Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Low-Carb Thanksgiving Side Dishes and Ideas

When it comes to the holidays, sticking to your low-carb diet can be rough. The holidays are filled with tempting, luscious desserts, sugary treats, and comforting side dishes that mama always made. The good news is that both turkey and ham are low-carb goodies that you don't have to give up, except for the sugary glazes and carby brines, so coming up with a healthy Thanksgiving menu or some really good Thanksgiving side dishes and ideas isn't difficult. It just takes a little bit of planning.

If Thanksgiving isn't going to be at your house, that isn't hard either. All you have to do is take a couple of low-carb side dishes with you, and maybe share a super-good sugar-free dessert. Alternatively, especially for those who have to eat gluten free, you can simply cook your Thanksgiving dinner at home and then take a plate with you. There is always a way to make it work, so don't despair. Low-carb doesn't mean misery. You just have to be a little creative and be willing to start new holiday traditions.

Take Thanksgiving Day Off? Not So Fast!

photo of Thanksgiving Dinner: turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberry sauce

There are lots of low-carb dieters that take Thanksgiving off. They help themselves to a large serving of turkey or ham, fill a third of their plate with salad, and then take very small servings of the sugary sweet potatoes with marshmallows, grandma's green bean casserole, that fruit-salad fluff stuff that mom always makes, and maybe just one of Aunt Jesse's homemade rolls. They can even stop at half a serving of pumpkin pie with a squirt of whipped cream, and be right back on their low-carb diet the following morning completely satisfied.

But not everyone has that type of control. And not everyone can eat like that even for just one meal and not make themselves sick for a couple of days. Lots of people are sensitive or allergic to wheat and don't know it, so it only shows up when they go off plan.

For many people even a single bite of pie or turkey stuffing can get the wheels of craving moving so quickly that before they know it, they've gone face down into the mashed potatoes and gravy and only come up for air after polishing off a second piece of Pecan Pie. Still others find it easy to make excuses about returning to their low-carb diet plan the following morning. A week later, after polishing off all of the Thanksgiving leftovers, they find themselves chowing down on chocolate chip cookies and Salsa Verde Doritos.

Why beat yourself up for going off plan and ruin all your hard work when it's so easy to come up with tasty low-carb Thanksgiving side dishes that will help you continue moving toward your weight loss goals? Low-carb options for Thanksgiving don't have to be dreary and boring. Save those plain steamed vegetables for those crazy nights when dinner is late and you need a quick meal. There is no need to feel deprived if you take the time to think ahead.

Let's Talk Appetizers

Bowl of chunky guacamole
Traditionally, a Thanksgiving table contains a lot of finger foods: crackers with spreads, raw vegetable platters with homemade Ranch Dressing, potato chips and dip, olives, pickles, and a bunch of other goodies. Platters can be made low-carb with a little pre-prep and know-how. In a previous blog post, Low-Carb Superbowl Goodies, I explained how to make your own dips, spreads, and cheeseballs, as well as provided links where you can find recipes for almond-nut crackers, cheese crackers, and homemade salsa.

And while you're there, don't forget to check out the list of extra Superbowl ideas, as some of them such as stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, cold shrimp, and even jalapeno poppers would be great to add to your Thanksgiving table. Although ham and turkey usually play center stage, there's no rule that says they have to. Meatballs, spicy chicken wings, cheese cubes, and even hot dog chunks wrapped in bacon and broiled can beef up your holiday table and turn it into something special.

What About the Main Dish?

Turkey roasting in the oven
Hubby wants to try and smoke a medium-sized turkey this year in the smoker, so that's what we are going to do, but you can easily roast up a turkey, ham, beef roast, or pork loin in the oven without a lot of fuss. A turkey bag will work to keep both a turkey or ham nice and juicy. Just follow directions on the box of bags. If you don't want to use a bag, just simply roast the turkey, ham, beef or pork roast underneath a tent of foil. It works beautifully for almost any type of meat. If you enjoy crispy skin, just remove the foil for the last hour.

Since both hubby and I are gluten-free, Thanksgiving is always held at our house, but company rarely shows up, so a smaller turkey will be more than big enough for the two of us. Other years, we've simply roasted up a couple of game hens instead. A turkey breast thrown into the crock pot would also make a nice Thanksgiving main dish for two. If you're feeding a crowd though, you'll want to plan about half a pound of turkey or ham per person. That will give you plenty of leftovers for salads and lunches throughout the week.

