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About the South Beach Diet

The South Beach diet as glamorous as it sounds is a very popular diet aiming at weight-loss. It was created by Dr Arthur Agatston, a noted cardiologist, in the year 2003. He developed this diet for his heart patients primarily to improve their heart health; however, he discovered that while on the diet, his patients also lost significant amounts of weight.

Originally the South Beach diet was called the Modified Carbohydrate Diet. Later, it was rechristened as the South Beach diet after the South Beach area in Miami Beach. It followed a three-phase program to help patients to lose weight and reduce cholesterol levels.

The South Beach diet is quite the “celebrity” amongst low-carb diets available today. This diet comprises lower carbohydrates and higher proteins and “good” fats when compared to any other typical eating plan. It teaches you to choose the carbohydrates and fats that are right for you and eliminate the “bad” carbohydrates and fats from your diet.

The good news! You can see amazing results in a short time.


The South Beach Diet Promise

Flip flop your way to a slimmer and healthier you!


How Does the South Beach Diet Work?

The South Beach diet is a way of life where you depend on the right carbohydrates and fats. It is all about learning to choose the “right” carbohydrates and fats and eliminate the “bad” ones from your diet plan. The result, “a slimmer and fitter you”!  The diet plan emphasizes on eating foods loaded with nutrients and fiber. The premise of the diet is that by eating right you can lose up to 8-13 pounds in a span of 2 weeks.

The South Beach diet allows you to eliminate the “bad” carbohydrates from your diet by the use of the glycemic load and glycemic index to decide which carbohydrates to avoid. Foods with a higher glycemic index have a tendency to increase the blood sugar that can boost your appetite and lead to increased eating and thus weight gain. This can also result in diabetes and all these factors together can be the cause of cardiovascular disease. The diet also encourages you to limit or eliminate the “bad” fats from your diet and choose to eat healthier monounsaturated fats. There is also greater emphasis on eating whole grains and loading up on fruits and vegetables.

The South beach diet is not any typical diet. It encourages you to think healthy, clean and wholesome. It urges you to eat foods that consist of whole grains, that are high in lean protein, vitalizing fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from which the body gets its energy while you start shedding those pounds without staying hungry. Surely a win-win!  

The South Beach diet follows a three-phase approach and helps to shake off your food cravings, kick-start the weight loss, shed the pounds and keep them off for life!

Last but not the least, the South Beach diet recommends that you adopt exercise as a very important part of your lifestyle. Regular exercise will boost your body metabolism and also prevent plateaus in weight-loss.


What’s on the Menu?

