Eric Westman, MD, who directs the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic in Durham, North Carolina, and who cowrote The New Atkins for a New You, has been studying low-carb diets for 12 years and believes they (and not low-fat ones) are the key to losing weight (a position that more and more evidence supports). His five guidelines:
1. Don’t Try to Limit Fat. “Eating high-fat foods keeps you from feeling deprived,” says Dr. Westman. Bacon, cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, butter, and oil are all healthy parts of a low-carb diet.
2. Say Goodbye to Pasta, Bread, and Rice. To lose weight, most people have to stay under 20 grams of “net” carbs per day (net carbs refers to the number of grams of carbs minus grams of fiber, because fiber doesn’t send blood sugar spiking). That rules out bread (two slices contain about 24 grams of net carbs), rice (over 40 grams in a cup), and pasta (about 40 grams per cup). Once you hit your goal, you can slowly add in more carbs that don’t have a big impact on blood sugar.
3. Be Picky About Vegetables. Starchy (carb-heavy) vegetables—most of the ones that grow underground, as well as corn—are off-limits. But you can have up to four cups daily of leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, and collard greens. Limit broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers, okra, and Brussels sprouts to two cups per day.
4. Say No to Hidden Sugars. Fruit, that legendarily healthful food, is packed with sugar, aka carbohydrates. So are fruit juices. Other concentrated sources include soda, cakes, and candy. You may be able to keep diet sodas, light beer, dry wine, and sugar-free sweets on the menu and still lose weight.
5. Eat as Much as You Want. When it comes to protein and fat, “you don’t have to use portion control,” says Dr. Westman. “Your hunger will go down automatically when you start eating this way—all you have to do is stop eating when you’re full.”