How To Do Phase Two Of the South Beach Diet

Customizing the Level of Carbohydrate for Your Body

Low-carb meal
Photo © Karen Struthers

You’ve started the South Beach Diet and are starting to think ahead to Phase Two. It’s good to look forward and prepare yourself because Phase Two is a little trickier than Phase One. In the first two weeks on South Beach, you eat from a list of foods, and that’s it. After the first phase, it’s time to start individualizing the diet for your own body and tastes.

The goal of Phase Two of the South Beach Diet is to find the right carb level for you. This is done by gradually reintroducing some high nutrient, high fiber, low glycemic carbohydrate into your diet. How much and what types will vary between individuals.

It is very important to pay attention to your own body’s reactions to adding the carbs. If a food sets up cravings or weight gain, back off and try something less glycemic. If you feel fuzzy-headed or lower in energy, ditto. During this phase, weight loss will slow to one to two pounds per week, so keep this in mind as well.

Phase Two: Week One

The plan of the first week of Phase Two is to add one serving of a carbohydrate food to each day, experimenting to see how you feel. Chances are this first food will not be problematic.

What should the food be? Generally, it is a serving from the approved fruit list or a serving of a low glycemic starch.

Dr. Arthur Agatston, the creator of the South Beach Diet, recommends that if you choose fruit to have it at lunch or dinner. He thinks that fruit at breakfast is more likely to induce cravings.

If you choose an approved whole grain, he recommends a high fiber, low carb cereal such as Fiber One, All Bran with extra fiber, or slow-cooked oatmeal (not instant).

If you are having cereal for breakfast, be sure to include some protein as well.

Phase Two: Week Two

The second week, you will add a second daily serving of carbohydrate food, as above. That means you will be eating one serving of fruit and one serving of a high-fiber starchy food each day this week, in addition to all the other foods.

Besides starches and fruits, these lists are slightly altered for Phase Two:

Phase Two: Week Three

During the third week, you will again add a serving of carbohydrate food daily if you can tolerate it without weight gain or cravings. It’s also probably a good idea to talk a bit about bread at this point.

Breads tested for the glycemic index vary widely according to the bread recipe and how finely the grain is ground. Most bread, including those made from whole grains, are high on the glycemic index, clustering around the low 70s. Some bread, particularly those in which the grains are very coarsely ground (to the point where you can see pieces of the grains in the bread) are somewhat less glycemic, but this is not the norm.

Look for bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving— bread made specifically to be low-carb usually has more fiber and less starch.

If bread is a problem for you, at this point or later, choose a grain which is not ground into flour, such as brown rice, and see if you tolerate it better.

Phase Two: Week Four

Add another serving of carbohydrate food. At this point, you may be getting near the limit of carbohydrate you can eat and continue to lose weight and some people will have passed that limit. Watch carefully for the signs of carb cravings.

Phase Two: Week Five

If you can handle it, add another serving of carbohydrate. At this point, your menus should look like Phase One Meals, but with the addition of two or three servings each of fruit, starches or grains, and dairy.

Lunch and dinner should each have at least 2 cups of vegetables along with a serving of protein.

Phase Two: Week Six

If you are still able to add carbohydrate, you will be eating three servings of fruit and three servings of grains or starches. If this is too much carbohydrate, try substituting more non-starchy vegetables.

At this point, you have transitioned completely into Phase Two of the South Beach Diet. This is the way you should eat until you reach your goal weight and are ready for Phase Three.

A Word From Verywell

Though the South Beach Diet is a diet program, it's important to tailor it to your body and weight loss goals as you progress. Remain aware of how your body reacts to each additional carbohydrate serving so you know when to stop adding more. With persistence, you'll be moving along to Phase Three and feeling great.