Phase 1

  • Beef (Lean Cuts): Pastrami, sirloin steak, eye of round, flank steak, ground beef, lean sirloin, London broil, top round lean meat, T-bone, tenderloin (filet mignon)
  • Poultry (Skinless): Chicken breast (all cuts), turkey bacon, turkey breast, Cornish hen, duck breast, ground breast of chicken, turkey pastrami, turkey sausage, ground breast of turkey
  • Seafood: Tuna, fish (all types), salmon roe, sashimi, shellfish (all types), tuna water-packed), other fish (water packed)
  • Pork: Boiled ham, tenderloin (natural and uncured), Canadian bacon, ham (chop, roast or smoked)
  • Veal: Leg cutlet, leg, top round
  • Lamb (occasionally, after removing all visible fat): Center cut (chop or roasted), loin
  • Game Meats: Ostrich, buffalo, venison, elk
  • Deli Meats (preferably all-natural): Chicken breast (regular, smoked, or peppered), ham (boiled, natural, uncured, smoked), turkey breast (regular, smoked or peppered), roast beef (lean)
  • Soy-Based Meat Substitutes and Meat Alternatives: Seitan, soy bacon, soy burger, yuba (in sticks or sheets), soy hot dogs, soy sausage links and patties, tempeh, tofu (all varieties), soy chicken, soy crumbles
  • Cheese (fat-free or reduced fat): American, farmer cheese,  feta, blue cheese,cheddar, cottage cheese, goat cheese (Chèvre), provolone, queso fresco, ricotta, sheep’s milk cheese, soy cheese, string cheese, Swiss, mozzarella, parmesan, spreadable cheese (all flavors)
  • Eggs: Whole eggs, egg whites and egg substitutes
  • Dairy (nonfat or low-fat): Greek yogurt, kefir, plain yogurt, buttermilk, coconut milk, almond milk (unsweetened), instant soymilk, artificially sweetened soy milk, evaporated milk, dry milk powder
  • Beans and Other Legumes (fresh, dried, frozen, or canned): Adzuki beans, black beans, hummus, fava beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, refried beans, broad beans, Italian beans, kidney beans, butter beans, soybeans, split peas, cannellini beans, chickpeas (garbanzos), great northern beans, lentils (any variety), lima beans, cranberry beans, edamame, mung beans, navy beans, pigeon peas, white beans
  • Vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned): Fiddlehead ferns, garlic, grape leaves, artichoke hearts, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, bok choy, broccoli,  okra, onions, parsley, broccolini, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (red, Napa, green, savoy), capers, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chayote, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, collard greens, cucumbers, daikon radishes, eggplant, shallots, snap peas, snow peas, endive, hearts of palm, jícama, lettuce (all types), mushrooms (all types), mustard greens, escarole, fennel, green beans, watercress, wax beans, pimientos, pepperoncini, peppers (all types), pickles, summer, yellow, zucchini, rhubarb, sauerkraut, scallions, sea vegetables (nori, seaweed), tomato juice, turnip greens, spinach, sprouts (radish, alfalfa, bean, broccoli, sunflower), squash, spaghetti squash, Swiss chard, tomatillos, tomatoes (fresh and all varieties of canned and dried), vegetable juice blends, water chestnuts, radicchio, radishes
  • Nuts and Seeds (only 1 serving per day): Almonds, macadamias, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, chia seeds, coconut (unsweetened), edamame, filberts, flaxmeal (ground flaxseed), hazelnuts, peanut butter, natural, and other nut butters, peanuts (boiled or dry roasted), small pecans, pine nuts, flaxseed, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts
  • Fats and Oils (up to 2 tbsp.): Canola, soybean, sunflower, olive (extra-virgin), safflower, sesame, corn, flaxseed, grapeseed, peanuts
  • Other Fats: Avocado, coconut oil, cream cheese (occasionally), mayonnaise (low-fat or light), cream cheese substitute, vegetable oil spread (margarine) guacamole, margarine (trans-fat free), olives (small green or black) salad dressing oil
  • Seasonings and Condiments: All herbs and spices, all herb and spice blends (no added sugar), chipotles in adobo, sugar free cocktail sauce, espresso powder, arrowroot, broth (beef, chicken, vegetable), chile peppers, lemon juice, lime juice, mustard (all types, except honey mustard), cooking sprays (such as olive oil, canola oil), extracts (pure almond, vanilla, or others), ketchup (sugar-free), horseradish and horseradish sauce, chile paste, chile sauce, hot pepper sauce, sugar-free salsa ,vinegar (all types), wasabi (powdered or paste), pepper (ground and whole peppercorns – black, cayenne, pink, white, and pepper blends)
  • Toppings and Sauces (use sparingly): Coconut milk, fat-free cream cheese, miso, pesto sauce, shoyu  fat-free sour cream, soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, steak sauce, taco sauce, tamari, tapenade, fat-free whipped topping, Worcestershire sauce
  • Sweet Treats (only 75-100 calories per day): Hard candies (sugar-free), chocolate powder (no sugar added) sugar-free chocolate syrup, unsweetened cocoa powder, 100% cacao drink mix,  fudge pops (sugar-free, frozen, no gelatin), sugar-free gum, sugar-free jams and jellies, sugar-free pops, sugar-free syrups
  • Sugar Substitutes: Acesulfame K, agave nectar, aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), fructose, monk fruit, saccharin (Sweet ’n Low), stevia, sucralose (Splenda)
  • Beverages: Buttermilk (light), seltzer, soy milk (low-fat, unsweetened), caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and tea, club soda, coconut milk beverage (unsweetened), herbal teas (chamomile, peppermint, etc.), kefir (nonfat or low-fat), almond milk (unsweetened, all flavors), fat-free or low-fat milk, sugar-free powdered drink mixes, tomato juice, diet soda and drinks, vegetable juice blends


