There’s nothing more fun in the sun than a picnic, whether you’re at the beach, by the pool or in a mountain meadow. First, it’s important to avoid some common picnic pitfalls found in the form of added sugars (the average American could consume up to 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day… yikes!). These sneaky sugars may cause your blood sugar to spike, ultimately leading to fluctuating energy levels and weight gain. We also need to be aware of the Hidden Sugar Effect. While you might encounter obvious sugar-filled sources, such as cookies, at a picnic, did you know a hamburger bun or a potato may also raise your blood sugar levels as well?
Throwing an impromptu picnic? No problem! Here’s what to buy at the grocery store:
Crunchy snacks: Veggie tray and/or almonds and pistachios
Make-your-own wraps: Rotisserie chicken and/or slices of ham, turkey or roast beef and cheese slices from the deli and romaine lettuce leaves and/or low carb tortillas
Sweet treats: Fresh berries
And you can take your picnic to the next level with this low carb picnic menu, featuring fried chicken and an assortment of crunchy, savory and sweet low carb picnic side dishes and desserts that you can make ahead:
Your summer road trip won’t hit a stall when you bring these low carb and keto-friendly road trip snacks. They will keep your blood sugar levels and appetite in check so you’re not tempted to over-indulge along the way. Before you hit the open road, take a look at your route, and build in some time to stop and enjoy the views and stretch your legs so you are squeezing in a little exercise into your journey. And your pit stops don’t have to be pitfalls if you follow these tips along your way:
The convenience store
Convenience stores can be a little too convenient with it comes to sugar-filled fountain drinks and slushees, cookies and crackers and chips. Calm your cravings with a bag of nuts, like almonds or cashews. Jerky is always an option, although check the labels, because some brands are higher in sugar. Many convenience stores sell hard-boiled eggs, which make for an easy protein-packed snack. If you’re in the need for a sweet and crunchy low carb treat, stock your car with Atkins Peanut Butter Protein Wafer Crisps.
The hotel breakfast
The “free” continental breakfast at your hotel has its own challenges. Skip the waffles and syrup and donuts and fill up with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hard-boiled eggs and low-glycemic berries. You can also play it safe and start your day with an Atkins shake or bar.
And, if you’re ready to think beyond burgers, brats and steak, you can try these low carb plant-based dishes featuring grilled Portobello mushrooms, avocado, eggplant, zucchini and watermelon. They work equally well as main dishes, sides or even dessert.
Avocado: Elevate your avocado by grilling it, which gives it an intense smoky flavor. Slice in half and remove the pit, sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil and a few squeezes of lime or lemon. Place the cut sides down on the grill and grill for two to three minutes. Then, all you need to do is grab a fork and dig into this delicious grilled treat. You can also top your avocado with salsa and pico de gallo and cheese, or slice it and add to a salad or burger or serve as a side.
Peaches: Simply cut a peach in half and grill for about five minutes, until softened. Slice and serve as a sweet treat, as a garnish in salad or on top of grilled chicken.
Pineapple: When you throw wedges of pineapple on the grill, it adds a caramel-like sweetness. Try this grilled pineapple recipe.
Portobello mushrooms: These savory mushrooms are hearty enough to wrap up in a lettuce leaf like a burger or slice and eat like a steak. Whip up a marinade with olive oil, minced garlic, red wine vinegar, fresh herbs of your choice and salt and pepper and drizzle over the Portobello mushrooms. Throw them on the grill for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they are juicy and tender. Continue to turn the mushrooms and baste frequently with the marinade.
Watermelon: Grilling gives sweet and refreshing watermelon an added level of flavor. Cut into small wedges, drizzle with olive oil, lime juice and a little salt. Toss with mint and feta for an easy and unique side dish or dip into Greek yogurt for a delicious dessert.
There’s nothing like a cold drink to quench your thirst on a hot, sunny day, but some of these drinks can be loaded with sugar. Sugary drinks make up for almost half of the added sugars in Americans’ diets, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Fruit juice, even 100% fruit juice, may contain more than 30 grams of sugar in just one cup. Fortunately, you can keep your cool with these tips and low carb summer drink recipes.
Drink This, Not That
Here’s a quick guide to popular summer drinks that tend to be loaded with sugar, and some low carb summer drink swaps that will still quench your thirst, while being just as sweet.
Sweetened Ice Tea (30 grams/sugar): You can still enjoy this traditional summer beverage, just swap it for Iced Mint Tea (0 grams/sugar).
