South Beach Diet Review

Quite often, when searching for an effective weight loss diet solution, it can be worthwhile to look to older, established programs like the South Beach Diet for the success that modern fad diets often fail to deliver.

This article reviews this well known and still popular, easy-to follow dieting strategy.

Low carbohydrate diets have been hugely popular since the infamous Atkins diet took center stage over 20 years ago. They continue to gain popularity today, promising quick weight loss while encouraging dieters to eat as much protein and fat as their heart desires.

When the South Beach Diet was created in the late 1980s, many associated it with the Atkins diet and considered both diets to be very similar. Although both diets were created by physicians and are centered around a controlled carbohydrate intake, the similarities between the two ends there.

Discovering the South Beach Diet

south beach diet reviewsThis diet plan was initially created by cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston along with dietician and nutritionist, Marie Almon. Dr. Agatston had accumulated a substantial list of cardiac patients that needed to lower their cholesterol levels and shed weight.

His early suggestion was that they eat a low fat diet. However, after some time, it became apparent that most of those patients were failing to stick with the plan and not losing any weight or reducing their cholesterol.

Perplexed by this outcome, Dr. Agatston consulted with a number of physicians and came to the conclusion that dieters generally found it difficult following low fat diets. That was because of the insulin spikes caused by the low fat diets themselves.

The reason for this, he discovered, was that when low fat foods replaced regular meals, the calorie count remained the same. The fat content of the food is substituted by added sugar to maintain an agreeable texture and taste. This excess sugar in low fat versions of food was responsible for a spike in blood sugar, causing hunger pangs and the body's craving for even more sugar.

This detrimental cycle continued, eventually resulting in an insulin resistance responsible for weight gain, increased levels of visceral fat and ironically, the patients consuming even more calories than they did prior to commencing the low fat diet.

A new approach was called for. When Dr. Agatston formulated what became the South Beach Diet, his initial goal was the reduction of heart disease prevalent in his patients, while assisted them to lose weight while educating them in how to eat all the right foods. His patients became so successful at losing weight on this plan that word quickly spread and the South Beach diet gained worldwide popularity.

The concept behind Dr. Agatston's South Beach Diet is for it to be not so much a diet as a lifestyle change. Although this diet restricts the intake of carbohydrates, it does not completely eliminate them all.

Dr. Agatston wanted to avoid the elimination of all carbohydrates from the plan since too much fat coupled with very low levels of dietary fiber could result in the worsening of the heart disease the plan was designed to reduce. He was well aware of the Atkins Diet and the success it has already achieved with its low carb foundation, but he believed there was a much better and far more manageable way to assist patients in losing weight healthily while still being able to enjoy eating a wide variety of foods.

About the South Beach Diet Plan

The South Beach diet is centered around the Glycemic Index. It limits "bad carbohydrates", or those high on the Glycemic Index with healthier, low Glycemic options.

The diet itself consists of three phases, each followed for various amounts of time depending on how much weight a dieter has to lose. It differs a lot from home delivery diet programs like Nutrisystem and Medifast, as it does not provide any ready-made meals. You need to prepare and cook them yourself, which is fundamentally healthier because you are expected to base your meals on natural, whole foods and not unhealthy processed offerings from the store. The first phase is the "Induction" phase, the second is the "Reintroduction of Carbs" phase and the third is considered the "Lifestyle" phase.

South Beach Diet Phase 1: Induction

During the induction phase, dieters must follow the strictest part of the diet for a total of 14 days. Portion sizes are average and consist mostly of lean proteins, low fat dairy and low Glycemic vegetables. An average day in the induction phase will consist of three meals and two snacks in between meals.

The snacks are intended to keep the appetite under control and keep the metabolism working. Dr. Agatston believes in eating until one is full, even during the induction phase. In his opinion, as long as the right foods make up the diet, weight loss can be achieved and the body does not have to be deprived of food.

Of course, there are some foods not allowed during the first phase. Prohibited foods include all sugars, processed carbohydrates, fruits, high Glycemic vegetables, starches and baked goods.

Dr. Agatston designed this phase with two purposes in mind. He designed this phase to eliminate cravings for refined, sugary foods and help stabilize the body's blood sugar levels. Although many foods are eliminated during the first phase, there are plenty of nutrient rich foods that are allowed to keep you satisfied throughout the day.

