The Food Pyramid, Atkins Style continued...
Trager says the Atkins Lifestyle Food Guide Pyramid serves as a graphic representation of the group's approach to weight loss and weight maintenance.
"With over 30 million people following controlled carbohydrate nutritional programs, we feel it was important to present our version of what a controlled carbohydrate nutrition pyramid would look like, and it was important to clear up misconceptions about what Atkins is and isn't," Trager tells WebMD.
Trager says those misconceptions and confusions come from opponents who try to paint Atkins in an incorrect light by suggesting that it's just about red meat and even some of the copycat diets that have tried to repackage Atkins and market themselves as a "healthier" version.
The pyramid contains no guidelines for number of servings or type of food source in each of the categories. Instead, it makes broad recommendations, such as "Limit and control certain carbohydrates to achieve and maintain a healthy weight" and "Eat until you are satisfied."
The Atkins pyramid also rewards increased physical activity with additional food choices, allowing people to eat more carbohydrates if they are more active.
"As more energy is expended and activity level is increased, people can increase their individualized optimal level of carbohydrates," says Trager.
Building a Better Pyramid
Experts say interpreting those broad guidelines or finding an "individual carb level" may be problematic for many Americans.
"It means you're leaving a lot to people to figure out what they need," says Karmally. "Here they say, 'Discover your individual carb level to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.' How does person without a background in nutrition find out what is good for them?"
Strong agrees that the Atkins pyramid is too vague.
"It just says eat until you're satisfied," Strong tells WebMD. "I don't think anyone really knows the definition of satisfied. We eat what we're given."
Strong acknowledges that most Americans are eating too many refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and white bread. But other types of carbohydrates, such as whole grains and oats, are a valuable source of energy, fiber, and B vitamins and shouldn't be so severely limited.