Flavored Coconut Water (30 grams/sugar): While coconut water is popular because it helps restore hydration and replenish electrolytes during exercise, stick with unflavored coconut water (0 grams/sugar), and be sure to read the label to make sure you’re getting 100% coconut water, without added sugar or flavoring agents. Coconut water is also a great low carb alternative to sports drinks, which may be high in sugar.
Sweetened Non-Dairy Milk (~13 grams/sugar): Non-dairy milks such as almond milk or soy milk are nice alternatives to traditional cow’s milk, but stick with the unsweetened versions. Or else, at 13 grams of sugar or more, you might as well be eating a donut for breakfast.
Frozen Coffee Drinks (70 grams/sugar or more!): You can blow two or more days worth of carb and sugar intake with just one frozen coffee drink or swap it for Coffee Frappe (~2 grams/sugar).
Lemonade (~25 grams/sugar): There’s nothing like an ice-cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, but stick with our refreshing low carb lemonade (1 gram/sugar).
Fruit Juice (~30 grams/sugar): Go for fiber-rich fruit like berries or Double Berry Ice Pops (~5 grams/sugar). It’s the perfect way to cool down.
Smoothies (~60 grams/sugar): Just a small smoothie will sabotage all your low-sugar goals, but we have plenty of fruity, delicious low carb smoothie recipes here.
And without a doubt, one of the best low sugar and low carb ways to hydrate on a hot day is water! Keep a water bottle filled and ready to sip from at all times. If your water needs a little flavor boost, add a squeeze of fresh lemon, lime or orange juice or try this low carb Lemon-Orange Cooler.
Since we just celebrated Father’s Day, it seems fitting to devote this blog to all the men out there living a low carb lifestyle. Thanks to Atkins, the following men have lost weight, improved their health, boosted their energy, maximized their sports performance and embraced exercise:
John Bausch discovered Atkins with his wife after she was diagnosed with high cholesterol. Both were overweight and unhappy, and thanks to Atkins, they both lost about 80 pounds in a year.
Jonathan Clinthorne went from an overweight college student to a low carb endurance athlete thanks to a low carb diet, which inspired him to get a Ph.D. in nutrition and become Atkins’ Nutrition Communication Manager.
Scott Rees, at over 400 pounds, was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. His doctor prescribed medication to control his insulin levels, which led to dizzy spells. Scott did some research and found that a low carb ketogenic diet, such as Atkins 20, allowed him to control his blood sugar without medication. After 18 months of following Atkins 20, Scott lost 210 pounds and has been maintaining this weight ever since.
Zach Bitter was searching for a competitive edge in his ultra-endurance events and discovered that his performance and endurance improved after switching from the typical high carb diet of an endurance athlete to a low carb lifestyle. You can take a sneak peak on how Zach stocks his low carb pantry and kitchen here.
So, how do these guys make it all work? Meal planning and prep is key, they stay active (whether it’s an ultra-endurance event or hitting the weights at the gym), and they all love a juicy steak hot off the grill and the occasional pork rind as a snack. Their stories are inspiring, and their low carb tips are useful and effective. Read on for more…
Low Carb Eating Out Tips for Men
John Bausch—I’ve found most burger places will wrap a burger with lettuce. I avoid ketchup. Chili poblanos and taco salads at Mexican restaurants are great as long as you don’t eat the taco shell. Hot wings are normally very low carb as long as they are not breaded, and most aren’t.
Jonathan Clinthorne—If I know I’m going out to eat (inevitably a few extra carbs will find their way onto my plate), I will plan my day to be a little lower in carbs so I have a little extra wiggle room at the restaurant.
Scott Rees—You can’t go wrong with steak and salad or grilled chicken and salad. Review the menu and don’t be afraid to tell the waiter exactly what you want.
Zach Bitter—When I go out to eat, I’ll order a steak with non-starchy vegetables or a salad.
Low Carb On-the-Go Tips for Men
John Bausch—I tend to pack my lunch to save money but I often order hot wings or salad without croutons. Jimmy John’s has an amazing lettuce-wrapped sub called the Gargantuan that I treat myself to occasionally.
Jonathan Clinthorne—You can typically buy cheese, hard-boiled eggs, nuts and pork rinds at about any gas station or convenience store, and many also have small containers of guacamole or hummus (I’ll dip my pork rinds in them). I’ll then focus on getting my foundation veggies at lunch and dinner.
Scott Rees—Travel is the hardest part for me. I find the bigger problem is visiting friends and family. You know, the ones who tell you a cheat day won’t kill you. The ones that cook huge meals with all sorts of carbohydrates and sugars they know I don’t want to be around. Usually, I will go to a grocery store and stock up on Atkins frozen dinners. Between that and finding suitable options at local restaurants, I manage to get by just fine.
