Fats and Oils Allowed on the South Beach Diet

Chopped avocado on chopping board
Westend61/Getty Images

The South Beach Diet was designed to be a heart-healthy way of eating, The sources of fat in the diet are based on those that promote a healthy cholesterol and lipid profile. Sources of trans fats and saturated fats are avoided or limited in preference for unsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The diet has changed its recommendations about dairy fats due to research suggesting full-fat dairy foods are protective. If you wish to follow the diet, it is best to check the most recent editions of its books due to the changes.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and other fatty fish) are encouraged, as are oils high in monounsaturates, such as olive oil. Sources of omega-6 fatty acids (such as nuts) can also be eaten, but not to excess.

Sources of Oils Most Encouraged on the South Beach Diet

These sources are believed to be the best for heart health. The diet changes its recommendations as more research becomes available. These are allowed with a serving size of 1 tablespoon.

Other Acceptable Sources of Oils

These may be allowed in different phases of the diet, but limited in amount.

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Mayonnaise-based on olive oil
  • Spreads with no trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils

Fats and Oils That Should Be Limited 

Your intake of these oils and fats should be in small quantities only.

  • Corn oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Palm oil or palm kernel oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Light or low-fat mayonnaise with no high-fructose corn syrup (avoid fat-free mayonnaise)
  • Coconut oil (extra-virgin)
  • Coconut milk (unsweetened, 1/4 cup serving)

Fats and Oils to Be Avoided on the South Beach Diet

These sources are high in saturated or trans fats.

  • Butter, all forms (fat-free substitutes such as Butter Buds are OK)
  • Lard, bacon grease, and other solid animal fat
  • Margarine and other spreads with trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils)
  • Miracle Whip and similar salad dressings
  • Vegetable shortening

Dairy Fat

Dairy fat was discouraged in the original South Beach Diet, with only low-fat and non-fat dairy products allowed. Further research has changed that recommendation as dairy fat has increasingly been found in research to have protective effects. As a result, newer South Beach Diet recommendations are to eat full-fat versions of Greek yogurt and milk rather than those lower in fat. This is a major reversal and you may not see it reflected in food lists that were based on earlier versions of the diet.

Packaged South Beach Diet Foods

The prepared foods sold for Phase 1 could include as much as 15 percent of the calories from saturated fat and for all phases up to 10 percent. The lunch and dinner entrees are labeled as 0 grams of trans fats because they contain less than 0.5 grams per serving.

About the South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet was created in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston as a healthier way of eating and weight-loss plan. It is lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and healthy fats than a typical eating plan. The carbohydrate recommendations are based on the glycemic index and aim to reduce the effects of meals on blood sugar.

The diet consists of three phases. In the final maintenance phase of the South Beach Diet, about 140 grams of carbohydrates are allowed daily. A true low-carb diet might allow only 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrates a day.

The purpose of the South Beach Diet is to encourage weight loss and a healthy lifestyle by changing the overall balance of the foods you eat. As with any eating plan, check with your doctor or healthcare provider before starting any weight-loss diet.

Was this page helpful?