Diet 101: South Beach Diet

by in Diets & Weight Loss, February 15, 2010

Once the high-protein craze began to die down, the South Beach Diet swooped in and promised weight loss without cutting the carbs. But is this diet all that it’s cracked up to be?

In the early 2000s, folks began to realize that it was unhealthy to eliminate carbs from your diet (like Atkins suggested), and the South Beach Diet became popular. Rather than cut a whole food group, this diet promises you can lose that belly fat by eating “good carbs” (from whole grains, fruits and veggies) and “good fats” (from lean meats, olive and canola oil).

Food that are dubbed “bad carbs” (and off limits) include white bread, sugar and baked goods. The “bad fats” are butter, high-fat cheeses and red meat. In 2008, the South Beach folks released an updated version of the diet in the book The South Beach Diet Super Charged, which promotes a quicker rate of weight loss.

The South Beach Diet is divided into three phases:
Phase 1: You use this two-week phase to eliminate all cravings and kick start weight loss (up to 13-pounds is promised!). It’s the most restrictive phase, where all carbohydrates and alcohol are banned. Fruits and veggies are also forbidden — though there are a few exceptions like salad greens.

Phase 2: You follow this phase until you reach your desired weight. This can take two weeks or six months. The goal is to lose about a pound per week. Healthier carbohydrates such as whole grains and most fruits are slowly introduced into the diet. Certain high-sugar fruit and veggies such as beets, potatoes and juices are still forbidden. The good news: You can say hello to wine again.

Maintenance Phase: The one is designed so you can live the “South Beach lifestyle” for the long term. You can eat a broader range of foods, but if they lead to weight gain, they go back on the forbidden food list.

This diet encourages eating three meals plus two snacks every day. You may have trouble dining out during the two-week jump-start phase, but during phase two, your meals become less restrictive and can include items such as baked sweet potato fries, coconut chicken, brown rice and black bean dip (served with whole grain tortilla chips). As for dessert, fruits, nuts and even a bit of dart chocolate are okay.

Exercise is not the focal point of this plan, but the books encourage walking and Pilates exercise to help achieve quicker weight loss.

The Costs
Along with a customized meal plan, the South Beach Diet web site offers diet tools (like tracking your weight), 24-hour online support and access to the online community costs for $5 a week (which comes to $260 a year). You can test out whether diet is right for you by doing their 7-day free trial.

As for other costs, there are plenty of South Beach-branded foods that you can purchase on their site, through or at many large grocery chains — you’ll find bars, salad dressings, cereal, powdered drink mixes and even tortilla-type wraps.

You can also purchase a workout DVD or their numerous South Beach books, many which include delicious recipes.

    The Good

  • No calorie counting or measuring portions.
  • Encourages lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.
  • Phases 2 and 3 are reasonable and pretty well balanced (though I’m not a fan of restricting any types of fruits and veggies).
    The Not-So Good

  • Phase 1 restricts most fruits, vegetables and whole grains and is not a well-balanced diet.
  • Eating out is difficult, especially in the beginning.
  • Time management is required to plan, shop and cook your meals.

Bottom Line: If you want to follow this plan, start on phase 2, which is more balanced and less restrictive. Many of the recipes sound good and you can easily add them into a healthy long-term meal plan.

Read up on other diet plans:

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Comments (9)

  1. Jenny says:

    I agree with your assessment, except for the statement that Phase 1 does not allow for vegetables. This is untrue; phase 1 recommends a minimum of four and a half cups of veggies every day. Although they do not recommend sugary vegetables such as carrots and beets, pretty much everything else is fair game, from asparagus to zucchini!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Jenny is right and the review is wrong. Phase 1 EMPHASIZES veggies, it does not restrict them. And yes eating out on Phase 1 is tough, eating out on Phase 2 is pretty easy.

    As for expense and time management. SBD does not HAVE to cost anything. You do not HAVE to join the site, nor do you have to buy the products. It is no more time consuming than any diet that expects you to pay some attention to what you put in your mouth.

  3. Deb says:

    I follow SBD by the book, and agree with the comments of the above posters. When you say about Phase 1, "It's the most restrictive phase where all carbohydrates and alcohol are banned. Fruits and veggies are also forbidden — though there are a few exceptions like salad greens.", you are simply stating something that is not true. In fact, vegetables are required (with a few specific exceptions) AND carbohydrates are by no means banned. Beans, dairy and even vegies have carbohydrates.

    As to your recommendation that a person start with Phase 2, I would certainly suggest following the diet as written. The 2 week period definitely squashed the sugar cravings which has totally been worth it as far as my having long term success losing weight. I've been following the diet for a year now and am happy to report I'm much healthier and extremely happy to have lost 40 pounds.

  4. Julie says:

    I'm glad the three of you clarified that. I read that carbs were excluded, then read that fruit and veggies were out. I was starting to wonder what was left! :)

  5. Frankie says:

    As a person who took up the SB lifestyle almost 3 years ago, I concur with the other posters…the "diet" really emphasizes veggies in phase one. After 2 weeks when sugar cravings are gone, whole grains and fruit are slowly added as you experiment on how your body reacts to them (if they cause cravings etc) It is a very healthy lifestyle.

  6. Anon says:

    Phase 1 is there for a reason – it kills the cravings that us white carb-aholics struggle with on a daily basis.
    I concur with the other posters – during P1 eating plenty of veggies is encouraged (peas, carrots are not allowed though), and you claim that 'all carbohydrates are banned' in your review. Not true. Pulses and legumes are carb rich food and they are permitted during P1 – for example lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas etc i

  7. Guest says:

    I loved this diet and will eat this way forever, as it's everything you are supposed to do. I lost 40 lbs and never was hungry. It's true, you have to plan meals to avoid eating "whatever" just cause you are hungry. I couldn't even eat all the veggies that was required in the beginning. The very best news about this diet are the daily e-mails. They send great recipes, nutrition information, health up-dates and it didn't cost a penny. They are wonderful e-mails and they help keep you focused. I have been at 122lbs for 3 months now. I have wine now, but just keep to the plan. I do believe it's the healthiest way to live. It's just like the Mediterranean diet. Just healthy eating!! Really, the e-mails will help with all concerns, and of course the South Beach Supercharged, as it has amazing recipes. Hope that helped.

  8. Usha Rutski says:

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.Keep working ,great job!

  9. As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you

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