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The Atkins Shopping Guide
The Produce Aisle
Walk into any supermarket and the first thing you see is produce. It's no accident that bounteous displays of brightly colored vegetables and fruits greet you: Your first impression is surely one of variety, freshness, and healthful, wholesome foods. These are the core carbohydrate foods you will be eating on the Atkins Nutritional Approach™.
Vegetables and fruits, of course, are the bulk of the produce aisle, but some supermarkets also stock soy-based foods, like tofu, soy cheese and vegetarian hot dogs, here (often near organic produce), as well as Asian specialties like wonton wrappers. You might find imported cheeses, cured meats, and bakery breads and crackers, and perhaps an olive bar, in this area, too.
The problem with produce is that almost nothing bears a Nutrition Facts label. Unless you're armed with a carbohydrate gram counter, you have no sure way of knowing how many grams of Net Carbs are in a particular food. And while most vegetables are acceptable at all phases of Atkins, starchy ones such as sweet potatoes and peas, and most high-glycemic fruits (those that cause a greater rise in blood sugar), are usually added back only during the Pre-Maintenance and Lifetime Maintenance phases -- unless you're one of the lucky folks with a high Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL) who can introduce them during OWL (see "Fruits and Vegetables: What's the Difference?" on page 54).
Because most produce lacks packaging with descriptive copy about the vegetable or fruit, recipes, tips on how to cook it, or nutritional benefits, we'll go into more detail for foods in this section.
With few exceptions, the vast majority of vegetables can be enjoyed at any phase of Atkins. If you're not sure, go for the parts of plants that grow above ground. Roots and tubers like carrots and potatoes provide energy for growing plants, so they're usually higher in carbohydrates than leaves (lettuce, kale), flowers (broccoli florets, asparagus), and "fruit" or seed containers (tomato, zucchini, pepper). Vegetables that fall into the leaves, flowers, and fruit categories are the most nutrient-dense carbohydrates and, in the early phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, they're the major source of carbs.
Another clue to choosing nutrient-rich vegetables is to reach for the darker, more deeply colored ones. Pigments in plants contain compounds that can promote health in a variety of ways (see "Phytochemicals" on page 35). If your grocery list includes a vegetable with pale flesh -- zucchini, say -- be sure to leave the skin on to maximize nutrition as well as flavor.
Get to know the incredible array of vegetables out there and experiment with using them in your meals. For recipes and meal ideas, visit www.atkins.com.
DARK, LEAFY GREENS
An important source of folate (think foliage), dark, leafy greens are low in calories and Net Carbs, and high in flavor and nutrients.
Beet Greens (Phases 1-4)
3.7 g Net Carbs per ½ cup cooked
If you purchase beets with the greens attached, separate them when you get home and store them individually, as they lose nutrients if left intact. Beet greens are high in beta carotene, vitamin C, and iron; they provide some calcium, too. (Note: While beet greens are perfectly acceptable for Induction and beyond, the beet root is not acceptable until the later phases of the ANA; see "Beets" on page 36.)
Bok Choy (Phases 1-4)
0.2 g Net Carbs per ½ cup cooked
One of the many varieties of Chinese cabbage, this mild-tasting green is often found in the Asian vegetables section (usually near the tofu and wonton wrappers). Choose a head with lots of dark green leaves; the stems should be pearly white. Baby bok choy looks like its fullgrown counterpart except its stems are greener, not white. This versatile vegetable can be chopped for a salad, or stir-fry it until the leaves wilt and the stems are tender. For a more flavorful side dish, braise it with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, gingerroot and a touch of low-carb sweetener.
Chard (Phases 1-4)
1.8 g Net Carbs per ½ cup cooked
Chard is a member of the beet family; it's grown for its leaves and stems rather than its roots. Chard is an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamins C and E, and iron. If you're taking an anticoagulant medication, opt for a different dark green leafy vegetable, since chard is also high in vitamin K, which can interfere with drugs that prevent blood clotting.
Collard Greens (Phases 1-4)
2 g Net Carbs per ½ cup cooked
Collard greens are high in folate and beta carotene, but they're particularly high in calcium -- ½ cup cooked weighs in at 113 milligrams of this essential mineral.
Dandelion Greens (Phases 1-4)
1.8 g Net Carbs per ½ cup cooked
Related to the sunflower, dandelion greens are indeed the same at the market as they are in your yard and a delightful addition to a salad of mixed greens. Unless you're certain your yard is untouched by pesticides and fertilizers, play it safe and go with the ones at the store. Choose small leaves; they become bitter as they grow.
Kale (Phases 1-4)
2.1 g Net Carbs per ½ cup cooked
Many types of kale exist, but the most common is curly kale. This dark green leafy vegetable is remarkably high in beta carotene, as well as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Kale tastes somewhat sweeter after it's been exposed to frost, so purchase it in the winter. Choose bunches with slender stems -- they're younger and milder in flavor.
Mustard Greens (Phases 1-4)
0.1 g Net Carbs per ½ cup cooked
This crucifer looks like smaller, brighter kale, but its flavor is much more assertive. Mustard greens are high in calcium, folate, and beta carotene.The Atkins Shopping Guide. Copyright © by C. J. Atkins Health & Medical Information Services. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.