South Beach Diet

"The South Beach Diet is not low carb, nor is it low fat" - Dr. Agatston

The South Beach Diet plan was created by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston based at Mount Sinai Hospital - in South Florida. The diet was originally developed for overweight heart patients. The patients experienced better health and weight loss. The South Beach Diet has come to be one of the most popular diets of all time.

The Book That Started It All

Agatston's book The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss quickly became a best-seller (despite a seemingly pretentious subtitle). The diet i includes foods such as whole grains, healthy fats, fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables. It was constructed in such a way as to be sustainable for most.

South Beach Diet Supercharged

The original book lead to a number of updates, as new research allowed.

The Supercharged version allows more foods than the original South Beach formula. Agatston says that he updated the diet to allow for greater flexibility based on feedback from his patients and on his website.

The new Supercharged plan also includes 20 minutes of a specific type of exercise called ‘interval training’ that Agatston claims will speed up metabolism, increase the rate of weight loss and improve general health.

He states that interval training allows dieters to achieve maximum results with a minimum time commitment. In this he is correct - research continues to show benefits from this kind of training.

South Beach Diet Plan Overview

Phase 1

The South Beach Diet begins with a somewhat restrictive two-week induction phase - which will result in weight loss in most people. In this phase most carbohydrates (such as rice, pasta, and breads) must be avoided.

There are three meals a day and snacks -- eating until your hunger is satisfied. Meats, shellfish, chicken, turkey, and fish are all on the menu - along with nuts, cheese (fat-free), eggs, salads, and vegetables.

See the South Beach Diet Food List for more.

Phase 2

This second phase includes specific meal plans and recipes. It reintroduces some of the foods avoided in Phase 1 - but only sparingly. In this phase weight loss should be in the region of 1-2 pounds per week. This length of time on this phase is indefinite (i.e. until a specific goal is reached).

Phase 3

The third phase is about living the lifestyle more than a phase - its about eating healthy foods, and maintaining weight.

Carbohydrate Management

Although the South Beach Diet may seem similar to the Atkins diet or the Zone diet, Dr. Agatston stresses it is not a strictly low-carb diet. It's all about balancing the good carbs against the "bad" carbs. Note that the first 14-day phase is definitely a low-carb phase. However the South Beach Diet is based around the Glycemic Index, and carbs are chosen according to this index.

It is quite feasible to follow the principles in the diet from Phase 2 only (i.e. forgoing Phase 1) - they make good sense. The scientific backing for an 'induction' phase is unclear.

Recipes and Meal Plans

About half of the original book was made up of recipes.. Or you may want to join the online program at - this has over 800 recipes (that cannot be found in the book) and meal plans - more than 1 million people have subscribed to this program.

Arthur Agatston has also written:

Sample Meal Plan for the South Beach Diet

Tomato juice, 6 oz.
Scrambled eggs with fresh herbs and mushrooms
Canadian bacon, 2 slices
Decaf coffee or decaf tea with fat-free milk and sugar substitute

Part-skim mozzarella cheese stick

Chicken Caesar salad (no croutons)
Prepared Caesar dressing, 2 Tbsp

Low-fat cottage cheese (½ cup) with ½ cup chopped tomatoes and cucumbers

Mahi mahi
Oven-Roasted Vegetables
Arugula salad
Low-sugar prepared dressing

Lemon Peel Ricotta Crème

Berry smoothie (8 oz. Dannon Light 'n Fit fruit-flavored yogurt, ½ cup berries, ½ cup crushed ice, blended)
Decaf coffee or decaf tea with fat-free milk and sugar substitute


1 hard-boiled egg

Lemon Couscous Chicken
Tomato and cucumber slices


Dannon Light 'n Fit yogurt, 4 oz.

Meat Loaf
Steamed asparagus
Mushrooms sautéed in olive oil
Sliced Bermuda onion and tomato with drizzled olive oil

Sliced cantaloupe with 2 Tbsp ricotta cheese
½ grapefruit
Tex-Mex eggs (2 eggs scrambled with shredded Monterey Jack cheese and salsa)
Whole grain toast, 1 slice
Decaf coffee or decaf tea with fat-free milk and sugar substitute

Roast Beef Wrap

Grilled salmon with tomato salsa
Tossed salad (mixed greens, cucumbers, green bell peppers, cherry tomatoes)
Olive oil and vinegar to taste or 2 Tbsp low-sugar prepared dressing

Chocolate-Dipped Apricots

Any Negatives?

Virtually none.

The only thing we could think of is the potential food cost.

If you look at the meal plan above you will see that some of the foods listed could get expensive. However it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible (not easy - but possible) to source the healthy foods required (lean proteins, quality carbs, etc) while on a budget.

See the South Beach Diet Online Program


  • Laursen, P. B., & Jenkins, D. G. (2002). The scientific basis for high-intensity interval training. Sports Medicine, 32(1), 53-73. Link
  • Tjønna, A. E., Lee, S. J., Rognmo, Ø., Stølen, T. O., Bye, A., Haram, P. M., ... & Wisløff, U. (2008). Aerobic Interval Training Versus Continuous Moderate Exercise as a Treatment for the Metabolic Syndrome A Pilot Study. Circulation, 118(4), 346-354. Link
  • Hannum, S. M., Carson, L., Evans, E. M., Canene, K. A., Petr, E. L., Bui, L., & Erdman, J. W. (2004). Use of Portion-Controlled Entrees Enhances Weight Loss in Women. Obesity research, 12(3), 538-546. Link
  • Miller, M., Beach, V., Sorkin, J. D., Mangano, C., Dobmeier, C., Novacic, D., ... & Vogel, R. A. (2009). Comparative effects of three popular diets on lipids, endothelial function, and C-reactive protein during weight maintenance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(4), 713-717. Link


Last updated 27 April 2015