What Is the South Beach Diet?
The South Beach Diet is a lower carbohydrate diet that helps with rapid weight loss and promotes heart health.
It was developed by Dr. Arthur Agatson after observing the Atkins Diet. Individuals who followed the Atkins Diet lost weight and belly fat while individuals on a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet struggled to achieve results. Dr. Agatson was not comfortable with the high amount of saturated fat allowed on the Atkins diet, especially for people with heart disease.
He also didn’t think that high fibre foods with “good carbs”, like fruit and whole grains should be restricted. His idea was to create a diet that would allow overweight, diabetic and prediabetic people to lose weight quickly and reduce their risk of heart disease. He then developed the South Beach Diet that comprises of low-glycemic index carbohydrates, lean proteins and unsaturated fats.
The Phases of The South Beach Diet
There are 3 phases of the South Beach Diet. The first 2 phases are targeted at weight loss, whereas the 3rd phase is aimed at weight maintenance.
Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet lasts about 14 days. It’s the strictest phase and limits fruit, grains, and other high-carbohydrate foods. This is an attempt to decrease blood sugar and insulin levels, stabilize hunger and reduce cravings. Most people lose about 8-13 lbs during this phase. Three meals a day are consumed daily. The meals comprise lean protein, non-starchy vegetables and small amounts of healthy fat and legumes. There are also 2 mandatory snacks.
Phase 2 starts immediately after Phase 1. It lasts for as long as necessary for an individual to achieve their goal weight. During this phase, most people lose about 1-2 lbs weekly. In addition to the foods from Phase 1, limited portions of fruit, alcohol and good carbohydrates are allowed.
Once an individual has achieved their desired weight, they would then advance to Phase 3. Occasional treats are allowed and nothing is really off limits. Nonetheless, the guidelines from Phase 2 should be the basis of the lifestyle. If a person starts to gain weight, Dr. Agatston recommends returning to Phase 1 for 1-2 weeks.
Regular exercise should accompany each phase.
Benefits of The South Beach Diet
Simplicity: The South Beach Diet does not require counting and measuring. Foods are selected from a list.
Low in Saturated Fats: The diet is very low in saturated fats.
Disadvantages of The South Beach Diet
Use of Glycemic Index: The South Beach Diet relies heavily on the glycemic index. Glycemic load seems to be a more practical and useful indicator of how food is likely to affect blood glucose.
Very restrictive first phase: The restrictions of the first phase can be a turn off for some people. However, it doesn’t last for too long and can be extended to 4 weeks at most if needed.
Not structured enough: Some people find that the diet is not structured enough with regard to adding carbohydrates back in the diet. The diet leaves a lot up to the individual.
Foods to Eat on The South Beach Diet
- Lean protein: It’s recommended that a small portion of the following foods be consumed. Seconds can be consumed if necessary.
– Lean beef, pork, lamb, veal, and game
– Skinless chicken and turkey breast
– Fish and shellfish
– Turkey bacon and pepperoni
-Eggs and egg whites
– Soy-based meat substitutes
– Low-fat hard cheese, ricotta cheese, and cottage cheese
- Non-starchy vegetables. Most vegetables are allowed. The exceptions include:
– Beets, carrots, corn, turnips, yams, peas, white potatoes, most types of winter squash
- Legumes. Although legumes are allowed, their consumption should be limited. These include:
– Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans, and other bean varieties.
– Split peas and black-eyed peas
– Edamame and soybeans
– Hummus (1/4 cup or 60 g)
- Nuts and seeds. About 1 oz (28g) should be consumed daily. These include:
– Almonds, cashews, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and other nuts
– Nut butters (2 tbsp)
– Flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other seeds.
- Oils and fats. About 2 tbsp should be consumed daily.
– Olive oil, canola oil, macadamia oil, and avocado oil.
– Corn oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, and soybean oil.
- Alternative fats. About 2 tbs of healthy oils should be consumed daily. These include:
– Avocado (2/3 of one fruit)
– Trans fat free margarine (2 tbsp)
– Low-fat mayonnaise (2 tbsp)
– Regular mayonnaise (1 tbsp)
– Salad dressing with less than 3 g of sugar (2 tbsp)
– Olives (2-3 depending on size)
- Sweet treats. About 100 calories or fewer should be consumed daily. These include:
– Sugar free or unsweetened cocoa or chocolate syrup
– Sugar free gelatin, jams and jellies
– Sugar free candies, popsicles, or gum
– Sugar substitutes and sugar alcohols
- Condiments. Unlimited quantities of these foods can be consumed daily except where indicated otherwise.
– Herbs, spices, horseradish, mustard, lemon juice or salsa
– All kinds of vinegars (except balsamic which is limited to 1 tbsp)
– Light coconut milk (1/4 cup or 58g)
– Soy sauce, steak sauce or miso (1 1/2 tbsp)
– Cream, whole milk or half and half (1 tbsp)
– Light sour cream or cream cheese (2 tbsp)
– Light whipped topping (2 tbsp)
- Beverages. Unlimited quantities of these drinks can be consumed daily, caffeine should be drunk in moderation. They include:
– Coffee, tea, sugar free sodas, sugar free drink mixes, tomato juice or vegetable juice.
Phase 2 and 3
During phase 2, all the food from Phase 1 can be consumed in addition to higher carbohydrate foods (which are gradually added in). It starts with the inclusion of fruit and whole grains or starchy vegetables during the first week. From the start of Phase 2, up to 3 servings of fruit and 4 servings of whole grains and starchy vegetables may be consumed daily. Although limited to light beer and dry wine, an occasional alcoholic drink is allowed. Once the desired weight has been achieved, the next step is to move to Phase 3.
1-3 servings can be consumed daily. A serving size means a small piece of fruit, 1/2 a grapefruit or 3/4 cup (170g) berries, cherries, or grapes. They include all fresh and frozen fruits with the exception of dates, figs, pineapple, raisins, and watermelon.
Whole grains and starchy vegetables:
1-4 servings can be consumed daily. A serving size means 1/2 cup (70-90g) cooked starchy vegetables, 1 slice of bread or 1/2 cup (79-98g) cooked grains. They include:
- Sweet potatoes and African yams
- Winter squash (3/4 cup or 340g)
- Whole grain hot cereal
- Whole grain cold cereal
- Whole grain bread
- Brown or wild rice
- Whole grain pasta, quinoa, couscous or farro
- Taro (1/3 cup or 44g)
- Popcorn (3 cups or 33g)
- Whole grain bagel (1/2 of a small one)
- Pita bread (limited to 1/2)
- Corn or whole grain tortilla (1 small)
One serving of dry wine or an occasional light beer can be consumed daily. They include:
- Light beer (12 oz or 336g)
- Wine, dry red or white (4 oz or 112g)
Foods To Avoid on South Beach Diet
High carbohydrates and certain fatty foods are not allowed in Phase 1. They include:
- Fatty meat and poultry
- Butter and coconut oil
- Whole milk
- Foods made with refined sugar
- Honey, maple syrup and agave nectar
- All fruits and fruit juice
- Beets, carrots, corn, turnips, African yams, peas, white potatoes, and winter squash
Phases 2 & 3
Fatty meats and saturated fat, and foods high in refined or natural sugar should be avoided during Phases 2 and 3.
- Fatty meat and poultry
- Butter and coconut oil
- Whole milk
- Foods made with refined flour or sugar
- Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar
- Fruit juice
- Beets, corn and white potatoes
- Dates, figs, pineapple, raisins, and watermelon
- Alcohol other than light beer and dry wine