Traditional Thanksgiving Side Dishes Low-Carb Style

Low-Carb Gravy: If you like a bit of gravy over your turkey, low-carb gravy isn't difficult to make, thanks to the thickening power of cream cheese. Just put a cup of chicken broth into a small saucepan, and add 4-ounces of cream cheese chopped up, so it will melt easier. Heat the broth, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted, and the broth is creamy. Season the gravy with poultry seasoning, sage, basil, and whatever herbs and spices you like. The gravy will thicken as it simmers, but if you don't want to reduce the volume and it isn't as thick as you would like, you can always add a pinch of xanthan gum or guar gum to make it thicker. But be careful. Too much vegetable gum will ruin the gravy. Don't add more than a pinch. For a special touch, add some sauteed mushrooms to the sauce.

Low-Carb Turkey Stuffing: We are not stuffing folks. Never were, even before going low-carb. I did experiment once with using crushed pork rinds to make a stuffing, but it didn't turn out well, and I finally decided that trying to copy the diet that got me fat in the first place really wasn't a good idea. Nothing compares to the original, and you're more likely to cheat or go off plan when you start feeling deprived. I found it better to just come up with new holiday traditions rather than trying to copy what was. However, if you live in an area where you can get your hands on low-carb bread, here's a recipe for low-carb turkey stuffing that supposedly tastes like the real thing.

Fake Mashed Potatoes: The same thing goes for low-carb mashed potatoes. A lot of low-carb folks use cauliflower to imitate the texture of the mashed potatoes, but I've never been interested in doing that. Not after trying to make a fake potato salad using cauliflower. It didn't taste like potato salad at all. My taste buds could tell the difference and my mind wasn't very happy. But for those who want to give mashed cauliflower a try, you can watch how to do it in the following video:

Pumpkin Casserole: This is my one exception to imitating old Thanksgiving stand-bys. We really, really like this casserole, which imitates a sweet potato casserole I used to make before going low-carb. I've heard that you can add a small sweet potato to the pumpkin and it will give the dish a sweet potato taste and texture, but I've never tried that. You can find the recipe in our archives: Low-Carb Thanksgiving Pumpkin Casserole

Low-Carb Cranberry Sauce: Cranberry sauce is super easy to make yourself. That allows you to control the type of sugar substitute you use, as well as the quantity. A typical recipe calls for a bag of fresh, whole cranberries, 2 cups of sugar, and a cup of water. The sugar can easily be substituted with Erythritol, Splenda, or a combination of both. I've made it both ways, and both ways came out good. I've also done it with all Spenda, but it loses its traditional sticky goodness without the sugar alcohol. I have never tried this with Stevia, but there's no reason why it wouldn't work. In addition, I always add Christmas spices to my cranberry sauce: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves. Pumpkin pie spices or apple pie spices would also work.

Green Bean Casserole: Traditionally, green bean casserole is simply 2 cans of well-drained french-cut green beans mixed with a can of cream of mushroom soup. The beans are then piled into a small casserole dish and topped with crushed, canned french-fried onion rings, and baked until bubbly. You can do the same thing using the low-carb gravy recipe above. Just use 1/2 cup of chicken broth to the 4-ounces of cream cheese. Add some minced mushrooms and dried minced onions to the gravy, and top the casserole with some crumbled pork rinds rather than canned onions.

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Bundle of fresh asparagus
Asparagus with Cheese Sauce: This is hubby's favorite vegetable side dish. He asks for it every Thanksgiving. I simply steam the asparagus in our steamer and then make a low-carb cheese sauce to ladle over the top. To make the cheese sauce, melt about 1/2 cube butter in a skillet. Once melted, add 4-ounces of chopped cream cheese. Stir and mash the cheese, until the cheese is hot. It won't melt all the way. Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Stir and cook the sauce until the cream cheese is completely melted. At this point, you can add a cup of whatever cheese you like. Parmesan will turn this into alfredo and a sharp cheddar will make a nice yellow sauce. Six to 8 slices of real American cheese (the kind that doesn't come individually wrapped) makes a smooth, traditional cheese sauce. You can kick this up a notch by adding some bacon bits and using some bacon grease to replace part of the butter.

Green Beans with Bacon and Mushrooms: I hardly ever make green bean casserole for Thanksgiving anymore. If asparagus isn't available, I'm more likely to fry up some bacon chunks, sliced mushrooms, and some chopped onions in a skillet. Once well cooked, add a couple cans of well-drained regular cut green beans to the skillet. I toss the beans as the beans heat up. A bit of chopped tomato is also nice in this.

