What Is The South Beach Diet?

In the mid-1990s, a Florida-based cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston created a diet called South Beach Diet. This diet focuses on having unsaturated fats, low-glycemic-index carbohydrates, and lean meats.

How Does The South Beach Diet Work?

This diet is divided into three different phases where two focus on losing weight and the third one focuses on maintaining your weight. A detailed description of each phase is given below –

Phase 1 – The Low-Carb Phase For Rapid Weight Loss


14 days

Expected Weight Loss During This Phase:

8–13 pounds (3.5–6 kg)


Since this phase has fruit, grains, and other high-carbohydrate food limitations, it’s specifically considered the strictest out of the rest of the phases. These limitations are there to reduce blood sugar, balance and maintain hunger, and decrease your cravings.

Consume three meals per day consisting of lean protein, small quantities of healthy fat, legumes, and vegetables that aren’t starchy. Additionally, per day, have two compulsory snacks. For snacks, a combination of legumes and lean proteins is preferred.

Foods to include:

Lean Protein:

There so no limitation on the quantity. However, it is better to have small portions and have more if you are still hungry. One can have lean proteins such as fish, shellfish, eggs, egg whites, lean beef, lean pork, lean lamb, skinless chicken, turkey breast, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, soy-based meat substitutes, turkey bacon, pepperoni, and lean veal. Also, one can have not more than 2 cups (437 ml) of buttermilk, greek yogurt, plain yogurt, low-fat milk, and soy milk.

Non-Starchy Vegetables:

One must consume at least 4 ½ cups daily of them per day. All vegetables can be had excepts beets, carrots, corn, turnips, yams, peas, white potatoes, and most types of winter squash.


You must limit yourself to have around 1/3 to ½ cup of cooked legumes per day. The legumes you can have include split peas, black-eyed peas, edamame, soybeans, lentils, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans, and other sorts of beans. One can also have hummus, but not more than ¼ cup.

Nuts And Seeds:

Per day, you should limit yourself to having 1 oz (28 grams) of nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, macadamias, and other nuts, and seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other seeds. Also, one can have nut butter, however not more than 2 tablespoons.

Oils And Fats:

Per day, one must not have more than 2 tablespoons of oil. Monounsaturated oils such as avocado, canola, olive, and macadamia oil are recommended. However, one can also have vegetable and seed oils such as grapeseed, flaxseed, corn, peanut, safflower, peanut, sesame, and soybean oil.

Alternative Fat Choices:

Each serving of the following is equal to having 2 tablespoons of healthy oils – 2/3 of one avocado, 2 tablespoons of low-fat mayonnaise, one tablespoon of regular mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of trans-fat-free margarine, 20-30 olives (depending on their size), and 2 tablespoons of salad dressing with less than 3 grams of sugar.

Sweet Treats:

Consumption of should be less than 100 0r 100 calories per day. These include sugar-free candies, gelatine, popsicles, gum, jams, jellies, chocolate syrup, and unsweetened cocoa. Also, sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol and sugar substitutes, including Stevia, artificial sweeteners.


One can have unlimited quantities of broth, herbs, spices, mustard, lemon juice, horseradish, and salsa. Also, once can have limited quantities as mentioned of the following – all kinds of vinegar with balsamic (1 tablespoon), light coconut milk (1/4 cup or 59 ml) soy sauce, steak sauce or miso (1 ½ teaspoon or 7 ml), lightly whipped topping (2 tablespoons), light sour cream or cream cheese 2 tablespoons) and cream or whole milk (1 tablespoon).


You can have unlimited quantities of coffee (regular or decaffeinated), tea (regular, herbal or decaffeinated), sugar-free sodas, vegetable juice, tomato juice, and sugar-free drink mix. However, it is recommended to have caffeine in moderation.

