Meal Plans for Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet

Eating Well During the Initial Restrictive Phase

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In 2003, Dr. Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist based in Florida, had grown increasingly concerned that the Atkins diet, a program based on the restriction of carbohydrates, encouraged dieters to consume far more saturated fats than was healthy. While it was clear that the diet could produce results, Dr. Agatston believed there was there was a better way to lose weight without increasing a person's risk of diabetes or heart disease.

With years of hands-on medical experience to draw upon, Dr. Agatston went to his computer and created a program all his own. With that, the South Beach Diet was born.

South Beach vs. Atkins Diet

Both the South Beach and Atkins diet are structurally identical. Each is broken down into a two-week restrictive phase (Phase 1), a main weight loss phase (Phase 2), and the maintenance phase once you've achieved your ideal weight (Phase 3). Both restrict carbohydrates and identify which ones are "good" and which are "bad."

The main differences between the two diets are that the South Beach diet has less saturated fat and doesn't limit non-starchy vegetables. It also introduces fruits, whole grains, and starchy vegetables into the diet far earlier, during Phase 2, when Atkin's allows only a small amount of fruit.

Goals of Phase 1

With the South Beach diet, the goal of Phase 1 is to stop the highs and lows in your blood sugar caused by the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Phase 1 is considered the most difficult of all phases and requires you to give up things like:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Baked goods
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Refined sugar
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Fruit and fruit juices
  • Fatty meats and poultry
  • Alcohol

In their place, you can choose high-protein foods like meats, poultry, pork, seafood, and some dairy. You would also be encouraged to eat lots of vegetables and to replace bad fats with healthy ones.

Phase 1 lasts for 14 days. During this time, your carb intake would be limited to 10 percent of your daily calorie intake. (Most American diets are far higher than this, between 45 and 65 percent.) It is only in the final phase that the carb intake is increased to 28 percent of your daily intake, still well below the national average.

During Phase 1, you eat three meals and two mandatory snacks per day, along with an optional sweet. By spreading mealtimes out to six times per day, the intake of nutrition would essentially be continuous, and you are less prone to fluctuations in blood sugar.

According to Dr. Agatson, most people can expect to lose anywhere from 8 to 13 pounds (3.6 to 5.9 kilograms) during South Beach Phase 1.

Approved Foods

While it may seem daunting at first to have to give up bread, fruits, and other foods you love, you won't be starved. Rather, you are encouraged to eat heartily from a list of low-glycemic foods that are just as filling but far less likely to affect your blood sugar. You may be surprised at how long the list of approved foods is.

Meat and Proteins

  • Lean beef, pork, lamb, veal and game
  • Skinless chicken and turkey breast
  • Ham and Canadian bacon
  • Turkey bacon, turkey pastrami, and turkey sausage
  • Fish and shellfish (including canned fish)
  • Eggs and egg whites
  • All-natural, sodium-free deli meats
  • Nuts, nut butter, and seeds
  • Soy-based meat substitutes
  • Low-fat hard cheeses and cottage cheese
  • Buttermilk, low-fat milk, yogurt, kefir, and soy milk

Vegetables and Fruit

All vegetables are allowed except beets, carrots, corn, turnips, yams, peas, potatoes, and most types of winter squash.


  • Canned or dried beans, including black beans, butter beans, chickpeas, fava beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans pinto beans, split peas, or white beans
  • Fresh adzuki beans, edamame (soybeans), or mung beans
  • Prepared beans like hummus or fat-free refried beans

Oils and Fats

  • Monounsaturated oils, such as olive, canola, and avocado oils
  • Vegetable and seed oils, such as corn, peanut, safflower, or sesame oil
  • Trans-fat-free margarine


  • Sugar-free or unsweetened cocoa
  • Sugar-free jam and jellies
  • Sugar-free gelatin
  • Sugar-free candies or gum
  • Sugar-free popsicles
  • Artificial sweeteners, including Stevia