Tangerine-Walnut Coleslaw: I normally don't serve a lettuce salad for Thanksgiving, since we eat a lot of salad throughout the year. If the weather is warm, I'm more likely to make coleslaw instead. This Tangerine-Walnut Coleslaw from our archives is really, really good. You can sub the walnuts for any type of nuts you like. Hubby prefers pecans. The little cutie tangerines are about 8 net carbs for a large tangerine. I've also made this recipe with an orange, when the cutie tangerines were not available, but the carbs are a bit higher. Dried unsweetened cranberries and a few sunflower seeds would also add a nice touch.

Low-Carb Spinach Pie: This is an extra special vegetable pie from our archives that's made with mushrooms, eggs, and cream cheese, and then baked in a pie plate without a shell. Originally, the Low-Carb Spinach Pie recipe called for sliced tomatoes on top of the pie, and Parmesan cheese, but I usually don't add the sliced tomatoes anymore. Some grated cheese on the top makes an excellent presentation, though, especially Parmesan cheese, as it browns nicely and adds a great flavor.

Low-Carb Thanksgiving Desserts

Low-Carb Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie: If you're not allergic to wheat, carbolose flour makes a super easy, good tasting low-carb pie crust. You just toss all of the ingredients together and pat the crust into the deep dish pie plate. I was really surprised when I tried it. There was no after taste at all, probably because of the pie filling. I just used a traditional pumpkin pie recipe with the carbolose crust, the recipe available on the back of the Libby's pumpkin can, but used sugar substitute for the sugar and 1/2 cup of heavy cream instead of the can of evaporated milk.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Custard: If you are sensitive to wheat, you can bake a pumpkin pie in a pie plate without the crust. Make sure that you butter the pie plate well, so the custard doesn't stick, and use the alternative instructions above with the recipe on the back of the Libby's pumpkin can.

Low-Carb Chocolate Cake: Pumpkin desserts are traditional for Thanksgiving, but back before I knew I had celiac disease, I used to make this Low-Carb Chocolate-Mayonnaise Pound Cake for special occasions. It does call for several specialty ingredients though, and needs to be made a day ahead in order for the moisture to redistribute itself throughout the cake. I have not tried to make this without the vital wheat gluten, as its the gluten that makes this recipe rise up like a traditional chocolate cake. Splenda quick pack is no longer available, but was equal to 1 cup bulk Splenda. The bulk Splenda will be higher in carbs, so the little packets might be a better choice.

Creamy Pumpkin Pudding Pie: This can be used with an almond or almond-coconut pie crust or simply served in fancy glasses as a pudding. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup mashed pumpkin, a small package of instant sugar-free vanilla or pumpkin pudding mix, and 8-ounces of cream cheese. Beat well. Adjust thickness with extra heavy cream if needed. Pile into a low-carb nut crust or fancy glasses and chill. To make a nut crust, combine 1-1/2 cups of ground almonds, 2 tbsp bulk Splenda, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg white. Carefully stir the mixture until the almonds are well coated with the egg. Press into pie plate and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. For a nut-coconut crust, simple substitute 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut for 1/2 cup grounds nuts.

Smoked chicken and salad

Keep Holidays Special

The holidays are a special time to spend with family and friends, but don't let the social occasion spoil everything you've accomplished over the past year. Thanksgiving is a time to look at your life and find gratitude for your blessings. And health is certainly one of the blessings that sticking to your low-carb diet can provide. If you have insulin resistance, diabetes, cholesterol problems, or metabolic syndrome, seeking out low-carb recipes that you can use for social occasions rather than chucking your diet and eating whatever is available is essential to making your new lifestyle work.

Don't short-change yourself. Plan ahead and make your Thanksgiving Dinner the best it can be.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Make Your Low-Carb Halloween Special

Have you noticed that Trick-or-Treat is almost non-existent now? For the past several years, hubby has sat by the front door with a large plastic bowl of candy and other goodies to pass out to the neighborhood kiddies, but hardly anyone ever shows up. We live in Utah, and Utah has organized Trunk-or-Treat festivities at the local church building every year, so very few kids roam the neighborhood after dark.

