What Is the South Beach Diet?

Use This South Beach Diet Summary to Decide If the Program Is Right for You

Grilled fillet of wild salmon
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The South Beach Diet is one of the most popular weight loss programs of all time. The diet is divided into three phases during which dieters focus on eating lean protein, nutrient-rich carbohydrates, and healthy fats. An exercise program is also a key part of the South Beach Diet. 

Many consumers find the three-phase system easy to follow and quite effective.

This South Beach Diet summary will give you an overview of each during each phase and tips for following the program so you can decide if it will work for you. 

What Is The South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet was originally a diet plan outlined in a book by Arthur Agatston, MD. The doctor developed the plan in the 1990s to help his patients lose weight. The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss flew off shelves in 2003 when it was first published.  Since that time, the book has gone through several variations and changes, but the core of the eating plan has stayed the same.

The South Beach Diet is a low-carb, high-protein and low-sugar program. The diet is based in part on the glycemic Index, which ranks foods according to glycemic load. As you learn how to do the South Beach Diet, you learn how to choose healthier, lower sugar foods to keep you full and satisfied so you eat less and slim down.

The South Beach Diet: Summary of the Eating Plan

This diet focuses on a healthy balance between carbs, protein, and fat. More importantly, you are advised to consume high-quality carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. Foods with added sugars, like baked goods, sweets, and soft drinks are off limits.

So if you are used to filling up on these foods, the diet may be hard to follow. 

Prepackaged South Beach Diet foods, such as shakes, snack bars and prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals are available for consumers who sign up for the paid program. Many of these foods are similar to foods that you may feel uncomfortable giving up. But you'll eat them in smaller quantities if you buy the South Beach versions and the foods are prepared with fewer calories. 

You don't have to sign up or pay for the program to follow the diet. Some people simply buy the book and prepare South Beach Diet-friendly foods at home. 

South Beach Diet Phases

The South Beach Diet is divided into three different phases. All three phases include specific allowable foods, meal plans, and recipes. Each phase also includes foods to avoid. 

Phase 1 (also called 7-Day Reboot)

For most people, the most difficult part of the program is Phase 1. In some versions of the plan, this phase lasted for two weeks. However, current versions of the use a 7-day "reboot" instead of a two-week phase.

This first part of the plan is the most stringent of the three phases. It is when you will limit the most carbs from your daily diet, including fruit, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, sugar, alcohol, and baked goods.

The theory behind this phase is that there is a switch inside us that affects the way our bodies react to the food we eat and makes us gain weight. When the switch is on, we crave foods that actually cause us to store fat. However, by following the specified plan, you can correct the way your body reacts to food. 

Meal plans for the 7-day Reboot (Phase 1) are designed to be lower in calories to support weight loss, with calories ranging from 1,000 to 1,600 calories per day. You'll consume

  • less than 40 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates
  • less than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugars
  • at least 25 percent of calories from protein
  • at least 30 percent of calories from healthy fat (focusing on healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats and limiting total calories coming from saturated fats to less than 15 percent of total daily calories)
  • You should avoid alcohol during this phase

Many South Beach Diet fans swear that their cravings for sweets and other bad carbs virtually disappear during this reboot. For some, the first phase can be extended, but it is not meant to be a permanent way of eating. 

Light exercise is advised during Phase 1 with a recommendation of about 30 minutes per day.

To learn more about this important phase it's helpful to scan lists of allowable foods and to learn specific tips and advice for making the most of this transitional time.

Phase 2
During this phase, you can start adding foods from the Phase 2 Allowed Foods List. Additional sources of carbohydrates, like beans and legumes, can now be added to your menu. 

During Phase 2 the calorie range and the macronutrient breakdown are almost the same as in Phase 1 but the number of calories allowed from saturated fats decreases to less than 10 percent of total calories. 

The exercise recommendation is to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Beginning in Phase 2 you can engage in more intense  physical activity, if desired.

South Beach Diet Phase 3
Phase 3 is the final and least restrictive part of The South Beach Diet. Dr. Agatston says as long as you continue to follow some basic guidelines, the diet has become your way of life and you'll continue to maintain your weight.

Atkins vs South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet is often compared to the Atkins diet, another low carbohydrate plan. The Atkins Diet was also developed by a doctor and has gone through many variations through the years. 

So how do the two plans compare? The South Beach Diet has been called a less-strict version of Atkins. But there are other differences. Both Atkins and South Beach require you to go through a strict introductory phase. In Atkins, the first stage is called Induction. In the South Beach Diet , the first part is called Phase 1 or the 7-Day Reboot.

During the initial week(s) of each plan, the foods that you are able to eat are limited. Carbohydrates like pasta, rice, and bread are restricted. But during the later phases, you are able to eat more carbohydrates and enjoy treats on occasion. Both Atkins and the South Beach Diet include maintenance programs for long-term health and well-being.

Is The South Beach Diet Right For You?

If you are ready to change your eating style for life, then the South Beach Diet might be right for you. But if you are looking for a short-term quick fix, this plan won't be effective. You might lose weight initially but the weight will come back if you don't commit to the long-term plan.

If you are considering paying for The South Beach Diet, do your homework first. Check out the website, evaluate the menu, scan the food lists and evaluate the exercise program before you invest. If you think you are reading to change your food habits for life, then give the plan a try.  Many dieters have been successful on plan and you might be one of them.