The South Beach Diet is a popular weight-loss diet created in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston and first outlined in his best-selling book, "The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss." The South Beach Diet is a commercial weight-loss diet.
The South Beach Diet, which is named after a glamorous area of Miami, is sometimes called a modified low-carbohydrate diet. The South Beach Diet is lower in carbs (carbohydrates) and higher in protein and healthy fats than is a typical eating plan. But it's not a strict low-carb diet, and you don't have to count carbs.
The purpose of the South Beach Diet is to change the overall balance of the foods you eat to encourage weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. The South Beach Diet says it's a healthy way of eating whether you want to lose weight or not.
Why you might follow the South Beach Diet
You might choose to follow the South Beach Diet because you:
- Enjoy the types and amounts of food featured in the diet
- Want a diet that restricts certain carbs and fats to help you lose weight
- Want to change your overall eating habits
- Want a diet you can stick with for life
- Like the related South Beach Diet products, such as cookbooks and diet foods
Check with your doctor or health care provider before starting any weight-loss diet, especially if you have any health concerns.
The South Beach Diet says that its balance of good carbs, lean protein and healthy fats makes it a nutrient-dense, fiber-rich diet that you can follow for a lifetime of healthy eating.
The South Beach Diet says that it'll teach you about eliminating so-called "bad" carbs from your diet. It uses the glycemic index and glycemic load to determine which carbs you should avoid. Foods with a high glycemic index tend to increase your blood sugar faster, higher and longer than do foods with a lower index. Some evidence suggests that this increase in blood sugar can boost your appetite, leading to increased eating and weight gain and possibly diabetes, which can all contribute to cardiovascular disease.
The South Beach Diet also teaches you about the different kinds of dietary fats and encourages you to limit unhealthy fats, while eating more foods with healthier monounsaturated fats. The South Beach Diet emphasizes the benefits of fiber and whole grains, and encourages you to include fruits and vegetables in your eating plan.
The South Beach Diet is lower in carbohydrates than is a typical eating plan, but not as low as a true low-carb diet. On a typical eating plan, about 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories come from carbohydrates. Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, this amounts to about 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates a day.
In the final maintenance phase of the South Beach Diet, you can get as much as 28 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates, or about 140 grams of carbohydrates a day. A true low-carb diet might restrict your carb intake to as little as 20 to 100 grams a day.
The South Beach Diet has evolved over time and now recommends exercise as an important part of your lifestyle. The South Beach Diet says that regular exercise will boost your metabolism and help prevent weight-loss plateaus.
Phases of the South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet has three phases:
- Phase 1. This two-week phase is designed to eliminate cravings for foods high in sugar and refined starches to jump-start weight loss. You cut out almost all carbohydrates from your diet, including pasta, rice, bread and fruit. You can't drink fruit juice or any alcohol. You focus on eating lean protein, such as seafood, skinless poultry, lean beef and soy products. You can also eat high-fiber vegetables, low-fat dairy and foods with healthy, unsaturated fats, including avocados, nuts and seeds.
- Phase 2. This is a long-term weight-loss phase. You begin adding back some of the foods that were prohibited in phase 1, such as whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, fruits and more vegetables. You stay in this phase until you reach your goal weight.
- Phase 3. This is a maintenance phase meant to be a healthy way to eat for life. You continue to follow the lifestyle principles you learned in the two previous phases. You can eat all types of foods in moderation.
A typical day's menu on the South Beach Diet
Here's a look at what you might eat during a typical day in phase 1 of the South Beach Diet:
April 20, 2017
- Breakfast. Breakfast might be an omelet with smoked salmon or baked eggs with spinach and ham, along with a cup of coffee or tea.
- Lunch. Lunch might be a vegetable salad with scallops or shrimp, along with iced tea or sparkling water.
- Dinner. Dinner may feature grilled tuna or pork paired with grilled vegetables and a salad.
- Dessert. The diet encourages you to enjoy a dessert, such as a ricotta cheesecake or chilled espresso custard, even in phase 1.
- Snacks. You can enjoy snacks during the day, too, such as a Muenster cheese and turkey roll-up or roasted chickpeas.
See more In-depth
- Agatston AS. The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale; 2003.
- Atallah R, et al. Long-term effects of 4 popular diets on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2014;7:815.
- Our mission. South Beach Diet Online. http://www.southbeachdiet.com/about. Accessed March 7, 2017.
- Fields H, et al. Are low-carbohydrate diets safe and effective? The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 2016;116;788.
- Bray GA. Dietary approaches for obesity. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 8, 2017.
- DKA (Ketoacidosis) and ketones. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/ketoacidosis-dka.html. Accessed March 8, 2017.
- Liebman M. When and why carbohydrate restriction can be a viable option. Nutrition. 2014;30:748.
- Do I have to exercise on the South Beach Diet? South Beach Diet Online. https://palm.southbeachdiet.com/faqs/about-south-beach-diet/do-i-have-to-exercise-on-the-south-beach-diet/. Accessed March 8, 2017.
- Carbohydrate counting & diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity/carbohydrate-counting. Accessed March 15, 2017.