Halloween Memories

When I was growing up in California, our local church group used to put on a Halloween carnival with a haunted house and fun things like that. We would get dressed in our costumes, head for the church patio, and spend the afternoon and evening playing carnival games and eating hot dogs and chili. But now, the thing-to-do seems to be Trunk-or-Treat instead.

group of red candy apples
For us, the hot treat of choice was popcorn balls and those hard, red slick candied apples. Mom had a large box of old clothing, shoes, wigs, false teeth, and parts of costumes from previous years that we could go through and create our own masterpiece with. We were free to use mom's makeup to complete the look, as the church carnival didn't allow masks. They didn't want to scare the kids.

It wasn't until the scare of going door-to-door surfaced with the possibility of getting poisoned or winding up with a razor-blade in those apples and popcorn balls that mom and dad switched from giving out homemade treats to store-purchased individually-wrapped candy. It was dad watching a youngster toss the popcorn ball into a trash can that did it. And Halloween was never the same again after that.

Halloween Fun Without Sugar or Sugar Substitutes

Halloween Decorations: Jack-o-Lantern Man, basket of squashes, flowers

Hubby is so disappointed. Since he doesn't have any children of his own, he really likes passing treats out to the kids. In fact, Halloween is far more exciting for him than Thanksgiving or even Christmas. Oddly enough, he hasn't even asked for Halloween candy this year. Usually, he tries to play the, "we got to get the candy early" game, so he can dip into it before the great day arrives, but that hasn't happened this year.

He did speak up this morning to let me know there is only one week left until Halloween, after the local news station reminded him that the holidays were just around the corner. But his delay got me thinking. There's no reason why Halloween has to be drowning in sugar, or even sugar substitutes. Fun is the name of the game, and food can be fun without all of those unnecessary carbohydrates and sugar alcohols. Even Splenda has been starting to get a bad name these days.

I've been reacting badly to all sugar substitutes for years now, so my answer to the Halloween dilemma has just been to use a little common sense and a few realistic low-carb survival tactics. But why should I have to do that? Why not just come up with a few fun ways to celebrate the holiday that doesn't include sugar or restraint?

Low-Carb Halloween Food Ideas

Coming up with a cute and tasty low-carb Halloween spread just takes a little bit of ingenuity and creativity. Think pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, spiders, eyeballs, and fingers. How would those types of Halloween sensations translate into fun low-carb food?

Low-Carb Halloween Eyeballs: Cheeseballs are a solid holiday tradition, but you don't have to mold the dough into a single giant ball. After combining equal parts of cream cheese and butter until well mixed together, roll the dough into giant eye-ball sized balls and then top each eye-ball with a pimento-filled green olive slice for a gross look the kids won't be able to resist.

Bag of Cuties Tangerines
Tangerine Jack-o-Lanterns: This is an easy one. Just buy a bag of those cutie tangerines and use a black felt-tip pen to decorate them like jack-o-lanterns. This would make a great activity to do with the kids. Give them 2 or 3 tangerines each and let them decorate them anyway they want to. Cuties have about 8 net carbs each.

Blood-shot Eyeballs: To make a blood-shot eye ball isn't difficult. Hard-boil several eggs, then smash them just enough to crack the egg shells, but leave the egg intact. You then simmer the eggs in a red-colored liquid such as beet juice or a red food-colored water. The red color will seem through the cracked shell and look like blood-shot eye balls once you peel the eggs.

Spider Eggs: No party or family gathering is complete without a tray of deviled eggs, but Halloween calls for something special. Why not dress your deviled eggs up to look like creepy black spiders? Place a black-olive half in the middle of the filling for a spider body, then cut the other half into thin spider legs.

Low-Carb Mini Pizza: Form low-carb pizza dough into mini pizzas, or use large portobella mushroom caps. Spread or fill with sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and then cut pepperoni into eyes, nose, and mouth for a jack-o-lantern before baking. Alternatively, you could also arrange the cheese into a spider-web design, and then top each pizza with either a plastic spider or an black-olive spider cut as above.

Hot-Dog Fingers: Hot dogs are the perfect size for creepy-looking fingers that the kids will all be fighting over. Just cut a small piece of hot dog off of the top of one end of the dog to look like a fingernail that has been removed, and then cut slices into the dogs for knuckles and wrinkles. Alternatively, you could use a piece of red or green bell pepper to make a colored fingernail. For a really eery presentation, stick the dogs finger-nail up in a bowl of homemade dip.

pumpkin puking guacamole
Photo by: Arne Heggestad, CC by-sa 2.0
Jack-o-Lantern Puke: Low carb and guacamole go hand-in-hand like bacon and eggs. But why just serve the guacamole in a festive bowl surrounded by cheese chips and nuked pepperoni slices? Sometimes, it's all about the presentation. Go the extra mile by carving up a nice Jack-o-lantern. Set the pumpkin at the end of a large platter, and then arrange the guacamole as if the pumpkin is puking it up all over the table. Drape some of it out of the pumpkin's mouth and then most of it arranged on the platter. This will look even better and more realistic if you add some chopped tomatoes and onions to your guacamole. If you don't like guacamole, you could substitute a homemade chunky salsa for the same effect.

