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 www.southbeachdiet.com – 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

PHASE 1 PHASE 2 PHASE 3
Breakfast
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

Snack
Part-skim mozzarella cheese stick

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

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

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

Dessert
Lemon Peel Ricotta Crème

Breakfast
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

Snack

1 hard-boiled egg

Lunch
Lemon Couscous Chicken
Tomato and cucumber slices

Snack

Dannon Light ‘n Fit yogurt, 4 oz.

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

Dessert
Sliced cantaloupe with 2 Tbsp ricotta cheese

Breakfast
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

Lunch
Roast Beef Wrap
Nectarine

Dinner
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

Dessert
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 Delivery Program

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)
  • 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

36 Comments or Reviews

Comments now closed
  1. SW 4 months ago

    I have been in the SB diet for 2 months and 3 days. I started off 220lbs from my goal weight, my doctor actually recommended the diet. I bought the book and read the first 100 pages, had a giant pasta dinner and started off the next day. I gave up the sugar in my coffee, gave up the processed carbs and started to exercise and I am down 30lbs in 2 months! By the way I had some whole grain pasta for dinner tonight. Not only that but my husband lost 20, my sister lost 16, and my brother-in-law lost 20. The diet is reasonable, I can have rice or bread just not with every meal during the day. The food isn’t that expensive, in fact I am saving money over what I was spending on fast food and eating out. If your thinking about it enough to make it to the comments, do it you won’t regret it. I recommend buying and reading the book so you understand the reasoning and science behind what the doctor is asking you to do on the plan.

  2. Claudia

    I’ve been on this plan for almost 2 years(I call it a plan because it doesn’t feel like you’re dieting even after a long time). On the first and second phases I lost 16 pounds and reached my goal weight. Now, I’m just maintaining and if I ever feel I’m slipping off a little I go back to phase 1 and loose the excess in 1 or 2 weeks. Very nutritious and the meal plans are great. I follow it to the letter and never complain about variety. There’s plenty of dishes, and you can easily order out following the guidelines. I really like it.

  3. Bobbysox

    I am trying to get more info on the South Beach Diet Plan. I do not know anyone that has tried it. I can’t find the cost of this plan. Is there anyone that can tell me the total cost. Thanks

  4. StephiStephsStuff

    I tried this and lost 7 pounds in a month. Unfortunately, I did not continue the diet after a snow storm left me at a friends house for two days. I should’ve started over and I keep finding one reason or another not to start again. Diets are hard and you definitely have to commit yourself to eating better, in general, in order for you to have success with it. I am currently reading Eat To Live by Joel Fuhrman and after I am finished reading the book I am going to begin that plan. It sounds harder than any other plan, but the benefits sound remarkable and I would love to be thinner and also healthier.

  5. Ty

    I love the South beach. it has trully changed the way I eat and how I think of food. As a server I will working while regular people would be eating dinner. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat for 7to 8 hours. Then when I would get off work at 1 am and eat fast food b/c they were the only places open. South beach encouraged me to eat as a way to maintain energy and balanced, not starve myself to the point where I would binge on digusting food. The first two weeks took a little adjusting to( of course!) but then I started getting to the point where I wouldn’t crave the usual high carb high fat foods I lived off of before. Not to mention the benefits for my skin. With omitting fats, carbs, and sugars from my diet, my skin cleared and became more firm! I definitely recommend thus diet for someone who just dosen’t want to lose pounds but wants to make a lifetime change:)

  6. blondesoprano

    I first tried this diet about 6 years ago. My mom and I did it together and were very successful in losing a lot of weight. I had two more pregnancies after that, as well as some stressful times when I overate and made bad health choices in general.

    I got back on the wagon when my youngest child was one, back in 2007. At that time, I lost about 25 pounds over the course of 4 months. The most amazing thing to me is that, even though holidays came and went and I didn’t always make perfect choices, I still managed to keep the 20 pounds off for 2 years.

    I restarted fresh just before Halloween 2009 on this diet, and even with cheating for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve still managed to lose 13 pounds and keep it off in the last 3 months.

