South Beach Diet – What to Eat and What to Avoid?

South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet was introduced by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston in the 1990s. It is one of the most popular weight loss programs of all time. Also, it has three phases of a restrictive carbohydrate diet. The south beach diet is low in carbohydrates and high in protein and healthy fats than the typical eating plan (1). It highlights eating foods with a low glycemic index (GI) and saturated fat, like lean meats, vegetables, nuts, cheeses, eggs, etc. This diet doesn’t eliminate all carbs and fats. Through the south beach diet, you get to follow a meal plan with nutrient-rich foods, lean sources of protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, good unsaturated fats, and low-fat dairy (2). The principles of this diet allow you to make better food choices for a healthy life.

Three Phases of the South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet has three variant phases: The first two are for weight loss, and the third is for weight maintenance (3). 

Phase 1

Phase 1 lasts two weeks. In this phase, your carbs come only from vegetables. It is the foundation of the South Beach Diet, and it is a stringent phase that pushes you to the point of eliminating bad carb cravings. You can expect to lose 8-13 pounds (3.5-6 Kg) of your body weight during this phase. In this phase, you consume three meals per day comprised of lean protein, small amounts of healthy fat and legumes, and non-starchy vegetables. It aims to reduce high sugar food cravings by stabilizing hunger due to which rapid weight loss may occur during this phase.

Foods to Eat

  • Meats and poultry.
  • Eggs and egg whites.
  • Soy products (soy bacon or soy crumbles).
  • Seafood.
  • Nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, and nut butter, and flaxseeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds).
  • Dairy.
  • Non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, sprouts, lettuce, okra, peppers, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli).
  • Oils and fats (monounsaturated oils such as canola, olive, macadamia, avocado oils, and vegetable and seed oils such as flaxseed, corn, peanut, sesame, safflower, and soybean oil).

Foods to Avoid

  • Fruits.
  • Alcoholic drinks (beer, hard liquor, wine).
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes and sweet potatoes, corn, beets, yams, turnips, and green peas).
  • Grains and starches (crackers, bread, pretzels, oatmeal, chips, cereal, granola, pasta, rice, buns, bagels, and other sources).
  • Desserts (cakes, ice cream, candy, frozen yogurt, and other sugary desserts).
  • Honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar.
Typical Meal Plan for Phase 1
  • Breakfast: 3 eggs and 1 cup kale cooked with 1 tbsp olive oil. Plus a small glass of tomato juice and a decaf tea or coffee
  • Lunch: Bean chili or crab and beef and avocado salad
  • Snack: ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup chopped cherry tomato and cucumber
  • Dinner: Grilled salmon with steamed asparagus and a salad made from mixed leaves, green pepper, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and 3tbsp low-sugar dressing
  • Dessert: Lemon Ricotta Crème made by ricotta cheese with a little sweetener and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Phase 2

Phase 2 starts on day 15, and you should stay in this phase until you achieve your weight loss goal. It is a long term weight loss plan. You can shed 1-2 pounds (0.5-1 kg) per week in this phase, on average. You can include all foods from phase 1, plus limited portions of fruit and good carbs like whole grains, bread, certain alcohol types, and vegetables. In this stage, you can achieve your overall weight loss. This phase allows you to reintroduce some good carbohydrates.

Foods to Eat

  • Everything in phase 1, plus:
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Starchy vegetables

Foods to Avoid

  • Desserts
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Alcohol
Typical Meal Plan for Phase 2
  • Breakfast: Spiced oatmeal with dried apricot and walnuts.
  • Lunch: Apple and walnut chicken salad.
  • Snack: 1 cup cucumber slices with ½ cup hummus or 1 small pot fat-free yogurt.
  • Dinner: Chicken and veggie stir fry made from 3tsp rapeseed or grilled chicken with savory Asian plum sauce.
  • Dessert: Chocolate meringue kisses or sliced cantaloupe with 2tbsp ricotta cheese.

Phase 3

Once you achieve your target weight, it’s time to move on to the final phase of the diet. It is the weight maintenance phase. Now, you are feeling healthy, strong, and amazing in your new body. This phase allows you to eat anything you want, but you need to consume in a limited amount. If you start gaining your weight, then you need to return to phase 1 for 1-2 weeks before coming back to phase 3. You can continue to follow the principles learned in the previous two phases and eat all varieties of foods in moderate quantity.

Foods to Eat

  • Everything in Phase 2, plus:
  • Almost all vegetables (except potato and other vegetables with high glycemic index).
  • Citrus fruits, dried apricots, blueberry, pears, blackberry, plums, strawberry, kiwi, grapes, and other fruits.
  • Mustard, mayonnaise (low-fat).

Foods to Avoid

  • Alcohol (especially beer).
  • Potato, canned fruits, jams.
  • Dressing with high sugar.
  • White bread, white rice, sweets, sugar, baked goods.
Typical Meal Plan for Phase 3
  • Breakfast: 1 scrambled egg with 3 rashers grilled lean bacon and 1 slice granary bread, 1 orange, and a decaf tea or coffee.
  • Lunch: Salad greens with chicken or salmon and 1tsp each of olive oil and vinegar dressing.
  • Snack: Greek yogurt with berries.
  • Dinner: A plate filled with half-roasted vegetables, a small portion of lean meat like salmon or beef tenderloin, and ¼ cup of hearty grain like barley, quinoa.
  • Dessert: 1 pear poached in red wine or chocolate-dipped apricots.

Health Benefits of the South Beach Diet

The south beach diet is the best option if you want to lose weight without pain. It helps in weight loss and maintains your weight. This diet permits foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat such as salmon, whole grain rice, and nuts. For instance, consuming a lower carbohydrate diet with healthy fats may help lower cholesterol levels and maintains your overall health. In the diet, you have to increase your protein intake, which boosts metabolism and burn fat quickly (4). Proteins will also assist build muscle and maintain the leanness of muscles. Besides, consuming eggs, nuts, fatty fish, extra virgin olive oil, and other foods that are very good to keep your heart healthy.


The South Beach Diet includes a wide variety of delicious food. It promotes good carbohydrates such as whole grains and fruit than other carbohydrate-restricted diets such as Atkins and Zone diets. This diet categorizes carbohydrates and fats as good or bad.

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