Halloween Quesadillas: If you can have low-carb tortillas, have some fun and cut out triangle eyes and a mouth out of one tortilla. Heat a second tortilla in a pan and top with grated cheese. Cover the cheese with the tortilla cut into a jack-o-lantern face, and heat until the cheese is melted.

Jack-o-Lantern Berry Cups: Cut the top off of an orange, about one-third down. That should give you a wide enough opening to carefully remove the orange sections without hurting the orange skin. You want the orange to keep it's round shape. Carefully carve the orange like a jack-o-lantern, and then fill with an assortment of low-carb strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Whatever you have available.

Halloween-Shaped Cheese Slices or Hamburgers: Who needs cookies for Halloween? Simply pull your old Halloween cookie cutters out from where you've been hiding them, and use them on slices of real American cheese instead. Pumpkin shapes, cats, and witch hats in white or orange cheese slices will add a unique holiday twist to any raw-vegetable or low-carb cracker platter. You could also cut cooked hamburger patties into scary Halloween shapes as well. Use reduced-sugar catsup to draw jack-o-lantern faces on each patty. Another idea is to cut a jack-o-lantern face into your American cheese and then melt it slightly on top of your burger.

Don't Forget the Decorations

When you're talking about a holiday where the focus is on food, don't forget to surround yourself with a festive atmosphere. A Halloween tablecloth, skeleton cut-outs, danging spiders, a variety of decorated pumpkins, witch cauldrons, dried flowers, and lacy doilies will go a long way toward making your low-carb Halloween special. While food is always important at any celebration, allow your imagination and creativity to spill over into a memorable atmosphere that the kids will remember for years to come. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Dr. Atkins Advice on Exhaustion and Leg Cramps

This morning I was taking a stroll through some of the threads over at Low Carb Friends, and I ran into something that really disturbed me. A patient of Dr. Westman was there asking for help. She has been on the high-fat low-carb diet known as Nutritional Ketosis for 4 months now. She is eating 20 carbs or less, is losing about 1 to 2 pounds a week, but she feels horrible.

For some reason, she is not adapting to the state of Ketosis.

Despite a high salt intake, she's having excruciating foot and leg cramps, gets dizzy, and comes near to passing out during her gym activities. She says she has zero energy, so her gym routine has dropped from 5 days a week and 1 trainer session, to just the training. She is taking magnesium and potassium supplements, along with chicken broth every day, but nothing is helping. She's exhausted and feels horrible, and yet, they want her to continue with the regimen she's been on, even though it's not working for her.

That doesn't make any sense to me.

Typical Nutritional Ketosis Diet

I've talked about my experience with a standard Nutritional Ketosis Diet before. My own results were not good. I gained a lot of weight when I tried it. It's low in protein, super high in fat, and keeps you at an Atkins Induction level of carbs throughout the diet phase. Since my hunger never corrects itself when I go into the state of Ketosis, and I don't get that energy upsurge that those who have Insulin Resistance claim to get, I can really relate to just how badly this woman feels eating at very low-carb levels. That level would make me feel horrible too.

Plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese sticks
Typical Low-Carb Breakfast: Bacon, Eggs, and Cheese

She is eating an adequate breakfast of 2 eggs, 3 slices of bacon, and some coffee with heavy cream and stevia -- but she's eating no lunch. Just a snack 3 times a week of 2 ounces of nuts. Dinner varies, depending on what she is feeding her family, but an example she gave was a chicken breast breaded with pork rinds, broccoli with butter sauce, diet soda, and a Carb Smart ice cream bar.

That particular menu only gave her about 15 grams of carbohydrates per day.

That's more than a very-low carb diet, but less than one would eat on Atkins Induction. Plus, Atkins Induction is only for 2 weeks. After that initial 2-week period, you return carbohydrates to the diet in 5-gram implements per day, per week, until you find the "highest" level of carbohydrate you can eat and still lose a pound a week.

