South Beach Diet: What You Need to Know

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­Take a random poll of your friends, family and colleagues and you're bound to encounter at least a few people who are dieting, and they're all probably not following the same plan. There are countless diets out there -- so many that it can be difficult to figure out which one to follow. Among these, there are low-calorie diets, low-fat diets and low-carb diets. For a long time, the Atkins plan was the most famous of the low-carb diets. And then along came the South Beach Diet.

The South Beach Diet has been around since the late 1990s, when Dr. Arthur Agatston, the director at Mount Sinai Cardiac Prevention Center in Miami Beach, Fla., came up with the diet plan [s­ource: Web MD]. Dr. Agatston was inspired to write up his own diet plan when several of his patients who were following traditional diets were not experiencing the results they wanted.

­As a cardiologist, Dr. Agatston, wanted to ensure that his diet would be heart-healthy [source: South Beach Diet]. As such, the South Beach Diet blends several methods together to try to make a healthful and realistic diet for those looking to lose weight. It's often compared to the Atkins Diet, since both tend to frown upon too many carbohydrates and both also run on a plan based on stages, or phases. But a closer examination of the South Beach plan will show some differences, particularly once you move on past the first phase of the program.

Now that you know how the diet got started, you're ready to learn the specifics of the plan, including what foods you can eat in each of the three phases. Read on to discover how the South Beach Diet plan actually works.

South Beach Diet Plan

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­Compared to diets where you have to carefully count calories, carbs or points, and meticulously measure and weigh your food, the South Beach Diet claims that it places less rigorous demands on you. However, that's not entirely accurate -- there's still some measuring and counting involved. On page 111 of the original plan's book, "South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss," it states, "The South Beach Diet doesn't require you to measure what you eat in ounces, calories, or anything else." But then on the following page, in the menu for "Day 1," it lists a 6-ounce serving of vegetable juice cocktail for breakfast and you're to top your lunch salad with exactly two tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette. One way it is different from some diets, though, is that you're encouraged to include snacks in between each major meal.

The main point of the South Beach Diet is to make you healthier by eliminating any cravings you have for foods listed as "bad carbs," which include refined sugar products like cake, candy and soda. Unlike the Atkins plan, which shuns carbs altogether, the South Beach Diet does allow you to eat some carbohydrates, but only those that are considered good carbs, such as vegetables, whole grains and fruit.

The South Beach Diet works to accomplish its goal of making you a healthier eater in three separate phases. The first phase, often referred to as the induction phase, is very strict and is meant to push you to the point of eliminating bad-carb cravings. This is when you must give up a host of bad carbohydrates -- such as baked goods and sweets -- for 14 days. The appealing part of this phase is that you could lose eight to 12 pounds. The second phase is when you can slowly start to incorporate more of the good carbs back into your diet. You decide how long you are in phase two, however long it takes you to hit your target weight. And once you move into phase three, you should be on the track to lifelong healthful eating habits [source: South Beach Diet Plan for Beginner].

Interestingly, there was no corresponding exercise routine to go along with the original South Beach Diet plan. However, a three-phase interval workout and body-toning program has been added to the plan in "The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life." In this book, Dr. Agatston enlists the help of Dr. Joseph Signorile, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Miami.

Ready to learn about the first phase of the South Beach Diet? Head to the next page to find out what foods are permitted in this phase.

South Beach Diet Phase 1 Foods

­Since the first phase is meant to curb your cravings for refined sugar and other bad carbs, the diet in this 14-day phase is quite limited. The nutrient- and fiber-rich foods found in phase one are meant to level out your blood sugar, rather than cause it to spike like refined sugar and starches do. Essentially the idea behind low-carb diets is that "bad carbohydrates" have a huge impact on your blood sugar levels, while "good carbs" have a minimal impact. You want to regulate your sugar levels so that you're avoiding spikes (like what might happen after you have a double scoop of your favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor). By stabilizing your blood sugar level, you'll curb your desire to eat those bad carbs [source: The South Beach Diet Online].

Phase one foods are meant to fill you up, so you'll find a lot of protein-rich items on the allowed food list. Meat is definitely a major player, but only the lean cuts are advised. Beef, poultry, seafood, pork and veal are all foods you can eat when you are in the induction phase.

If you are a vegetarian, you don't have to worry about not being able to find food to eat. Though meat is a mainstay during the induction phase, there are still several non-meat options from which you can choose, including low-fat cheeses, nuts, eggs, beans, milk, yogurt and tofu [source: Hager].