    I”ve also upped my activity level a lot, “jazzercizing” about 4 times/week, so my muscle mass is increasing, and I realize the pounds are going to slip off slowly because of that.

    I have about 60 pounds still to lose to be at my ideal weight with a healthy BMI, but: sticking with this diet, esp the intelligent Phase II part of it, along with regular exercise, and losing a modest 1.5 pounds per week… I’ll get there by the end of the year!

    Good luck all you dieters out there! It can cost a bit more to start with, definitely requires more time chopping veggies and prepping ingredients, but it’s delicious and not really that hard to stick with, and the results can be permanent if you incorporate the principles into your daily life-time eating habits!

  7. casce

    The cookbook that is available is excellent, as are the recipes in the diet. I have never followed the diet per say, but use the recipes often. I.e. try the Hummus in the South Beach Diet book (page 178). We added more lemon juice and spices and doubled the onion and it is amazing and low cal..served with sliced cucumber, tomatoes, green pepper. Stuffed mushroons are good too, if you add some onions and a bit of spices. Be creative and have fun and lose weight.

  8. Glen

    I recommend the South Beach and small variations to all my personal training clients. This will work for everyone who tries it. You need to look at all the similarities of each diet. Moderate to lower carbohydrates. Variety of foods. Moderate to lower fat sources, and Lean proteins. Each diet besides the tapeworm can be useful in some way as a whole. Not one is right, not all are wrong. Just like Bruce Lee said, “Absorb what is useful, Reject what is useless.”

  9. Phillip

    I would recommend this diet for any one your diet needs 1500 to 1600 calories per day.

  10. sonam

    iam on south beach diet from 5 days with out doing any exercise, i have not lost even a single gram.can anyone advice me why it is so??????????IF I CAN do kapalbharti along with this diet?

  11. Yoli

    I did this diet…. and lost 11lbs in just two weeks which was phase one… I need to get started on this diet again!

  12. Maggie

    i’ve just finished the atkins induction. would it be any different if i pick up on south beach after that? the induction phase seems the same but i’m not sure.

  13. Cyn

    It’s not too bad, I used it about 2 years ago and lost 15 lbs but found it a little expensive at times.

  14. natalie and michelle

    me and my friend natalie were doin a sereach project on this diet we both are ocnvinced and want to try this diet. will report results later.thanks evryone for thier comments byee

  15. Jon Siegal

    i love this diet, i lost 76 pounds!!!! its great

  16. Steve Parker, M.D.

    Dr. Agatston’s theory to explain overweight is that we eat too many sugars and starches. The detrimental carbohydrates are concentrated sugars—such as soft drinks, some fruits, and commercial fruit juices—and over-processed low-fiber starches, such as enriched white flour and white rice. These are his “bad carbs.”

    According to his theory, bad carbs increase insulin levels sharply, leading to increased fat storage (especially abdominal fat) and increased cravings for carbohydrate as the insulin eventually causes abnormally low blood sugar levels a few hours after the carb intake. Then you eat more carbs to raise your sugar level back to normal. Dr. Agatston spends much time explaining the glycemic index, a measure of how rapid and high a spike in blood sugar is seen after ingestion of particular foods.

    This “bad carb” theory is not original or exclusive to Dr. Agatston. Remember “Sugar Busters”? The “bad carb” theory has been popular since around the turn of the century, even though Dr. Robert C. Atkins and others wrote about it many years earlier.

    Figuring less prominently in Dr. Agatston’s scheme are his “bad fats”—saturated fats and trans fats. Some of the “good fats” to eat are olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and omega-3 fatty acids.

    The author had intended to produce a diet with few rules, yet he tells you exactly what and when you will eat for 6 straight weeks. The recipes are prepared from readily available ingredients. How much do you eat? “The meals should be of normal size—enough to satisfy your hunger, but no more than that.” So the author never says how many calories you will eat. Although he says it is not a low-carb diet, it is. Especially the first four weeks.

    Strongest points?