Phase 2

  • Protein: Hot dogs (beef, pork, poultry, soy), low-fat rice cheese
  • Fruit (fresh, frozen, or canned, without added sugar): Apple, apricots, banana, blackberries, grapefruit, honeydew melon, blueberries, boysenberries cactus pear fruit, cantaloupe, cherries, clementines, kiwi fruit, loganberries, mandarin oranges, mango,  mulberries, nectarine, orange, papaya (yellow or green), peach, pear, plum, pomegranate, pomelo, elderberries, gooseberries, prunes, raspberries, strawberries, tangelo, tangerines
  • Dairy: Non-fat or low-fat plain yogurt
  • Whole Grains: Amaranth, whole grain bagel, barley, bread made of whole grains (buckwheat, whole wheat, spelt, whole oats, bran, rye), whole wheat phyllo dough and shells, cellophane noodles (mung bean threads), low-sugar cold or hot cereal, rice noodles, shirataki noodles, whole grain crackers, whole grain English muffin, flour (legume and nut flours, almond meal or flour, amaranth flour, barley flour, black bean flour, brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, coconut flour, white bean flour,  corn flour, corn meal, flaxseed meal, garbanzo bean flour, sorghum flour, soy flour, spelt flour,(chickpea) flour, garbanzo fava flour, teff flour, whole wheat flour, hazelnut flour, oat flour, quinoa flour, whole wheat pastry flour) , matzo, whole wheat or bran muffins, pasta, brown rice, soba noodles, whole grain tortilla, Israeli or whole wheat couscous, soy, spelt, popcorn (air-popped, microwave, plain, or stove-top cooked with canola oil), cooked rice (basmati, brown, converted, parboiled, or wild)
  • Starchy Vegetables: Calabaza, cassava, corn, sweet potato (occasionally), pumpkin, taro, turnip (root) small winter squash, yam
  • Other Vegetables: Carrots, green peas
  • Beverages: Bourbon, champagne, gin, light beer, rice milk, ouzo, rum, sake, tequila, vodka, wine (red or white)
  • Occasional Treats: Dark chocolate, fat-free and sugar-free pudding

Phase 3

All foods can be eaten sparingly and in moderation.


What’s off the Menu?

Phase 1

  • Beef: Brisket, Jerky, liver, prime rib, rib steak, skirt steak
  • Poultry: Chicken, duck legs, goose, turkey, dark meat (wings, legs, and thighs)
  • Pork: Honey-baked ham, bacon (except Canadian), veal, pork rinds, breast
  • Dairy and Dairy Products: Cheese (full-fat), ice cream (all types), whole milk, full-fat soy milk, full-fat yogurt
  • Fruit: All fruits and fruit juices
  • Vegetables: Beets, Calabaza, carrots, cassava, corn, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, white pumpkin, winter squash, taro, turnips (root), yams
  • Starches (all starchy foods): All types of bread, all types of cereal, croutons, matzo, oatmeal, all types of pasta, pastries and baked goods, all types of rice
  • Seasonings and condiments: Barbecue sauce, cocktail sauce, honey, honey mustard, jams and jellies (with sugar), ketchup, maple syrup and other syrups with sugar, teriyaki sauce
  • Beverages: Alcohol of any kind (such as beer and wine), carrot juice, fruit juice (all types), full fat milk, powdered drink mixes with sugar, soda and other drinks (with sugar)


Phase 2

  • Starches and Breads: Bagel, refined wheat flour, refined bread, cookies, corn flakes, cream of wheat, matzo (except whole wheat varieties), instant oatmeal, white flour pasta, potatoes, white rice (jasmine, sticky) ,white rice cakes, white dinner rolls,
  • Vegetables: Beets, white potatoes
  • Fruit: Canned fruit in heavy syrup, fruit juice, lychees, dates, figs, pineapple, raisins, watermelon
  • Beverages: Regular beer, regular, brandy, carrot juice, liqueurs (like Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish cream, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, etc.), port, sherry, sugary cocktails, wine coolers, honey, cane juice syrup, ice cream


Phase 3

No foods are off-limits as long as it is healthy and within moderate limits.