Zach Bitter—I have a cooler that I always keep with a fresh set of silverware and a steak knife in a side pocket. When I need to hit the road for work or training, it is easy to grab leftovers from the fridge and throw them in the cooler with some ice for a good on-the-go meal.
Diabetes and pre-diabetes continue to be a major health concern, with over 50% of adult Americans affected by this chronic and progressive disease. Traditionally, diabetes treatment includes lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), and when those don’t work, costly prescription diabetes medications, including insulin. Meanwhile, Virta, whose founders include Stephen Phinney, M.D., Ph.D. and Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., experts in the low carb and ketogenic science and co-authors of The New Atkins for a New You, has created an innovative continuous remote care model, which includes guidance from a health coach and medical provider to help its patients stay in nutritional ketosis through a customized approach and individualized treatment plans, as well as encouragement and support from a private online community of their peers. Because, after all, study after study has found that low carb and ketogenic diets are effective in improving markers of blood sugar control and reducing medication use in people with diabetes.
To thoroughly assess the efficacy of this treatment for type-2 diabetes, Virta decided to put its approach to the test by enrolling 262 adult volunteers with type-2 diabetes in a two-year clinical trial. After one year, Virta’s approach was showing clinically significant health benefits. Participants lost weight, improved their HbA1c (an indicator of blood sugar levels), 94% of insulin users reduced or eliminated their usage and 60% significantly reversed markers of type-2 diabetes, while patients enrolled in a traditional program saw no changes to their HbA1c or medications.
Encouraged by these positive results, Virta extended the clinical trial of these participants to five years, and at the two-year mark, the results continue to impress as shown by this latest study, where they found that 74% of the original participants remain enrolled in the trial, and 55% maintained the reversal of markers of diabetes.
Lifestyle change requires commitment, and researchers attribute Virta’s success in combatting diabetes to the sustainability of a low carb and ketogenic diet that can be customized to each participant’s need, and continuous support and monitoring.
Plus 18 low carb and keto friendly veggie and fruit recipes
June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, which is perfect timing if you’re following a low carb diet like Atkins, since non-starchy veggies and low-sugar fruits are high in fiber. Fiber plays an important role because it helps you sustain steady energy levels, regulate your blood sugar and control your hunger, all of which help you lose weight. You can learn more about how to get more fiber on a low carb or keto diet here.
The good news is that if you’re doing Atkins, you’re eating more veggies every day than the average American, and there are plenty of low carb vegetables and fruits that are ripe for the picking in June (buying veggies and fruits in season is one of my top budget-friendly tips, and here are 8 other tips for doing a low carb or keto diet on a budget.)
If you’re ready hit the farmer’s market or the produce section of your grocery store, here is a list of vegetables and fruits (plus low carb recipes) that will add color and variety to your meals. Fresh herbs are also flourishing this month and add a pop of flavor to many of these dishes:
School’s almost out for summer, which means it might be a challenge to keep “some” structure to your family’s eating habits when you have neighborhood children underfoot or teenagers waking up at the crack of noon.
Whether you’re dealing with toddlers, teens or “hangry” significant others, I have low carb and keto eating tips for all ages. If anything, this helps instill some healthy habits while still enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer. Start with my 8 tips for family-friendly low carb living, and make your evening meals easy with salad, chili or taco bars that can easily modified to fit whatever low carb plan you are following. Then, try the following low carb and keto tips for people of all ages:
Keep planning, shopping and prepping. At least now with the kids out of school, you can assign some of these tasks to them. Let them pick recipes each week so they feel involved in meal planning. Younger kids can help put away groceries and wash and store veggies, and the older kids can chop and prep and even cook.
Schedule your groceries. Many grocery stores offer delivery and pick-up services. Create your grocery list online and have them delivered or schedule a time when you or your significant other can pick them up on the way home from work. If you have teenagers who drive, have them pick up the groceries (and put them away when they get home). Building your grocery list online and having someone else do the shopping (for a small fee) helps eliminate impulse purchases you might succumb to if you’re hitting the store at the last minute after a long day. Plus, your online grocery list will save all your purchases, which makes creating your next grocery list a breeze.
Stock your pantry and fridge with low carb and keto friendly food. If your pantry and fridge become a free-for-all during the summer, keep them stocked with cut and washed veggies for easy snacking; deli meats such as ham, turkey and salami, sliced cheese and olives for impromptu charcuterie platters, wraps or salads. Whip up batches of chicken and tuna salad for snacks and wraps. Keep fresh berries and other fruit prepped for smoothies or a sweet snack. You can’t go wrong with string cheese and hard-boiled eggs, plus almonds and other nuts, as well as Atkins bars and shakes. It’s inevitable some type of junk food might end up in your house, but easy access to healthier alternatives makes it easier to resist.
