paleolithic ancestors where much healthier and lived longer, healthier lives than our agrarian Neolithic ancestors. He states that Neolithic man was shorter, had poorer dental health and was prone to obesity than Paleolithic man. Women also began to menstruate earlier and have more children closer together causing population increases that further encouraged agrarian lifestyles.

He suggests that modern man should become modern hunter-gathers by eliminating foods that need human intervention to become edible. These foods include milk, grains, beans, potatoes, alcohol and sugar. Grains include all wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, and rye. He also subscribes to the theory that these carbs produce cravings and warns that if they are consumed they will cause eventual binging.

Audette's rule of thumb is that if a fruit or vegetable is edible raw without processing, then it is safe in the NeanderThin diet. He explains that many vegetables, like potatoes, are actually poisonous if not properly stored and treated with fungicide. He further encourages eating fruits when they are in season and limiting winter intake of fruit to help the body burn stored fat.

He gives Ten Commandments. Condensed, they are:

Do eat: meats and fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, berries

Don't eat: grains, beans, potatoes, dairy, and sugar

Protein Power

Drs. Michael and Mary Eades, co-authors of The Protein Power LifePlan hold views similar to Audette and also believe that modern health problems are caused by our modern diet that is heavy on grains and processed food. (Notable is that Dr. Michael Eades even wrote the introduction to Audette's NeanderThin.)

TheEades offer a food pyramid that is the USDA pyramid turned upside down so that proteins form the base, vegetables and fruit form the center and whole grains form the pyramids tip.

In addition to basing your diet on high protein and low grain intake, the Eades also encourage regular exercise and modified regular sunbathing sans sun block to help the body produce needed vitamins and regulate body systems. They also recommend taking a complete multi-vitamin and mineral supplement daily.

Dieters must identify their per meal minimum protein requirements by height, weight and sex. Each meal should include at a minimum that amount of protein and protein should be consumed at each meal. Dieters should eliminate bad fats, which include corn oil, vegetable cooking oils, margarine, vegetable shortening and all partially hydrogenated oils.

The diet can be followed in phases allowing a quick transition to low carb and accelerated weight loss. The first phase is called Intervention and carb intake is limited to 7 to 10 grams per meal. The second phase is called the Transition level and should be adhered to for several months. At this level up to 15 net carb grams are allowed per meal. In the final maintenance phase, up to 30 grams of carb can be consumed with each meal. Additionally, they offer food choices and plans for 3 types of low carb dieters: Purists, Hedonists, and Dilettantes.

Purists are looking to replicate a Paleolithic eating style in the modern world and will rely heavily on animal protein and will avoid all dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, legumes, sugars (except honey), processed food, cereal grains and products that contain them. Additionally, they will eat fresh, organic fruits and veggies and natural meat products or game.

Hedonists are allowed the most dietary leeway. They simply need to consume sufficient protein, keep carbs within set per meal limits, consume plenty of water and good fats and take potassium and magnesium supplements.

The Dilettantes walk the middle road between these two extremes. They continue to avoid wheat, corn, millet, rye and products produced from their flours. Yet they are allowed carbs within the daily guidelines, some natural sugar and organic dairy products.

Schwarzbein Principle

Dr. Diana Schwarzbein is the endocrinologist to the stars. The doctor of choice for Suzanne Somers, Larry Hagman and many others, Schwarzbein encourages extensive testing for hormonal imbalances and then suggests various diet and exercise programs and selective hormone replacement to treat any deficiencies.

Dr. Schwarzbein's diet principles are laid out in The Schwarzbein Principle, her 5-step plan to optimal health.

The first step of the program is Healthy Nutrition and there are ten basic rules:

1. Never skip a meal again

2. Eat real, unprocessed foods

3. Eat balanced meals

4. Choose a protein as the main nutrient in your meal

5. Add some healthy fats

6. Add real carbohydrates

7. Add non-starchy vegetables

8. Eat snacks

9. Eat solid food

10. Drink enough water

The second step of the program is Stress Management:

1. Make downtime a daily practice

2. Put your life in perspective

3. Keep track of stress signals

4. Get enough sleep

Third, avoid all toxic chemicals including:

1. Nicotine

2. Alcohol

3. Refined sugar

4. Artificial sweeteners

5. Illegal drugs

6. MSG, additives & preservatives

7. Fake fats and fat blockers

8. Caffeine

9. Certain prescription drugs

Fourth, practice cardio, resistance and flexibility/relaxing exercises.

