Diet 101: South Beach Diet

Once the high protein craze began to die down, the South Beach diet swooped in promising weight loss with cutting out the carbs. But is the South Beach diet all that it’s cracked up to be?
Once the high-protein craze began to die down, the South Beach Diet swooped in and promised weight loss without cutting the carbs. But is this diet all that it’s cracked up to be?

In the early 2000s, folks began to realize that it was unhealthy to eliminate carbs from your diet (like Atkins suggested), and the South Beach Diet became popular. Rather than cut a whole food group, this diet promises you can lose that belly fat by eating “good carbs” (from whole grains, fruits and veggies) and “good fats” (from lean meats, olive and canola oil).

Food that are dubbed "bad carbs" (and off limits) include white bread, sugar and baked goods. The “bad fats” are butter, high-fat cheeses and red meat. In 2008, the South Beach folks released an updated version of the diet in the book The South Beach Diet Super Charged, which promotes a quicker rate of weight loss.

The South Beach Diet is divided into three phases:

Phase 1: You use this two-week phase to eliminate all cravings and kick start weight loss (up to 13-pounds is promised!). It’s the most restrictive phase, where all carbohydrates and alcohol are banned. Fruits and veggies are also forbidden — though there are a few exceptions like salad greens.

Phase 2: You follow this phase until you reach your desired weight. This can take two weeks or six months. The goal is to lose about a pound per week. Healthier carbohydrates such as whole grains and most fruits are slowly introduced into the diet. Certain high-sugar fruit and veggies such as beets, potatoes and juices are still forbidden. The good news: You can say hello to wine again.

Maintenance Phase: The one is designed so you can live the “South Beach lifestyle” for the long term. You can eat a broader range of foods, but if they lead to weight gain, they go back on the forbidden food list.

This diet encourages eating three meals plus two snacks every day. You may have trouble dining out during the two-week jump-start phase, but during phase two, your meals become less restrictive and can include items such as baked sweet potato fries, coconut chicken, brown rice and black bean dip (served with whole grain tortilla chips). As for dessert, fruits, nuts and even a bit of dart chocolate are okay.

Exercise is not the focal point of this plan, but the books encourage walking and Pilates exercise to help achieve quicker weight loss.

The Costs

Along with a customized meal plan, the South Beach Diet web site offers diet tools (like tracking your weight), 24-hour online support and access to the online community costs for $5 a week (which comes to $260 a year). You can test out whether diet is right for you by doing their 7-day free trial.

As for other costs, there are plenty of South Beach-branded foods that you can purchase on their site, through or at many large grocery chains -- you'll find bars, salad dressings, cereal, powdered drink mixes and even tortilla-type wraps.

You can also purchase a workout DVD or their numerous South Beach books, many which include delicious recipes.

    The Good
  • No calorie counting or measuring portions.
  • Encourages lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.
  • Phases 2 and 3 are reasonable and pretty well balanced (though I’m not a fan of restricting any types of fruits and veggies).
    The Not-So Good
  • Phase 1 restricts most fruits, vegetables and whole grains and is not a well-balanced diet.
  • Eating out is difficult, especially in the beginning.
  • Time management is required to plan, shop and cook your meals.

Bottom Line: If you want to follow this plan, start on phase 2, which is more balanced and less restrictive. Many of the recipes sound good and you can easily add them into a healthy long-term meal plan.

Read up on other diet plans:

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