Updates to the South Beach Diet

Phase 1 Shortened and Food List Expanded

Eating a Healthy Diet

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"The South Beach Diet," by Dr. Arthur Agatson, was first published in 2003 and became an immediate bestseller, selling over eight million copies and leading to the eventual purchase of the company by Nutrisystem in 2015.

The diet has three stages, known as phases, during which the proportion of carbohydrates is gradually increased while the proportions of fats and protein are simultaneously decreased. The diet is comprised of a list of recommended food such as lean meats, vegetables, and "good" (mostly monounsaturated) fats.

The South Beach Diet is based on three meals per day and makes no restriction on calorie intake. It differs from other low-carb diets in that it does not require followers to cut out carbohydrates entirely or even measure their intake. Instead, the diet incorporates foods with low glycemic index (GI) values, which have less of an impact on blood glucose levels.

Since its introduction in 2003, the South Beach Diet has gone through several updates, the most recent of which was released in tandem with the publication of "The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life" in 2008.

Additional Dairy Allowed

The South Beach Diet previously called for the exclusion of all dairy products in Phase 1, with the exception of a small amount of fat-free, nonfat, 1%, or soy milk for coffee. The list has since been expanded so that the daily allowance during Phase 1 now includes:

  • Up to 2 cups of full-fat milk or yogurt
  • Up to 2 tablespoons of evaporated milk or half & half
  • Low-fat cheese (6 grams or less of fat per ounce) as needed to reduce hunger

A growing body of research now suggests that full-fat dairy has its protective benefits, both in cutting the risk of diabetes and helping people control their weight. Moreover, three daily portions of full-fat dairy may decrease systolic blood pressure in overweight people.

Changes in Vegetable Restrictions

While tomatoes were initially restricted in the South Beach Diet, they can now be consumed in any quantity during any phase of the diet. Similarly, onions were limited to only one-half of an onion per day. They can also now be consumed in any amount during any phase of the South Beach Diet.

Previously, carrots were on the "Foods to Avoid" list in the first two phases, while their intake was limited in Phase 3. That restriction has since been adjusted and you can now enjoy carrots along with all other vegetables starting from Phase 2.

In contrast to these allowances, beans and legumes have been excluded in South Beach Diet Phase 1. While beans and legumes add important vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your diet, they are also high in carbohydrates and may inhibit the speed of initial weight loss.

Supercharged List of Foods

While the principles of the South Beach Diet remain unchanged, the 2008 ​version updated and expanded the list of recommended food for all three phases. In addition to the above-listed food items, you can now also consume:

  • Lean meat containing 10 grams or less of total fat and 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, including veal, lamb, game meats, beef, poultry, fish, and shellfish
  • Legumes, one-third to one-half cup per day so long as they are not packed with sugar
  • Vegetables, a minimum of 2 cups with lunch and dinner (although you need to avoid beets, carrots, corn, green peas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, turnips, and yams during Phase 1)
  • Nut and seeds (although you must limit your intake to one serving per day during Phase 1)
  • Unsaturated plant oils, up to to 2 tablespoons, including olive, flaxseed, safflower, sesame, sunflower, soybean, and grapeseed

Phase 1 Shortened

Most people who embark on the South Beach Diet consider Phase 1 to be the most stressful of all stages. It is the time when sudden changes in your diet are meant to "reboot" how your body converts food into energy, shifting its focus from carbohydrates to fat.

Because the new South Beach Diet has fine-tuned its list of approved foods (such as the exclusion of beans and legumes), it is more effective in making the shift. As such, Phase 1 has been trimmed from two weeks to one, taking away much of the stress.

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2 Sources
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  1. Lordan R, Tsoupras A, Mitra B, Zabetakis I. Dairy fats and cardiovascular disease: Do we really need to be concerned?. Foods. 2018;7(3). doi:10.3390/foods7030029

  2. Agatston A, Signorile J. The South Beach Diet Supercharged. St. Martin's Publishing Group, 2009.