And finally, the fifth step to optimal health is taking hormone replacement therapy as needed.


Suzanne Somers first introduced "Somersizing" in Suzanne Somers Eat Great, Lose Weight in 1992. Somersizing is a way of eating in which you cut sugar and "funky foods" and eat plenty of fats, proteins and good carbs like vegetables and fruit. Foods must be combined in certain ways so that the body easily digests them. Dieters Somersize in two steps, the first (Level One) to lose weight and induce "the melt" of fat and the second (Level Two) for ongoing maintenance of their ideal weight.

Somers separates foods into four Somersizing food groups: Proteins/Fat, Veggies, Carbos, and Fruit. She suggests that fruit be eaten on an empty stomach. Proteins/Fat includes meat, dish, eggs, natural oils, butter, cream and cheese. Veggies include low starch fresh vegetables. Carbos covers whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals and non-fat dairy products.

She lists "Seven Easy Steps to Somersizing":

Eliminate all Funky Food.

East fruit alone, on an empty stomach: 20 minutes before a Carbos meal, 1 hour before a Pro/Fats meal and at least 2 hours before the last meal of the day.

Eat Pro/Fats with Veggies.

Eat Carbos with Veggies.

Keep Pro/Fats and Carbos separate.

Wait 3 hours between meals if switching from Pro/Fats to Carbos or vice versa.

Eat at least 3 meals a day and do not skip meals.

Funky Foods include:

White Sugar

Brown Sugar

Raw Sugar

Corn Syrup




Maple Syrup



Acorn Squash


Butternut Squash





Sweet Potatoes

White Flour

White Rice


Hubbard Squash




Low-Fat Milk

Whole Milk





Caffeine Tea

Caffeine Soda



Hard Alcohol


All of the foods on the Funky Foods list must be avoided during the first phase of the diet (Level One) but some can be reintroduced in moderation during the maintenance phase (Level Two). Somers sells her own brand of artificial sweetener called "SomerSweet". All of her books include recipes for meals, snacks and desserts.

South Beach Diet

Developed by Dr. Arthur Agatston, The South Beach Diet touts itself as teaching dieters to eat the right carbs and the right fats. The diet has three phases. In the first dieter's banish their bad carb cravings and induce rapid weight loss. In the second phase, some types of carbs are reintroduced and weight loss is slower. The final phase is the "Diet for Life" phase. This is the maintenance diet and will be followed for the rest of the dieter's life. If at any time the dieter begins to gain unwanted pounds, then he simply goes through the induction and pre-maintenance phases again.

The first phase emphasizes protein from high-quality meat sources with lots of fresh vegetables and salads with real olive oil dressing. Bread, rice, pastas, potatoes, baked goods, soy milk and cheese, yogurt, beets, carrots, corn and all fruit are forbidden in the 14-day induction phase. This includes all candy, cake, ice cream and sugar, plus meats that are cured in sugar or molasses.

The diet encourages three meals a day with a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack.

There is also a daily meal plan. This plan includes strict portion control in the induction phase. An example of a daily snack is 20 peanuts. And 30 pistachios is another snack option.

Unlike Atkins, unlimited protein consumption is not advised or allowed on this diet. However, during the later phases of the diet some of the strict portion control does end and dieters are able to eat until satiated.

Some of the forbidden foods can be slowly reintroduced, sometimes in modified form in the second phase of the diet. The second phase lasts until the dieter's goal weight is reached. However, white flour products, potatoes, corn, carrots, beets and sweet fruits like banana and pineapple are still forbidden.

After dieters reach their ideal weight, they proceed on to their Diet for Life or maintenance diet.

In this phase the forbidden foods are processed foods, white flour products, sweet fruits, and foods with a high glycemic index in general.

During the 14-day induction period, Dr. Agatston predicts a weight loss of between eight and 13 pounds, with belly fat being the first to go. In the second phase dieter should continue to lose 1-2 pounds each week as long as they do not go overboard with the carb reintroduction.

Sugar Busters!

On Sugar Busters! dieters cut sugar to trim fat. This diet was created by a group of doctors and the CEO of a Fortune 500 business from New Orleans who realized that low fat foods are full of sugar and that it is the sugar in foods that produces a negative insulin response and leads to weight gain.

