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Diets: Making Sense of the South Beach Diet

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Brandi Goodman

The South Beach Diet

Dieting has never been more complicated with the plethora of options available. What works for one person may not work for another, which is why finding the right one for you is imperative.

Cardiologist Arthur Agatston developed the South Beach diet in the 1990s and published his findings in 2003. It is a heart-healthy solution with decades of success worth exploring.

What Is the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach diet is one of many diet possibilities that people can use in an effort to lose weight, improve their nutrition, and enhance their well-being. This diet plan is implemented in phases and first focuses on limiting carbs. As the phases progress, certain foods can be added back in to ensure a well-rounded diet that doesn’t make you regain the weight. You should eat nutritious options and avoid things such as white bread, white rice, cereal, baked goods, lunch meats, and processed ingredients that are high in saturated fat.

Sources for Healthy Fats, Lean Proteins, and Fruits and Vegetables

Healthy fats, lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, and low-sugar fruits are the primary ingredients in the South Beach diet. Dairy products are also included, though these must be limited to two cups per day. Greek yogurt is a good source of both dairy and protein. Other worthwhile protein foods include skinless turkey or chicken, eggs, lean lamb or pork, fish, and soy-based meat substitutes.

All vegetables are allowed except the eight starchiest options. Do not eat white potatoes, yams, peas, winter squash, carrots, beets, corn, or turnips. Focus on green veggies such as broccoli, spinach, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, and kale. Bell peppers are also a great choice. Though fruit is not recommended in the first stage of this plan, low-sugar choices can be consumed in the second and third stages. Grapefruit, guava, tangerines, apricots, limes, raspberries, and blackberries are suitable selections.

Good sources of healthy fats include avocado, nuts, legumes, seeds, and monounsaturated oils. These should only be consumed minimally, however, especially during the first phase. Two tablespoons of oils and just one ounce of nuts and seeds should be eaten daily.

What Are Good Carbs and Bad Carbs?

During the initial phase, it is recommended to not consume any carbohydrates at all, or very little. Once you progress, you can add in good carbs. Good carbs, or complex carbs as they’re known, are those that are found in fruit, vegetables, and grains. The body digests these slowly, thus ensuring a gradual impact on blood sugar levels. Bad carbs, or simple carbs as they’re referred to, are those that are digested quickly. They impact blood sugar fast and can have a detrimental impact.

What Are the Different Phases of the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach diet is implemented in three phases.

Phase 1

Phase 1 needs to be followed for just two weeks. You will follow a very low-carb diet and eat protein, limited healthy fats, and vegetables. The goal is to even out your blood glucose levels, curb your cravings, and get your hunger in check. By eating three protein-rich meals and two snacks per day, you should be able to lose several pounds in these first two weeks.

Phase 2

The second phase begins after the initial two weeks and lasts until your goal weight has been reached. The goal is to slowly lose so that it is easier to maintain. You can expect to see a one or two-pound weight loss per week. You should not add in processed foods or sugar-heavy foods, but can consume the same foods as phase 1, plus more carbs, including whole grains and fruits.

Phase 3

Phase 3 is the final phase that you will remain in for the long term. It is a suitable solution for weight maintenance and continuing your health journey. You follow the food guidelines of phase 2, yet can add in the occasional treat and enjoy more of the fruits and vegetables you love without having to worry as much about the sugar and starch within them.

What Are the Pros and Cons of the South Beach Diet?

Starting the South Beach diet can be a bit tough. Instantly cutting out all of the foods you love and avoiding all sugar and processed foods may be hard to fathom at first. However, once you spend a few days on the diet, your body should become accustomed to the plan and you’ll notice the cravings diminishing. As long as you follow the phases and only add in occasional treats once you’re in phase 3, you should be able to maintain this diet. It is a heart-healthy option that brings the nutrition you need to keep your organs functioning optimally.

What Are Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Options?

In the first phase of the South Beach diet, you must restrict your breakfast, lunch, and dinner options significantly. Once the second phase arrives, you can add in more choices. Meal planning can help ensure you have only the correct ingredients to use during your two weeks in phase 1.


Eggs are a simple breakfast that can be enjoyed on the South Beach diet. While egg whites are the best solution, you can still enjoy the full egg without worry. If you aren’t feeling eggs, eat a slice of turkey with half of an avocado.


A salad is a great lunch option. Add in chicken or turkey to pack in the protein. If you cannot stand salad without dressing, find one with no more than 3 grams of sugar, and limit it to only 2 tablespoons. Vinaigrettes are better options than creamy versions. Otherwise, drizzle it with avocado or olive oil.


For dinner, opt for grilled salmon with a side of veggies. Broccoli-stuffed chicken with a side of kale salad is also a terrific choice. You can also enjoy tacos in lettuce cups rather than with tortillas.

Join Jenny Craig

Jenny Craig has partnered with the South Beach diet, making eating even easier. You can simply order through her program and be sent all the meals you need to succeed for the initial two-week phase. You receive 14 breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and recharge bars that work as one of your snacks. Many people who follow the diet use this option to save on shopping and the hassle of trying to find suitable solutions. The frozen meals can simply be heated and enjoyed. This will also control your portions.

How Popular Is the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach diet is a popular option. US News ranks it as being 14th on the list for easiest diets to follow, and 9th for best diet programs overall as of 2023. It has been followed by politicians and celebrities alike, including Hilary Clinton, Bette Midler, Jesse James Decker, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Aldean, Savannah Chrisley, Audrina Patridge, and Kim Cattrall.

Combine Diet and Chiropractic for Optimal Health

Whether you choose to utilize the South Beach diet or opt for one of the many other choices, the point is to start changing your eating habits for the better. A diet filled with nutritious options will help you on your way toward better health. Combine that with routine chiropractic care and your well-being can prosper. Visit The Joint Chiropractic for an adjustment and further guidance on improving wellness. Exercising will likely be an important part of your weight-loss regimen, and chiropractic care can help you get the most out of your daily workouts.

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