Foods to avoid:

This phase doesn’t allow foods with fat or high carbohydrate content, including food and grains, including refined sugar foods, grains, fatty meat, butter, coconut oil, fatty poultry, whole milk, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, beets, alcohol, corn, carrots, turnips, yams, peas, white potato, winter squash, all fruits and fruit juices.

Phase 2 – The Less Restrictive Phase For More Gradual Weight Loss


How many ever weeks is needed to reach your weight loss goal

Expected Weight Loss During This Phase:

1–2 pounds (0.5–1 kg) per week during this phase, on average


All foods from phase 1 can be had, along with limited portions of fruits, certain types of alcohol, and good carbohydrates like whole grains.

This phase allows all foods of phase 1. Also, eventually, it adds higher carbohydrate foods, starting with one fruit serving daily and starchy vegetables or whole grains in the first week. On day 14 of the second phase and after that, per day, one can consume up to 3 fruit servings and 4 whole grains or starchy vegetable servings. Occasionally, you can also have an alcoholic drink. However, as given later, choices are limited.

Once you’ve reached your weight loss goals, you can move on to phase 3 for maintaining your weight.

Foods to include:


Per day, have 1-3 servings of fruits. Except for dates, figs, pineapples, raisins, and watermelon, all fruits and frozen fruits are allowed. The size of one serving is a small piece of fruit like half a grapefruit or 3/4 cup (about 115 grams) of berries, cherries, or grapes.

Starchy Vegetables and Whole Grains:

Per day, consume 1-4 servings. You can have things like peas, sweet potatoes, yams, rutabaga, turnips, winter squash (not more than ¾ cup), whole-grain hot cereal, whole-grain bread, brown rice, wild rice, whole-grain cold cereal (not more than 1 cup), whole-grain pasta, popcorn (not more than 3 cups), whole-grain quinoa, whole-grain farro, pita bread (not more than ½ pita), whole-grain couscous, taro (not more than 1/3 cup), whole-grain bagel (limited to ½ small) and corn or whole-grain tortilla (limited to 1 small).


Daily, one can have a serving of dry, white, or red wine. But, not more than 4 oz or 118 ml. Furthermore, occasionally one can have light beer, limited to 12 oz or 355 ml.

Foods to avoid:

Phase 2 doesn’t allow one to have fatty meals, foods high in natural or refined sugar, and saturated fats. You must try and avoid the following – butter, coconut oil, fatty meat, whole milk, fatty poultry, fruit juice, beets, corn, white potatoes, fruit juice, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, dates, fig, pineapple, raisins, watermelon, food made with refined flour or sugar and alcohol except light beer and dry wine.

Phase 3 – The Phase For Weight Maintenance


After achieving your weight loss goals, you come to this phase. Though phase 2 guidelines are how you should be eating, this phase allows occasional treats and there are no food limits as such. However, if you start eating too much and as a result, start gaining weight, Dr. Agatston suggests going back to phase 1 for around one to two weeks before coming back to phase three.

Foods to involve and avoid are the same as phase 2.

Benefits Of This Diet

The following are the positives of doing this kind of a diet –

  • Helps you lose weight and belly fat without having to stay hungry
  • Increases your metabolism
  • Modifies your hormone levels that decrease hunger and promote fullness
  • Fights inflammation
  • Protects the health of the heart
  • Reduces insulin levels

Disadvantages Of This Diet

The following are the negatives of doing this kind of a diet –

  • May be very restrictive when it comes to the quantity and type of fat you can have
  • Allows potentially harmful types of fat such as soybean oil or safflower oil, which are extremely high in omega-6 fats
  • Having a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats has been linked to inflammation, heart disease and other health problems 
  • Coconut oil which has several health benefits, including weight loss, a reduction in belly fat and better heart health markers in overweight and obese adults isn’t allowed in this diet
  • Allows the use of processed vegetable oils
  • Prohibits many saturated fat sources and limits fat intake overall

Tips For South Beach Diet

The following video gives some tips on how to get started with the south beach diet –


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