  • Mayonnaise, preferably low-fat
  • Low-carb salad dressing
  • Soy sauce
  • Steak sauce
  • Mustard
  • Horseradish
  • Salsa
  • Low-fat sour cream
  • Low-fat whipped topping
  • Olives


  • Coffee and tea, decaffeinated or regular
  • Sugar-free sodas
  • Sugar-free powdered drink mixes
  • Tomato juice or vegetable juice

Sample Meal Plans

To get a better idea of what the South Beach diet entails, it is important to look at how a typical daily meal plan is put together during Phase 1.


For Phase 1 of the South Beach diet, breakfast would consist of:

  • A serving of protein, such as eggs, meat, tofu, or cottage cheese
  • At least one serving of vegetables, tomato juice, or vegetable juice
  • A calorie-free beverage such as coffee or tea

Breakfast might include an omelet with smoked salmon or poached eggs with spinach and turkey sausage, accompanied by coffee or tea. With the exception of dairy, there is no restriction on the types of approved foods you can eat. While Dr. Agatston does offer suggested serving sizes, he encourages you to eat a little more if you are hungry rather than feeling deprived.


Phase 1 lunches are equally varied in the type of food you can eat, but should consist of:

  • A serving of approved protein
  • Several servings of vegetables, especially salads
  • One to two tablespoons of salad dressing
  • A third to a half a cup of beans or legumes
  • Dairy, if needed (up to a cup)
  • A calorie-free beverage, including plain water

Lunch may include a grilled salmon with spaghetti squash Alfredo or roasted skinless chicken with a three-bean salad. While the serving size of the protein is not limited, you should make every effort not to overeat to where you feel stuffed.


Phase 1 dinners follow the same theme and should consist of:

  • A serving of approved protein
  • Several servings of vegetables, including beans and legumes
  • Dairy (again, up to one cup)
  • One to two tablespoons of an approved fat for cooking or for dressing vegetables
  • A calorie-free beverage

To stay satisfied, Dr. Agatston encourages dieters to switch things up as much as possible by finding low-carb recipes that deliver a variety of flavors, such as Italian, Asian, or Mexican. Among some of the popular recipes are pan-fried lemon chicken cutlets with green beans, grilled London broil with roasted asparagus and feta, and broiled halibut with curried cauliflower rice.


The South Beach diet requires you to eat two snacks per day. The ideal snack would have both a vegetable and protein component. For example, you could stuff celery with tuna salad, dip raw vegetables into a bean dip, or make a lettuce, tomato, and lunch meat roll-up. Nuts are also excellent as they are a great source of protein, fiber, and monounsaturated fat.


While dessert is not required on the South Beach diet, it is something that many people enjoy. By and large, many of the approved desserts involve flavored ricotta cheese. There are also a number of tasty sugar-free sweets that weigh in at a mere 75 calories.

In the end, any acceptable snack is fine in the evening if you are hungry. The main goals are to avoid eating out of control and to consume enough to leave you satiated and not stuffed.

Benefits and Risks

While the South Beach diet is generally considered safe, there are some benefits and risks you should be aware of.

Generally speaking, low-carb, high-protein diets are often effective in achieving significant weight loss. Part of this is due to the effects of added protein, which not only increases metabolism (the conversion of calories and oxygen into energy) but alters hormone levels so that you feel fuller and less prone to hunger pangs.

In addition to weight loss, a 2010 study from Temple University concluded that a low-carb diet can significantly reduce blood pressure and triglyceride while increasing "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol by an average of 23 percent.

On the flip side, low carb diet poses potential risks. Among this is a condition known as ketosis in which the body, deprived of carbs, turns to stored fats as a fuel source. While many consider this to be a benefit (one central to a ketogenic diet), it can trigger an array of adverse symptoms, including nausea, headache, fatigue, bad breath ("keto breath"), dehydration, and dizziness.

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