What is The South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet is a commercial diet plan designed by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston and dietitian Marie Almon in the mid-1990s. It became popular after 2003, with the launch of a best-selling book.

Avocado is a healthy food that can be eaten at any phase of the South Beach Diet

It initially aimed to help patients lower their risk of heart disease, but rapidly became popular as a diet for losing weight.

Dr. Agatston devised the Diet after noticing that the low-fat, high-carb diets commonly recommended were not helping people to lose weight in the long term.

The Diet claims not to be a traditional low-carb diet, focusing instead on selecting the right carbohydrates, or carbs.

These include whole grains, specific fruits and vegetables, appropriate fats, such as olive oil, and lean protein sources.

It recommends avoiding certain carbohydrates, based on their glycemic index.

Commenting on the Diet, the Mayo Clinic explain that foods with a high glycemic index will increase blood sugar more quickly, to a higher level and for a longer time than foods with a lower index.

There is, they say, some evidence to suggest that increasing blood sugar levels stimulates the appetite, causing people to eat more.

The three phases of the South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet has three phases: The first aims to kick-start the weight loss process, the second takes the dieter to their target weight, and the third aims to maintain the ideal weight.

Phase I: Kick-starting the weight-loss process

Phase I of the diet lasts 2 weeks.

It aims to eliminate cravings for sugary foods and refined starches by stabilizing blood-sugar levels. Rapid weight loss may occur during this phase.

In Phase I, the dieter will eat normal-sized portions of:

Lean meats



Fish and shellfish



Reduced-fat cheese




The dieter will eat three balanced meals a day, with desserts, plus snacks.

The snacks are important, even if the dieter is not hungry, because someone who feels satisfied has less tendency to overeat at the next meal.

Foods to avoid during Phase I include bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, baked and sugary foods such as cake, cookies, candy and ice cream, and fruits, and alcoholic drinks.

Some of these are re-introduced in Phases II and III.

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Phase II: Achieving the target weight

Phase II lasts until the dieter reaches their desired weight.

Appropriate carbohydrates are re-introduced, in the form of fruits, whole grains, and some additional vegetables.

[whole grain bread]
Carbohydrates should be in the form of whole grains.

Weight loss may now be steady, but slower than in Phase I. During Phase II, the Diet says people normally lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, depending on the individual’s metabolism.

Slow, steady weight loss is better, says South Beach Diet, because it is more likely to last.

In Phase II, the dieter learns to reintroduce “good” carbohydrates, including whole-grain breads, whole-grain pastas, most fruits, and some treats.

Some participants worry about regaining the weight already lost when they start eating the carbs again.

Dr. Agatston stresses that they must reintroduce these carbs, because if they are going to follow this diet for life, carbs will be essential long-term for maintaining good health.

The carbs are reintroduced little by little.

First, one single carb is added to just one daily meal for one week. The person should monitor closely how their body responds to a reintroduced carb over a few days.

If the body responds appropriately, they can add a second carb, again monitoring the body’s reaction carefully. Examples of an appropriate response to added carbohydrates are improved energy, sleep quality, and mood, continued slow weight loss, regular bowel movements, and better skin.

This continues until the person has two to three servings of the right carbs each day. These include healthy, complex, high fiber carbohydrates like whole grains, fruit, potatoes, peas, and brown rice.

If a person does not feel comfortable at this stage, they can return to Phase I for a few days, until they regain control.

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