One of the perks of this phase is the rapid weight loss that occurs. Most people can lose 10 pounds or more in just 14 days. This not only helps jump start their weight loss, it helps encourage them to continue with the plan and succeed in reaching their weight loss goals.

Foods Allowed in Phase 1

Below is the list of allowed foods in Phase 1:

Some Foods Not Allowed in Phase 1

Sample Meal Plan for Phase 1

Below is a sample meal plan that can be eaten during the first phase. All meals are created from South Beach diet recipes available online at the South Beach diet website or in the South Beach Diet book.


Mid-morning Snack


Afternoon Snack



South Beach Diet Phase 2

After completing the initial 14 day induction phase of the South Beach diet, dieters will move on to a more lenient phase with Phase 2. In phase 2, dieters will gradually re-introduce some nutritiously dense, low Glycemic foods back into their diet and will continue to gradually lose weight. On average, dieters can expect to lose one to two pounds per week during this phase.

Previously banned foods allowed in the second phase include some whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables. The weight loss will definitely be slower than during the first phase but, none the less, it will continue.

There is no specific length of time that Phase 2 should last. Dieters remain in this phase until weight loss goals are achieved. During phase 2, dieters can eat any of the foods allowed in Phase 1, as well as a few other added foods that were previously banned.

Some foods still banned during the second phase include baked goods, potatoes, soda, white rice, white bread, cereals and corn.

Foods Allowed in Phase 2

All foods allowed in Phase 2:

Sample Meal Plan for Phase 2

Below is a sample meal plan that can be eaten during the second phase. All meals are created from South Beach diet recipes available online at the South Beach diet website or in the South Beach Diet book.


Mid-morning Snack


Afternoon Snack



South Beach Diet Phase 3

The last phase is technically not a phase at all and is instead referred to as a lifestyle change. Dieters will remain in this phase for the remainder of the time that they want to maintain their weight loss.

By the time a dieter reaches this phase, he or should would have a good understanding of how to make good food choices and eat foods in moderation. Banned foods, such as baked goods, soda and white starches can be eaten, but they should still be kept to a minimum and restricted to only once special occasions and small portions. These foods have little to no nutritional value and inhibit the body from properly processing insulin.

It is never wise to completely ban certain foods or food groups since doing so can cause cravings to return and, when they do, people tend to over indulge and fall off the wagon. In order to maintain the weight loss achieved during the first and second phase of the South Beach diet, dieters should adhere to eating good carbs most days of the week and for most of their meals.

This will ensure that weight loss is maintained and there is no need to return to the stricter parts of the diet.

Sample Meal Plan for Phase 3

Below is a sample meal plan that can be eaten during the final phase. All meals are created from South Beach diet recipes available online at the South Beach diet website or in the South Beach Diet book.


Mid-morning Snack


Afternoon Snack



Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

The South Beach Diet was created around the idea that there are good carbs and bad. So, what are considered to be "bad carbs?" Bad carbs are those high on the Glycemic Index.

High Glycemic foods cause a spike in the body's blood sugar and, over time, will cause the body to build up an insulin resistance. Bad carbs, or high Glycemic foods, are also much less filling and can lead to overeating.

Good carbs, on the other hand, are low Glycemic carbohydrates that help keep blood sugar under control, the metabolism working efficiently and help keep a dieter feeling full for a longer period of time.

Examples of Good Carbs:

Examples of Bad Carbs

South Beach Diet Products

After completing the first and second maintenance phases in the program, you can begin to incorporate more of the South Beach Diet products into your diet. These products are available at most grocery stores and health food stores nationwide. Many of the snacks sold by the program can make for a delicious sweet treat and can help avoid consuming baked goods and other desserts considered to be bad carb choices.

Some of the products available are:

Online Tools and Support

One of the best aspects of the South Beach diet is that it can be completely free. There are countless resources available online on the South Beach Diet website to help guide dieters through the three plan phases.