    * The composition of South Beach is generally reasonable and would tend to improve health and longevity while controlling weight, compared to the usual Western developed-world diet.
    * The recipes look tasty and relatively easy.
    * High-fiber, minimally processed carbohydrates are indeed healthier than pure sugars and refined starches.
    * Plenty of people say it has worked for them.
    * Food variety.
    * South Beach is an improvement over Atkins, especially to the extent that the author moves Atkins toward a Mediterranean-style diet. [By the way, Agatston never claims his diet is Mediterranean.]

    Weakest points?

    * Six weeks of prescribed eating, leaving no room for flexibility.
    * Exercise is recommended—essentially a brisk walk for 20 minutes daily—but is not stressed nearly enough.
    * There is certainly no scientific consensus that sugars and starches—“bad carbs”—have caused our obesity epidemic.
    * There in no reference section and very few references are given. You cannot read for yourself the scientific journal articles, if any, that support the author’s opinions.

    An improvement to South Beach would move it further away from Atkins and even closer to the time-honored healthy Mediterranean diet of the mid-20th century, in which more “good carbs” and fewer proteins would be encouraged. And myriad benefits of exercise should not be taken lightly.

    Steve Parker, M.D.

  17. kaeli

    my name is kaeli and im doing a health paper over this diet and would like everyones opinion please and thank you

    how did this diet work for you?
    Is it expensive?
    would you recomend it to other people?
    who is this diet ment for?

  18. Silly!

    I tried this diet a while back and at the start i was over weight… i loved eating junk food until this diet.. this diet helped me loss so much weight… i love this diet… my husband didnt even notice me wen he got back from his business trip overseas… it was so funny…. he loves the new me better and i get alot more complicments then i use to… im so happy iwth the new me thanks to the south beach diet 🙂

  19. Food Dude

    I did this diet 4.5 yrs ago. It worked and I lost 25 lbs in about 3 mos time. Little exercise and I even cheated. I ate chocolate and drank a few beers each week. I’m sure the results would have been greater had I stuck to the diet plan word for word. But overall – fad diet or not. It work!

  20. MR.YOUNG HIP DADDY

    THIS DIET IS THE BEST AND I WOULDN’T TRY ANY OTHER DIET BUT THIS ONE. TRYY IT IF YOUR CRAZY YOUN AND WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT AND LOOK GOOD!!!

  21. mina

    this diet is great! I lost close to 40 pounds on it!

  22. Just-Fit Guy

    not bad

  23. jhgfu

    it is not a fad diet you stupid idiot and i think it looks goood so i am gonna try it

  24. Kari

    I’ve done this before and I’ve done Atkins and each times I have lost about 12 pounds in two weeks. It helps to shrink the waistline in a short amount of time, but the weight can come back on just as fast as you lost it if you’re not careful. I would recomend it as a jump-start diet to a more normal, balanced diet (like WeightWatchers), or as a way to lose weight quickly for a formal affair, but not as a long term diet.

  25. S.Vanity

    It’s CRAP fad diets dnt work

  26. Danielle

    All of kinds of food you are allowed to eat it’s amazing!

  27. Asmi

    My husband and I tried this. He lost 15 pounds and I lost 10 in a 2 week period. It works!!

  28. paul galvez

    good for you all!! lol im taking online health classes and i have to write a paragraph about this xD! 09!!!

  29. briannah

    i didnt think this diet wroked until my aunt and I tryed it she lost about 70lbs and I lost around 25

  30. freddy

    this diet was amazing

  31. jeff

    It is different from Atkins, especially following the two week induction phase.

  32. hannah

    I lost 55 pounds on this diet..be sure u use this diet its probably the best one i have ever trieddddd so do it if ur looking to loose weight

  33. ilovetj4lyfe

    really good

  34. Bob

    this diet was so amazing it made me look better for all the guy out ther so all you other faggs out there try this diet

  35. Ellie

    Beware Migraine Suffers. If you ever had a migraine Ask your Dr. before starting this diet!

  36. saihara

    this diet is great and it really works like really. ITS FANTABOULOUS

Last Reviewed: January 22, 2018