South Beach Diet Review

by Valerie Kirk

The South Beach Diet is a three-phase plan that requires individuals to eliminate bad carbs and bad fats. Saturated fats are restricted not only to promote weight loss, but to protect heart health.

Click to Read Heidi's South Beach Diet Experience

The South Beach Diet Phases

Phase One

Phase One lasts for two weeks and bans bread, fruit, rice, dairy, pasta, baked goods, and potatoes. Alcohol is also off the menu. The harsh restrictions on South Beach Phase One are meant to help people kick their cravings for carbs.

Phase Two

In Phase Two, which lasts until the dieter has reached their goal weight, good carbs like fruit and low-fat dairy are reintroduced. If you have less than 10 pounds to lose and don’t have issues with cravings, you can skip Phase One and start here.


Phase Three

Phase Three, also known as the lifestyle phase, focuses on weight-maintenance and allows followers the occasional indulgence. The emphasis on the program is to decrease processed and simple carbs and to opt for lean protein, whole grains, and fiber-packed fruits and veggies. Instead of severely limiting carbs (a’la Atkins), your focus is on eating the right carbs.

South Beach Diet Online

You can sign up for a free one-week trial membership, and after that you’ll pay $5 per week to continue the program. Some of the more helpful features include customized meal plans, support from an online community, and access to over 1,000 recipes.

South Beach Diet Menu

Unlike other diet plans, you can enjoy dessert on the South Beach Diet. In fact, they encourage it! Using diet-friendly ingredients like fresh fruit, South Beach desserts can keep you from feeling deprived. And good news for grazers: The South Beach Diet promotes strategic snacking. Eating this way keeps blood sugar levels stable. In addition, you’ll avoid many of the highly processed, refined carbohydrates that produce drastic spikes in blood sugar. And when blood sugar is stabilized, cravings are virtually eliminated.

A daily menu on South Beach includes three balanced meals, two snacks, and dessert. You won’t go hungry on this plan thanks to the bounty of satiating protein and fiber-rich foods. While members of Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig have reported that the meals were less than filling, South Beach devotees are quick to exclaim, “I’m never hungry!”

A unique trait of the South Beach Diet is that the meals are extremely family friendly. You may not win points subjecting your family to the Atkins diet (“Why can’t we have macaroni and cheese or cookies, Mom? Are you punishing us?”), but your kids will hop on the South Beach bandwagon when you offer them South Beach peanut butter and jelly cookies, apple crisp, and sweet potato fries.

South Beach Diet Recipes

You can cook as little or as much as you like on South Beach, and the website features an impressive collection of recipes that ensure you’ll never get bored. Asparagus omelets with goat cheese, grilled sesame salmon, and chipotle-rubbed steak wraps are just some of your tasty options.

If you love to cook, there is an array of South Beach cookbooks to choose from. The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook: 200 Easy Solutions for Everyday Meals is the newest and features an impressive assortment of on-the-go foods. There’s even a cookbook  (The South Beach Diet Holidays and Parties Cookbook) that addresses the subject of many a dieter’s downfall: social eating. The book puts a healthy spin on classic entertaining meals, whether it’s a family Christmas Eve supper, a Thanksgiving banquet, a summer barbeque, or even a Super Bowl party.

There’s also an ample selection of South Beach Diet-approved convenience foods such as string cheese, Triscuit crackers, nuts, and Jell-O. If you’ve got a sweet tooth you’ll want to dive headfirst into the South Beach line of snack and meal replacement bars available at grocery stores. With flavors like s’mores and peanut butter chocolate chip, these high protein treats can keep you on course. Unfortunately, the South Beach line of frozen meals has been discontinued.

Dining out on this diet is a snap as long as you avoid starchy foods like bread and potatoes. You may have to make some special requests (hold the sauce, prepare vegetables plain, etc.), but the world is still your oyster if you want to enjoy restaurant meals on South Beach.

There are few drawbacks on the plan, but a notable amount of South Beach recipes do feature more than 10 ingredients, often centered on pricier protein sources like fish and steak. Cooking is central to South Beach and some dieters may become frustrated with the level of daily effort involved.

What is the difference between South Beach Diet and Atkins Diet?

South Beach Diet stresses leaner cuts of meat than the bacon-is-okay philosophy that dieters have come to associate with Atkins. South Beach places a stronger emphasis on healthy fats—nuts, avocados, and heart-healthy olive oil. It is somewhat less restrictive when it comes to certain carbs than is Atkins.

The South Beach Diet's heart-health orientation is due to that fact that it was developed by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston.

The Bottom Line

One major plus for The South Beach Diet is that it promotes a sustainable, long-term lifestyle that’s easy to maintain once you’ve reached your goal weight. Because indulgences are allowed on occasion, it’s a realistic plan that won’t leave dieters feeling deprived. While most people diet to get back into their skinny jeans, South Beach goes a step further and improves overall health while encouraging weight loss. 

At a glance: Is the South Beach Diet for you?

Yes, if:
•    You want healthy recipes the whole family can enjoy
•    You have a history of heart disease or simply want to improve your overall health
•    You don’t want to count calories or carb grams
•    You don’t want to give up dining out
•    You entertain frequently
•    Other diets have left your stomach growling

No, if:

  • You're a bread or pasta lover.
  • You tend to overeat or have trouble determining correct portion sizes when left to your own devices
  • You never have time to/ don’t like to cook
  • You want a diet that provides in-person support or exercise guidance
South Beach Diet, South Beach Diet Review


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