They emphasize the enjoyment of great food while avoiding certain forbidden foods like processed sugar and refined grain products. Sugar is not forbidden, but overtime sugar consumption should be greatly reduced and dieters should begin to recognize products with hidden sugars. Proper food combining is also emphasized to help avoid weight gain.

On this plan you eliminate potatoes, corn, white flour, white rice, bread from refined flour, most cold cereals, beets, carrots, refined sugar, corn syrup, molasses, honey, sugary colas and beer.

The authors also recommend eating fruit alone and eating whole fruits as much as possible. They permit three meals, two snacks and a sugar-free dessert, But an emphasis is placed on being able to control food portions, similar to what will comfortably fit on a normal sized dinner plate.

The diet begins with a 14-day diet plan and includes a meal planner. Dieters are encouraged to eat high fiber, low starch carbs that have a lower glycemic index. The authors also encourage the consumption of lean, well-trimmed meats for protein. They estimate that you will consume about 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs and 30 percent monosaturated oils and other fats.

The Zone

Created by Dr. Barry Sears, The Zone encourages balanced carb and protein intake. Dr. Sears suggests that you divide your plate into three sections, one for protein and two for fruits and vegetables per meal. This works out to 30 percent protein, 40 percent carb, and 30 percent fat. For each meal, the protein portion should be roughly the size of your tightly closed fist. The carb portion should be the size of two loosely closed fists and the added fat portion should be about the volume of your thumb.

The Zone is all about food portion measurement and control. Another tool that dieters in the Zone can use to measure food is the "block". Every adult is allowed at least 11 blocks per day and the proper food serving size will affect how much food by volume a dieter actually consumes each day.

This plan does not allow for unlimited protein portions or eating until satiated. Once your Zone meal portions are gone, your meal is done.

The basic Zone rules are to:

Eat a Zone meal within one hour of waking each day.

Eat a Zone balanced meal each time you eat (protein, carbohydrate, fat).

Eat five times per day; three meals, two snacks.

Never go more than five hours without eating a Zone meal.

Eat more fruits and vegetables and ease of bread, pasta, grains and starches.

Drink 64 ounces of water per day.

If you mess up on one meal, just make your next meal Zone friendly.

While no foods are forbidden on the Zone diet, certain unfavorable carbs should be avoided or if eaten, make up no more than 25 percent of any meal or snack. The unfavorable carbs are the usual suspects: white flour, potatoes, sugar, white rice, juices, sodas, alcohol, bananas, grapes, carrots, corn and drinks with caffeine. Dr. Sears believes that these foods not only increase insulin production but can also lead to hormonal imbalances and inflammation of bodily tissues, which causes disease and overall poor health.

The Zone diet also has packaged food tie-ins such as nutritional bars, drinks, bakery products and nutritional supplements. But be careful, the Zone nutritional bar contains high fructose corn syrup, but according to the website, it is a very "high-quality" type that has a slower glycemic index than the common type and the protein in the bar helps to further slow insulin response. Consume with extreme caution.

Thin for Good

Before he began extolling the virtues of Australian macadamia nut oil, Dr. Fred Pescatore wrote the book Thin For Good: The One Low-Carb Diet That Will Finally Work for You. This plan explores the mind-body connection in lasting weight loss and includes plans for men and women as well as a low-carb diet plan for vegetarians.

In Thin For Good, Dr. Pescatore lays out "The Eleven Emotional Levels of Eating" which are:

Anger: often felt at the beginning of a new diet, or at ourselves for getting fat; but this is good because it is motivating

Frustration: can result from looking at the success of others and comparing it to our own seeming lack of success; but be careful – this a negative emotion and often the one that causes people to give up

Sadness: closely tied to self pity or mourning for old ways of life and eating

Fear: this emotion is often very difficult to let go of and usually shows up around the same time as the first weight loss successes (Can I keep this diet up for the rest of my life?)

