What is the South Beach Diet?

By Diana Sanchez, Staff Writer

Photo by Dana DeVolk on Unsplash

Celebrities like Jesse James Decker, Audrina Patridge, Eva Mendes, and Oprah Winfrey have raved about the effectiveness of the South Beach diet. But what is the South Beach diet? And should you try it?

What is the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach diet is a modified low carb diet that leads to very quick and sustainable weight loss. The reason for this is that the South Beach diet encourages dieters to eat good carbs and good fats, and avoid bad carbs and bad fats, ensuring that dieters achieve long-term weight loss and learn to eat healthier for years to come.

The South Beach Diet was developed by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston. Dr. Agatston had patients who were on the Atkins diet, and while they were seeing excellent results from the low carb diet, Dr. Agatston was concerned about the high levels of saturated fat that were not limited on the Atkins diet. He also did not think that good carbs, like fruits and whole grains, should be off-limits for dieters. He decided to design a similar diet with these concerns in mind - and that’s how the South Beach diet was born. 

What can I eat on the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach diet has 3 phases. Phase 1 is designed to get your weight loss going and lasts for 2 weeks. Phase 2 will last as long as you are still trying to lose weight and is less restrictive than Phase 1. Phase 3 occurs after you’ve met your goal weight. You’re still applying the same basic rules of Phase 2, however, in this phase, you are allowed all foods in moderation.

Phase 1

Very low carbs - Lasts 2 weeks

Okay Not Okay
  • Lean protein
  • Seafood
  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey breast
  • Turkey bacon
  • Turkey pepperoni
  • Eggs 
  • Lean beef 
  • Soy meat substitutes
  • Vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy 
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Avocados
  • Nuts 
  • Seeds
  • All carbs
  • Alcohol
  • Foods high in saturated fats
  • Foods high in added sugars
  • Whole Milk
  • High starchy vegetables like:
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Turnips
  • Yams
  • Peas
  • White potatoes 
  • Winter squash
  • Honey, Maple Syrup
  • Fruits and Fruit juices


Phase 2

Weight loss plan - Lasts until you reach your goal weight

Okay Not Okay
  • Everything that was okay in Phase 1
  • Whole-grain breads
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Fruits 
  • All vegetables
  • Alcohol light beer or dry wine only (1 serving per day)
  • Fatty meats and poultry
  • Foods high in saturated fats
  • Foods high in added sugars
  • Whole Milk
  • Fruit juice
  • Honey, Maple syrup
  • Corn, white potatoes, and beets
  • Pineapple and watermelon
  • Figs, dates, and raisins
  • All other alcohols not on okay list

Phase 3

Maintenance - All foods okay in moderation

Okay Not Okay
  • Stick to Phase 2 guidelines
  •  No foods are off-limits, just make sure they are in moderation

A Day on the South Beach Diet (Phase 1)


Baked Eggs Skillet with Avocado and Spicy Tomatoes

OR Broccoli, Mushrooms, Ham, and Cheddar Baked with Eggs


Beef and Bean Chile Verde


Stir-Fried Tofu with Eggplant and Red Bell Pepper

OR Carne Asada


Peanut Butter Cookies


1 serving nuts of your choice

All-natural peanut butter (1 tbs) with celery sticks


I’ve done keto diets in the past before, and while they are certainly effective, the high levels of fat allowed, and even encouraged, is something that always concerned me. I like that the South Beach diet addresses that, and reintroduces good carbs, like veggies and fruits into the mix. The South Beach diet sounds medically sound, and sustainable in the long term.

What do you think? Is this your next diet?

If you’re interested in looking up more diets to see which one might be right for you, check out these blogs:
What is the DASH Diet? 
What is the MIND Diet? 
What is the 5 Bite Diet? 
What is the Raw Food Diet? 
What is the Paleo Diet? 
Is Keto Right for Me? 
What is Intermittent Fasting? 
Is a Vegan Diet Right for Me?

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