The official South Beach Diet website also offers a paid member subscription which includes countless online tools and support resources. Some of the tools available for free on their website include:

If dieters opt to for the paid membership, in addition to the above resources that are free, they will also have additional tools and support services available online. With a paid membership, dieters gain access to:

Access to some of the tools and support services above is very valuable, especially to dieters that are new to the South Beach Diet program and need plenty of guidance. The ability to get personalized weight loss advice on a weekly basis from South Beach's team of registered dietitians can help encourage and educate dieters throughout the three phases on the plan.

The online journal is helpful in ensuring dieters stay on track and record each milestone achieved along the way. One of the tools that is especially helpful to diabetic patients on the plan is the glucose tracker.

The glucose tracker allows dieters to record their latest blood glucose reading and track their glucose levels over a period of time. This will help in determining whether the diet plan is benefiting a diabetic diet or not.


The cost for a South Beach Diet membership has changed over the years and to obtain the latest and most accurate cost, I'd recommend visiting the official website. When dieters first register for the program, the first 7 days on the program are free and they can cancel at any time.

To sign up, all a dieter has to do is create an online account with a name, email and password. The site will then guide users through the registration process, including billing information and preferences.

South Beach Diet Books

In addition to the many online resources available, South Beach Diet also has several publications in print available to the general public. Some of these publications include:

One of the favorites from the list above is the last one, "The South Beach Diet Good Fats, Good Carbs Guide". This compact reference guide can be carried in a pocket or a purse.

It features nutritional information, including a breakdown of fats, carbs, calories, saturated fat, sugar and fiber, for thousands of foods. Foods include fast food items, restaurant dishes, protein bars, popular snacks, popular recipes and much more.

The reference guide also includes a frequently asked questions section to answer dieters' most commonly asked questions. Each food listed in the reference guide identifies which phase the food should be eaten in as well.

This handy guide takes the guesswork out of what to eat and helps decide if certain foods are allowed or not during specific phases in the plan. This guide has repeatedly been revised and updated in order to continuously add foods that were not in previous versions.

Pros and Cons

Overall, the South Beach Diet is a plan that is hard to beat. Dieters can utilize the free tools on the website for support or register for a membership. The pros seem to far outweigh the cons, but dieters can consider both prior to beginning the plan.




"I am in my 50s and have had a weight problem for most of my life. I have not been very overweight but I have carried around an extra 20-30 pounds for as long as I can remember. I have tried many diets in the past, but the weight always came back after a few months. I needed a plan that would teach me how to eat with real, everyday foods, not foods I purchased already prepared for me. After speaking to a few friends, I was attracted to the South Beach Diet because they it was an easy plan to follow, without constant calorie counting, measuring and portion control. After almost four months on the South Beach Diet, I was able to shed 32 pounds from my 5'3" frame. I can honestly say that I have not weighed this much since high school and I feel amazing."

Shae Reddington

"After being on the Atkins diet on and off for the last 10 years or so, I was searching for another low carb plan that was a little more balanced. The Atkins seemed too restrictive and did not seem like a very healthy way of eating. I read reviews on the South Beach Diet and liked that the initial phase allowed some whole grains, beans, nuts and condiments that were restricted on Atkins. The diet also discouraged saturated fats. This definitely seemed like a healthier option and one I decided to try. After my first two weeks during the induction phase, I could honestly say that my sweet cravings have almost disappeared. The vanilla ricotta cheese dessert and ability to eat nuts and seeds helped control my cravings and make it an easy phase to complete. The best part was that I lost almost 13 pounds in just two weeks. I have been on the second phase now for almost a month and have lost an additional 6 pounds. After years, I am finally on my way back to the weight I was when I met my husband and I have no doubt that I will reach it."

Connie Graves

"As a self admitted carbivore, I needed to be on a diet that would help me limit my carbohydrate intake and teach me how to make the right choices when it came to carbs. Most of my diet consisted of bread, rice, bagels, crackers and cereals, and all this type of diet did was make me feel fatigued and bloated all day long. I was attracted to the idea of good carbs vs. bad carbs on the South Beach Diet so I decided to give the diet a try. Eliminating all carbs was out of the question but this plan seemed doable. After almost a year on the plan, I have lost 75 pounds and have decided to make the South Beach Diet my new way of life. I no longer consider this a diet. It is my way of eating a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet while continuing to lose weight and learning how to maintain my weight loss."

Melissa Cranford