Vegetables are also recommended at this level. And it's best to look for green options over other colors, since vegetables like carrots are frowned upon because of their sugar content [source: Web MD].

Keep reading to find out what's in store for you if you decide to move on to phase two of the South Beach plan.

South Beach Diet Phase 2 Foods

­Phase two of the South Beach Diet plan is meant to be a steady, long-term phase. Unlike the first phase, this phase has no strict time limit. According to the plan, you should stay at the second phase until you are happy with your weight and comfortable with your diet. Sometimes people start at phase two if they don't have too much weight to lose but they want to be more healthful. Phase two does produce weight loss, but it's over an extended period of time [source: The South Beach Diet Online].

Phase two has a much smaller list of restricted foods, though bad carbs will never come back to the OK list. During phase two, you can start bringing back more of the good carbs. However, you can't bring them back all at once. The process of introducing the good carbs back into your diet should be gradual so that your body can get used to the moderate consumption of carbohydrates again. Whole grain foods such as brown rice and whole-grain breads make up a portion of the carbohydrate-driven foods you are allowed to eat at this time. You can also have sweet potatoes and a variety of fruit. Some pasta is permitted, as are chocolate and wine in moderation [source: Keefe].

By the time you've made it through the second phase, you've proven you have the power to stick to the South Beach Diet. So phase three should be a cinch for you. Read on to find out about the foods you can eat in the final stage of the South Beach Diet.

South Beach Diet Phase 3 Foods

­Once you've reached your desired weight, it's time to move on to the final phase (phase three) of the program. Phase three is meant to be a somewhat relaxed plan and something you can maintain for the rest of your life. Basically, you'll be relying on what you learned in the first two phases about low-carb dieting and making the right food choices to follow that lifestyle to maintain the weight loss you've achieved up to this point. But since phase three is all about maintenance and living the rest of your life on this plan, it takes into account all kinds of foods and tries to make allowances for eating beyond the parameters of the plan.

As long as you keep out the bad carbs, you can eat most normal foods in normal-sized portions. If you are wondering what a sample menu might look like in phase three, it's a lot like what you would be eating in Phase 2. For breakfast, you might to start with half of a grapefruit and coffee or tea with fat-free milk and a sugar substitute followed by eggs with cheese and salsa and a slice of whole grain toast [source: Free Dieting]. For lunch, you could have a red onion, spinach and roast beef wrap and chocolate dipped apricots [source: Keefe]. Dinner might include a tossed salad and grilled salmon with salsa, with lemon-peel ricotta crème for dessert [Source: Free Dieting].

Now that you know more about the South Beach Diet, whether you choose to follow the plan or not is up to you. As with any diet, it's a good idea to discuss your plans with your doctor first.

Be sure to check out the links listed on the next page to learn more about the South Beach Diet and related topics. Cheers to good health.

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Sources

  • Agatston, Arthur "The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss" St. Martin's 2003
  • Diet Channel, the. "South Beach Diet." (Accessed 3/3/09) http://www.thedietchannel.com/South-Beach-Diet.htm
  • Diets in Review. "South Beach Diet." (Accessed 3/3/09) http://www.dietsinreview.com/diets/South_Beach_Diet/
  • Hager, Mary G. "The south beach solution." Vegetarian Times, Jan2004, Issue 317 (accessed 3/23/09 via Health Source, Consumer Edition Database) http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hxh&AN=11552062&site=ehost-live
  • Free Dieting. "South Beach Diet." (Accessed 3/3/09) http://www.freedieting.com/south_beach_diet.htm
  • Keefe, Sarah. "The South Beach Diet." Ask Men. (Accessed 3/3/09) http://www.askmen.com/sports/foodcourt_100/102_eating_well.html
  • Kraft Foods. "South Beach Living" (Accessed 3/23/09) http://brands.kraftfoods.com/SouthBeachLiving//CMS_Templates/IFrame_Template.aspx
  • South Beach Diet. "South Beach Diet." (Accessed 3/3/09) http://www.southbeach-diet.info/
  • The South Beach Diet Online. "How It Works." (Accessed 3/3/09) http://www.southbeachdiet.com/sbd/publicsite/how-it-works/how-it-works.aspx
  • The South Beach Diet Plan. "South Beach Diet." (Accessed 3/3/09) http://www.south-beach-diet-plan.com/
  • South Beach Diet Plan for Beginner. "South Beach Diet Phase." (Accessed 3/3/09) http://www.southbeach-diet-plan.com/
  • Web MD. "The South Beach Diet: What It Is." July 11, 2007. (Accessed 3/3/09) http://www.webmd.com/diet/south-beach-diet-what-it-is