Advantages of the South Beach Diet

  • Healthy Diet: The South Beach diet recommends healthy eating with a balanced diet consisting of lean proteins, healthy fats, nutritious vegetables and grains. It is a healthy diet as it recommends that you consume foods containing “heart-healthy” unsaturated fats. It bans simple carbohydrate consumption and encourages the consumption of complex carbohydrates that help in regulating insulin in the body. The diet also eliminates excess sugar and sodium from the diet and also discourages eating junk food. The most important aspect is that it does not omit any major food groups in the Phases 2 and 3.
  • No Food Cravings: The South Beach diet restricts consumption of processed or refined carbohydrates. So you do not experience any food cravings. Foods containing simple carbs that cause a spike in glucose levels and cause “hunger pangs”, are banned from the diet such as white bread, pasta and rice, cookies, pastry and cakes, etc. The diet also recommends consumption of healthy fats and lean protein that keep you feeling full and satiated.
  • Rapid Weight Loss: The diet promotes weight loss by removing fattening, unhealthy foods from the diet plan. Weight loss is very fast, especially in Phase 1 of the diet and by following this diet you can maintain your ideal body weight in the long run.
  • Easy to Follow: The South Beach diet is very easy to follow and is not too limiting. There is no tedious calorie counting involved. You can also eat snacks and desserts in moderation.
  • Vegan and Vegetarian Friendly Diet: This diet is vegan-friendly and can also be followed by vegetarians very easily. You can eat soy products, beans, and legumes instead of lean meat. Many vegetarian-only recipes are available on the internet.
  • Gluten Allowed: Gluten isn’t banned by the South Beach diet plan.


Disadvantages of the South Beach Diet

  • Phase 1 Very Rigid: You may find the first phase of the diet very rigid and difficult to follow through.
  • No Requisite Nutrition in Phase 1: The diet cuts out all dairy, grains, fruits and most vegetable in Phase 1. The diet does not provide all the requisite nutrients in the first phase of the program and you may suffer from weakness and lethargy at the start of Phase 1.
  • Initial Weight Loss: The initial weight loss that you may experience may just be water loss and you may not actually lose body weight.
  • Time Consuming: Prepping and cooking meals can be pretty time consuming.


Side Effects

  • Excludes Fruits: One major drawback of the South Beach diet is that it excludes certain fruits from the meal plan as they are considered to be “bad” carbohydrates. Fruit is a very important part of your diet and should not be excluded. Fruit has fiber that keeps you feeling full and thus aids weight loss. Fruit also are rich sources of vitamins and minerals that are essential to the body such as Vitamin C and potassium.
  • Can Cause Weakness and Fatigue: The diet plan limits too many carbohydrates which could result in ketosis that can in turn cause dehydration, light-headedness, irritability, weakness and fatigue. Low blood sugar, hypoglycemia and excessive loss of fluid are associated with the South Beach diet. Kidney functions may also be weakened leading to severe health issues.
  • Permanent Weight Loss: The South Beach diet may not provide lasting effects of weight loss. Once you resume your normal eating pattern, you are most likely to put back all the weight that you lost. There is not much scientific evidence to support the efficacy and effectiveness of this diet.
  • Does Not Recommend Exercise: The South beach diet depends on restriction of carbs for weight loss and does not promote an active, fit lifestyle. It does not recommend that you follow any exercise routine as part of the diet plan.


Common Myths and Misconceptions About the South Beach Diet

This Is A “Quick Fix” Solution to Weight Loss

Contrary to this belief, the South Beach diet does not offer any “quick fix” solutions to weight loss. It is a structured lifestyle program in 3 phases that supports improvement of health in the long run. It is all about making a positive change to your lifestyle. This diet encourages slow and steady weight loss over time and essentially guides you to make the right and healthy food choices.


Everyone Must Follow Phase 1 of the Diet Plan

By now you would have guessed that phase 1 of the diet is the most difficult. The list of foods to avoid in this phase can be quite restrictive leaving you with headaches and often feeling sluggish and fatigued. But not everyone needs to follow this phase. It is designed to be followed by only certain individuals who can withstand the rigors of this phase. Some dieters start the South Beach diet even from Phase 2. If your weight loss goal is low and you don’t suffer from food cravings than you can start the program in Phase 2 and still lose your target weight.


South Beach Diet Is a Low Glycemic Diet

This is not necessarily true. This diet is closer to the Mediterranean diet. The South Beach diet has been termed as a low-glycemic diet very often as it recommends eating foods with low glycemic-index or loads to avert blood sugar fluctuations that can cause craving and hunger. In fact, this diet can be likened to the Mediterranean diet that focuses on consumption of lean protein, omega-3 rich seafood, whole grains, healthy fats, legumes, fiber-rich vegetables and nuts.


Bread and Cereals Are Banned in the South Beach Diet Permanently

A common fallacy of the South Beach diet is that grains, cereals and bread are banned permanently. However, you can eat these in moderate amounts. In Phase 1 usually all grain products are avoided to eliminate cravings. Gradually whole grains are added back into the diet in Phases 2 and 3. It is recommended that you re-introduce the healthy carbohydrates into your meal-plan gradually and not pile them on.


