Foods You Can Eat on the South Beach Diet

healthy foods on the South Beach Diet
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What can you eat on the South Beach Diet? What shouldn’t you eat? Here are the essential food lists to go by. During Phase One, your food choices are more restricted than on Phase Two. See the basics about each type of food allowed on this diet and take a deeper dive to food lists for each group.

Meats and Other Protein

On the South Beach Diet, meats and other protein sources (such as soy and eggs) should be low in saturated fat and without extra breading or other sources of carbohydrate. Check a list of protein sources that are low in saturated fat. Many fish and cuts of beef, pork, and poultry are acceptable, but not all. In Phase One, you avoid dark-meat poultry, duck, goose, and liver. For all phases, you avoid any chicken nuggets or patties, bacon, and breakfast sausage as they are high in saturated fats.


No fruit is allowed in Phase One. Fruit is phased in gradually after that period. Approved fruit is lower in the glycemic index, which is a measure of how much it affects your blood sugar. You will still avoid fruit juice and limit any dried fruit such as raisins or dates. Canned fruit or preserves with sugar added are restricted.

Dairy Products

Dairy is limited to fat-free and some low-fat dairy products and cheeses, without added sugars. In all phases, you will avoid cream, whole milk, cheeses made from whole milk or cream, yogurt, and ice cream unless non-fat or low-fat, and butter.


The vegetables allowed on the South Beach Diet are pretty much the same as a regular low-carb vegetable list. Any non-starchy vegetable is fine to eat. One way to think about how much non-fiber carbohydrate a vegetable may be is to think of where it comes from on the plant. Leaves are the lowest, followed by stems, and both are likely to be high in fiber. Vegetables that are the fruits of the plant (cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant for example) are often higher in carbs than leaves and stems, but many are acceptable except for winter squash. Roots are high in carbohydrates. You will need to avoid potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, corn, beets, butternut squash, and acorn squash. Starchy vegetables can be gradually added on a limited basis after Phase One.

Beans and Other Legumes

Beans and other legumes are encouraged on the South Beach Diet. While some other low-carb diets shun them, you can enjoy them as they are high in protein and low in saturated fat.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are allowed in limited serving sizes. You can enjoy any type of nut, but you have to restrict yourself to a one-quarter cup serving per day.

Fats and Oils

It gets complicated in choosing which fats and oils are allowed or restricted, but once you understand which to choose, you will be avoiding trans fat sources (such as regular margarine) and saturated fats (such as butter). Sources omega-3 fatty acids are encouraged, as are oils high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, and walnut oil.

Condiments and Sauces

Condiments and sauces that avoid sugars and saturated fats are the key. You can enjoy mustard, vinegar, oliver oil, soy sauce, tamari, pepper, hot sauce, most salsas, dried herbs and spices, regular mayonnaise, and most no-carb, sugar-free salad dressing.


The South Beach Diet rules regarding beverages are to primarily enjoy water and no-sugar diet beverages and limit caffeine and low-fat milk. You are not allowed any alcohol until Phase Two. You can't have fruit juices or sugared beverages.

Sweet Treats

The rules around sweet treats for the South Beach Diet are that they are always sugar-free, low in saturated fat, and aren't made with flour. You'll have to get used to sugar-free gelatin and frozen sugar-free popsicles. In Phase Two you'll have more choices in using fruit for sweets.

Starches and Grains

No starches are allowed in Phase One. That includes bread, rice, pasta, cereal, baked goods, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Following this phase, some whole grains and other starches can be phased back in.

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