If You Don't Feel Good You Won't Stick With Low Carb

The sad thing is that there is no way this woman is going to stick to this long term if her energy level and the way she feels doesn't improve. She might be able to withstand the program long enough to lose the weight (she didn't say how much she needed to lose), but that isn't going to do her any good if she goes back to the way she was eating before, once she reaches goal.

Replies to her plea for help mostly focused on the type of magnesium she is taking, but a couple of folks did ask her about the small amount of food she was eating. Apparently, Dr. Westman encourages his patients to only eat twice a day, and stresses the need to eat fewer calories in order to drop the weight, so that's what she's doing. She is following her doctor's advice. Plus, she says that she is eating to her personal hunger level. It's just the way she feels and the leg cramps that are the problem.

What to Do About Leg Cramps and Exhaustion

Leg cramps comes from unbalanced electrolytes. Since a low-carb diet keeps your glycogen storage less than half full, the diet is very dehydrating, so leg cramps are common. Shedding the water the body stores to process glycogen eliminates necessary minerals, which have to be replaced. Drinking a lot of water, which she is doing, will do exactly the same thing. It sweeps calcium, potassium, and magnesium out of the body.

If you're having cramps, the most important mineral to replace is calcium, but adequate magnesium and potassium are also important:

"When there are leg cramps, extra calcium is in order, and there is often a kind of fatigue for which potassium supplements are the specific." (Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, page 126.)

Dr. Atkins was really into vitamin and mineral supplements. He believed in optimum dosages, and not minimum requirements. Minimum daily requirements are only what will keep you alive, not what will produce optimal health and well-being. However, exhaustion isn't always about potassium. Sometimes, it's about losing more weight than the body can adapt to:

"A weight loss that is too rapid is more than the body can comfortably adapt to. And it isn't necessary to lose rapidly. It is more important to lose easily; and losing easily means feeling well all of the time. I can't emphasize this too much: Quick weight loss is not the primary thing we're after -- what we both want for you is an easy and lasting weight loss." (Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, page 142.)

His advice for those who feel tired and ill on a low-carb diet is to raise your carb intake to the next level and see if that corrects the problem. Eating too few carbohydrates is just as stressful on the body as eating too many. This isn't a race, so the same could be said for calories. The goal of a low-carb diet is permanent weight loss, which means finding an eating style you can live with for the rest of your life. The goal isn't to get the weight off in any way you can. That usually backfires.

The Atkins Diet is Not Atkins Induction

A lot of people call what they are doing the Atkins Diet, when clearly it is not. The Atkins Diet is not Atkins Induction. Atkins Induction is a 2 to 4 week introductory period where you eat from a specific list of foods and try to keep your carbohydrate level to 20 net carbs per day, or less. This introductory period has the goal of getting you into the state of ketosis. Once you are comfortably in ketosis, you then return carbohydrates to your diet at a slow enough pace that the body continues to burn your body fat for fuel.

Pot of low-carb ham and green bean soup
Low-Carb Ham and Green Bean Soup

If you don't return carbohydrates to your diet to discover your personal carbohydrate sensitivity, then you are not doing Atkins. You are doing something else. Doing something else is fine, but calling it Atkins can be confusing to newbies who don't understand what the Atkins Diet actually is. The Atkins Diet is a progressive diet. It is not 20 net carbs per day or less -- unless --- that is the only level that will allow you to lose weight. However, you won't know that until you try to add additional carbs back in.

Very low carbs will depress your metabolism and interfere with the way the body converts T4 thyroid hormone into T3, the usable form. For that reason, many people find that adding carbs back into their diet increases their weight loss! That is why the Atkins Diet is an individual diet fine-tuned to fit your likes, food tastes, weight-loss, and metabolic issues. It's not a cookie cutter diet where everyone eats from a specific list of foods and keeps to 20 net carbs per day or less. That isn't Atkins.

"OWL allows you much more choice. That means you can now craft a weight loss regimen that is uniquely yours." (Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, page 147)

Dr. Atkins always left the rate at which you lose weight up to you, but he also cautioned patients and readers to be realistic. As long as you are free of cravings, you're satisfied with the food, and you feel good, the rate at which you lose the weight doesn't matter. What does matter is that you make lifelong, permanent changes in the way you eat and that you feel well while you're creating good food habits. Dizziness and problems exercising indicates you're having a problem converting fat into energy. If that's true for you, then upping your carbohydrate level and lowering your fat intake a bit might be a better option.