Understanding: you must work through the first 4 emotions to get to this more positive point when you begin to understand what your bad food habits are and accept them

Trepidation: described as nervousness, edginess and wariness; the doubt that can set in as you begin to see results from your diet

Envy: a harmful emotion that arises from comparing yourself to others

Boredom: this emotion can kill a diet; add some variety to your meals in accordance to your diet plan

Relief: the beginning of the positive emotions that should be enjoyed

Joy: comes after you have achieved real results; try not to sabotage it with negative thinking

Contentment: the final emotion experienced once people realize their weight loss goals

Along with various exercises to help you work through your emotions, Dr. Pescatore suggests low-carb comfort food recipes that he says can help you feel better when dealing with these emotions.

He suggests "Mind Over Calories" as a concept to embrace because it will help you keep weight off for good. He reveals that this concept helped him once he lost weight and has helped him to keep it off. Mind Over Calories is about training yourself not to feel the desire for sugary, bad-carb foods that will wreck your diet and lead you right back to were you were before – overweight and unhealthy.

He also includes suggestions for dietary supplements for men and women, foods to avoid if you are on a yeast-restricted diet, have thyroid or hormonal problems and more than 40-pages of recipes.

An added bonus is the Thin For Good Food Pyramid that has proteins and fats at the base, complex carbs right above them, simple carbs like starchy veggies and fruits in the third place and finally at the very tip sugar in all its various forms.

The 7-Day Low-Carb Rescue and Recovery Plan

This book is was written by Drs. Rachel and Richard Heller and is touted as being the book for any low-carb dieter on any plan who needs help getting back on track – right now.

This is the book for the person who has let the holidays, a vacation or a bad meal choice spiral into a crisis or who are discouraged because they have reached an unwanted weight loss plateau.

The doctors give a 7-day meal plan to help get you back on track as well as tips to curb your carb-cravings, deal with saboteurs and identify hidden carbs and sugars.

First and foremost the Hellers explain that overweight people and people who have a sweet-tooth are physiologically different from naturally thin people and need to stop blaming themselves for their weight problems. By understanding what your body needs – and what it needs to avoid – to lose weight will only help you reach your goals sooner.

The 7-day diet plan that they propose helps to rebalance insulin levels, curb cravings and move the body back into fat –burning mode. Once this is done you can go back to your low-carb plan of choice with new insight into how to avoid common pitfalls. There are 7-steps, to be added one each day. They are:

Add a low-carb protein to each meal and snack

Add on low-carb veggies and/or salad to lunch, dinner and snacks

Include a good portion of low-carb protein, vegetables, and/or salad in relation to high-carb foods you may be consuming.

Eat all of your low-carb protein, veggies and salad before you eat your high-carb food.

Eat low-carb snacks only. Save high-carb foods for meals.

Eat only low-carb foods at all snacks and at one meal.

Eat only low-carb foods at all snacks and at two meals.

After you successfully complete these steps over 7-days, you will be able to transition back into the low-carb plan of your choice. They also suggest that you avoid sugar substitutes like those found in diet-colas to help you stay on your diet plan.

Additionally, they admonish all low-carbers to eat towards the carbs in their meals. This way they fill up on protein and the lower starch carbs first. Finally, you can eat the higher starch and carb food on your plate. This will help you fill up and consume less of the foods that may be causing you problems. Plus, once the high-carb food hits your system, it will be so busy breaking down the protein and fiber you ate that it will more slowly digest the bad-carbs you consumed.

Living Low-Carb

Written by Fran McCullough, the author of The Low-Carb Cookbook, this book's rather long subtitle promises to teach "everything food-loving dieters need to know to achieve lasting success, including: strategies for controlling binges and cravings, dealing with sudden weight gains and secret metabolic weapons".

This book is a companion piece to the low-carb diet of your choice and is intended to give you tips and tricks to make the road to low-carb success smoother and a lot less bumpy.

This volume contains sources of low-carb bread and other goodies and how to make vegetables taste like pasta. There are also tips for various kitchen gadgets that can make your life easier and suggestions for stocking a low-carb pantry.

McCullough also offers suggestions for eating low-carb on a very active lifestyle. For instance, there are tips for camping or backpacking through Europe. There are also suggestions for handling your carb cravings with low-carb substitutes. For instance, she gives a simple recipe for a crustless pizza and potato skins. There is even an ice cream substitute suggestion that incorporates dairy and fruit.

While McCullough does go over many of the low-carb diet basics in the beginning of this book, she mainly gives tips, tricks and recipes. Do not look here for diet basics.






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What I Read

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Lyle McDonald

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