There Is No Exercise Included in the South Beach Diet

The initial South Beach diet did not include exercise as part of the diet plan. However, the program was later modified to include a comprehensive exercise program that includes strength and interval training. The training program is designed to begin at a slow pace and the intensity is gradually increased. The exercise component aids to speed up the body metabolism so that weight plateaus are limited and weight loss happens more quickly.  


You Need South Beach Diet Foods to Make the Diet Work

There is no need to spend a lot of money to start this program and maintain it. There are many easy to follow recipes available on the internet that you can follow and create delicious meals. There is no need to go shopping especially for expensive ingredients to follow the diet. You can simply follow your diet plan with the ingredients available readily in your kitchen.


Other Uses

The South Beach diet was originally conceived as being a “heart-healthy” one. The diet claims to improve cardiovascular health and provides a number of other benefits and does not focus solely on weight loss. By following this diet you can see a dramatic fall in total cholesterol, drop in triglyceride levels and increase in the “good” cholesterol levels. It has been seen that the South Beach diet has worked wonders in curing prediabetes syndrome and type-2 diabetes. The diet also lowers the risk of high blood pressure and normalizes fat levels in the blood.


Stages of the South Beach Diet

The South Beach diet’s three phases are designed in such a way that it caters to your body’s nutritional requirements best during each stage of weight loss. And the best part is that you can maintain a healthy lifestyle all the while keeping the unwanted weight off.


Phase 1

This lasts for 2 weeks and is aimed to reset your body and reduce the body’s cravings for foods that are high in refined starches and sugar in order to kick-start the weight loss process. In this stage you are required to eliminate almost all carbohydrates from your diet and focus on nutrient-dense foods such as healthy fats, vegetables and lean protein that will provide a feeling of fullness and deliver quick weight loss.


Phase 2

This phase is a more long-term weight loss one. In phase two, you will gradually re-introduce some of the foods that were eliminated in Phase 1 like additional vegetables, fruits and whole grains. You can see the transformation in your body as you increase your physical activity and keep losing weight too. You will remain in this phase until you achieve your goal weight.  

This phase establishes the foundation for Phase 3 by giving you the liberty to put to practice the healthy habits you have learned in Phase 2. Also, you will begin to engage in a fitness routine to augment the weight loss results and will keep you healthy and energized at the same time.


Phase 3

This is the final, maintenance stage of the diet where you can eat and enjoy all foods as long as they are in moderation. This phase is meant to introduce you to the “healthy way of eating” for the rest of your life. In this phase, you will continue following the food and lifestyle principles that you learned in Phases 1 and 2.

The whole idea revolves around making healthy food choices, at the same time “nothing is off limits!”


Variants of the South Beach Diet

Initially launched as the South Beach diet, you can now follow its newer and improved version which has been written as a book, “The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life.” In this version, along with the diet plan, a 3-phase workout routine has been included that goes hand-in-hand with the three phases of the diet that helps to “supercharge” your body metabolism and helps you shed the pounds. The earlier version of the diet did not include the exercise component. This Supercharged diet is based on latest trends in nutritional research and includes new and improved meal plans.


Who Is It For?

If you are looking for quick weight loss, then like the Atkins, Weight Watchers and Zone diets, the South Beach diet also helps in rapid weight loss. However, the South beach diet has higher carbs, recommends more consumption of fruits and vegetables and has less saturated fat when compared to the Atkins or Protein Power diets.

There is no restriction for who can follow the South Beach diet. It is appropriate and works best if you don’t mind the limited food choices that the diet prescribes and you are able to control your food cravings and hunger pangs. If you can go through the restrictive Phase 1 of the diet comfortably, then the other phases are just cakewalk!


Who Is It Not For?

If you have a sugar-related medical complaint such as diabetes, you need to take extra care and check the suitability of the South Beach diet for you before you start the same, as the diet works on the principle of lowering the sugar level in the body, which can be harmful for your condition.

Also, if you suffer from kidney problems, then this diet may not be suitable as it is very high in protein.


Final Word

The South Beach diet is a nutritious diet plan that prescribes weight-loss by eating right. By relying on healthy fats, lean protein, smart carbohydrates, loads of fiber, low-fat dairy and exercise you can keep the hunger away and lose all the unwanted weight sensibly and keep fit in the long run.

So what are you waiting for? “Supercharge” yourself with the South Beach diet, shed all those pounds and get into your beachwear!