Shape up your freezer for summer. This is also a great time to go through and see what frozen mysteries might be lurking there from the school year. Buy chicken breasts or thighs in bulk, steaks, pork chops, fish and shrimp so you can easily take some out to defrost in time to grill at night. Grilled leftovers can be added to eggs, salads, sandwiches and bowls.
Make your meals keto friendly. Atkins works perfectly with a keto diet, and you can start with these 24 keto friendly and low carb breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert recipes that the whole family will enjoy.
Ken’Drea’s journey with Atkins started in February of 2017. After years of dollar menus at fast food restaurants and late-night burgers during college, the pounds piled on. She entered the workforce, still in denial about her weight, until her company started a corporate wellness program, where each employee received a digital scale, and a co-worker bet her $100 she could lose more weight than Ken’Drea could. “I’m a very competitive person,” she says. “The day I received my scale on February 5, 2017, it was the first time I weighed myself since 2005. I was shocked to find out I weighed 240 pounds.”
Seeing this number on the scale was a wake-up call. “After finally seeing and accepting I was overweight, I knew I had to make a change,” she says. “Too many people my age are starting to have health problems because we are unhealthy at a younger age, and I didn’t want to be a statistic.”
At first she was so overwhelmed, she didn’t know where to start, but after researching different diets, she decided to follow Atkins 20. “The Atkins website is very simple and specific in what I needed to eat, but it still gave me flexibility to be able to experiment with food and still feel full,” she says.
And for the first time, she learned to meal prep and cook instead of eating out. A normal day of eating might include bacon and eggs for breakfast, low carb crockpot soup for lunch and zucchini lasagna for dinner. “For my snacks, I couldn’t have chips any more, so I learned to use celery dipped with guacamole, almonds or lettuce wraps,” she says.
Atkins’ low carb recipes made sticking with the plan even easier. “After two weeks, I was already down 10 pounds, and by the end of the month I was down 20!” she says.
Encouraged by these results, she added regular workouts to the mix. She had never exercised before, but started by walking during her breaks at work, and then slowly integrating weights and running.
Ken’Drea credits her friends, family and co-workers for their support during her low carb journey. “It’s so helpful to have a support system of people to encourage you when you’re not feeling the best, motivate you when you feel like giving up and uplift you even when you lost just 5 pounds,” she says.
Atkins’ Instagram page, which features low carb recipes and success stories, is also a big source of motivation for Ken’Drea, as well as other Instagram workout pages and the Tasty app for it’s “how-to-make” recipe videos.
It took Ken’Drea about a year to lose 92 pounds. At times her weight fluctuates (her lowest weight was 149 pounds, and she’d like to get back to that weight) but she realizes this is also part of life. “I want to encourage people not to give up,” she says. “If you have a cheat day once in a while, it’s OK. If you gain a little, it’s OK. You can always restart. It’s a journey. I truly feel like if I can do it, then anyone can change their lifestyle as well.”
Ken’Drea’s Low Carb Tips:
Sweets: “Usually when I want something sweet, I’ll have a few spoonfuls of frozen Cool Whip", she says, “It tastes just like ice cream, but it is very low in carbs.”
Fried food: “I love fried chicken tenders, but if you use coconut flour instead of regular flour, they are low in carbs and still taste amazing.”
Snacks: “If I need something quick and filling, I can usually grab one of the Atkins bars, and I am full until my next meal,” she says. “They are a lifesaver!”
Best low carb kitchen gadget: Although you can buy spiralized zucchini noodles, Ken’Drea likes her spiralizer, as she can also use it for low carb fries and ravioli.
Memorial Day weekend typically heralds the unofficial start of a season of outdoor entertaining. Whether you’re headed out on a road trip, throwing or attending a barbecue, packing a picnic or planning a potluck, I have plenty of low carb and keto tips and recipes to help you enjoy Memorial Day weekend. Remember, if you’re following a keto diet, you can achieve ketosis on both Atkins 20 and Atkins 40, meaning you’ll be burning fat for fuel while enjoying more flexible food choices.
And the party doesn’t stop there. I have low carb and keto recipes for baby back ribs, coleslaw and rhubarb pie. If burgers and brats are more your thing, check out these 8 low carb and keto Memorial Day recipes. As always, watch out for added sugars, which you may find in salad dressings and condiments such as ketchup. Read your labels and stick with 5 grams or less of total sugar. And if you’re ready to say cheers to Memorial Day with a refreshing cocktail, go with low carb beer or one of these low carb drink recipes!