What is the South Beach Diet—How Does It Work and Is It Keto-Friendly? – Parade

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The South Beach Diet has two decades of history guiding dieters towards their weight loss goals. Created during a time when the wellness industry was kind of obsessed with the low-carb diet, this is a program that aimed to enable weight loss with a slightly less restrictive approach to carbohydrates.

Founder Dr. Arthur Agatston lives and practices medicine in Miami, which provided the inspiration for the name of this modified low-carb diet. In the mid-90s, before he published his first book about the diet, he was helping the patients at his cardiology practice lose weight with a specific set of eating guidelines. In an effort to evolve with changing thoughts about healthy eating, Agatston has recently released a new book outlining the details of what he calls a “keto-friendly” South Beach diet.

What is the South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet has been called a modified low-carb diet because it doesn’t require dieters to count carbs. Instead, this is a program that encourages fewer carbohydrates—and when you do eat carbs, they’re supposed to be “good” carbs. According to the plan, foods with a high glycemic index should be avoided while carbs with a lower glycemic index are allowed in moderate portions.

Additionally, dieters are instructed to focus on eating healthier fats. This is what sets the South Beach Diet apart from other low-carb diets that allow more saturated fats. Instead, dieters can eat plenty of good fats, like those from olive oil, fatty fish and avocados while avoiding the saturated fat of dairy and animal products.

What are the benefits of the South Beach Diet?

The main goal of this diet is weight loss and this is a diet that boasts quick results. During the first phase of the diet, which lasts two weeks, the average weight loss is 8 to 13 pounds. Another well-noted benefit of this diet is that it is a heart-healthy diet. It was created by a cardiologist who wanted to provide his patients with the weight loss success he was witnessing with other low-carb diets without encouraging them to saturated fats that would be bad for the long-term health of their hearts.

Related: Rob Lowe on the Tricks He Uses to Stay Low-Carb and Why Ice Cream Is His Kryptonite

Is the South Beach Diet safe? Are there side effects?

Because this diet encourages eating patterns that have long been associated with reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, there is nothing unsafe about following the South Beach program. While other low-carb diets might allow or encourage foods that are high in saturated fats, this diet doesn’t. This would allow anyone, even individuals with a risk of heart disease, to commit to this way of eating for the long term and rest easy knowing the health of their heart is being protected by the foods they are eating 

One known side effect of the south beach diet is ketosis. Eating a lower carbohydrate diet may put the body into ketosis, which does speed up weight loss, but might also come with a few unpleasant symptoms popularly called the keto flu: irritability, nausea, fatigue and body aches. This side effect can be avoided if you are careful.

What are the different types of South Beach Diet?

The South Beach Diet can be modified for different people and preferences. Recently, the creators of the diet published a new book that explains how the South Beach Diet can be adjusted to be keto-friendly. This would mean fewer carbs to encourage ketosis while eating more healthy fats. In ketosis, your body has made the switch to burning fat for energy. This is why people on the keto diet often lose weight quickly.

“On the Keto Friendly South Beach Diet, the goal is to keep your daily net carb intake less than 50 grams of net carbs each day,” explains Courtney McCormick, RD, South Beach Diet corporate dietitian.

What are the best foods on the South Beach Diet?

Despite there being quite a few rules about what you can and can’t eat on the South Beach Diet, there is still a wide range of foods that are encouraged for those who are following this eating plan. For starters, non-starchy vegetables are one food you can eat as much as you want on the South Beach diet. This would include greens, certain low-glycemic squashes like zucchini, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower to name a few.

Because South Beach Diet is a diet that has phases, there are some foods that aren’t allowed during Phase 1 but can be eaten in small amounts later on in the diet. Fruit is one of these foods and isn’t allowed at all during the first two weeks. During Phase 2 and Phase 3, you’ll be able to eat small amounts of starchy fruits and larger portions of fruits with a lower glycemic index like berries. You will also be able to introduce starchy vegetables.

Lean protein is a big part of the South Beach Diet, so you’ll want to make sure your fridge and freezer are loaded with fish, chicken breasts, and ground chicken and ground turkey. Small amounts of legumes are allowed on this diet, as well.

What foods should be avoided on the South Beach Diet?

Depending on what phase of the South Beach Diet you are in, you will need to avoid different foods. During every phase of the diet, you’ll avoid high-glycemic fruits and vegetables:

  • Beets
  • Currants
  • Raisins
  • Dates
  • White potatoes
  • Corn

Refined grains, like white rice, bread, and white pasta should also be avoided.

During the first two weeks of the diet, the list of foods to avoid it is a bit longer. This is because all fruits are avoided during this phase.

What are some South Beach Diet recipes?

“You will want to ensure that your meals provide a good balance of lean proteins, healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables,” says McCormick. “So, for lunch a large salad with grilled fish or chicken topped with an olive oil vinaigrette, and for dinner a beef stir-fry with lots of veggies sautéed in coconut oil over cauliflower rice makes a delicious keto-friendly option.”

Fatty fish are an important part of this diet because of its focus on heart-healthy eating. If you’re about to start South Beach, you’ll want to have several recipes handy so you can look forward to a variety of flavors while eating the same fish week in and week out. Start with a great, basic, Oven-Steamed Salmon and when you are ready to branch out, this Baked Salmon with Arugula Salsa Verde can’t be beat. 

Related: Life Will Never Be the Same After You Try These 25 Creative Cauliflower Rice Recipes

What are some South Beach Diet snacks?

Snacks are required on the South Beach Diet, usually two to three times a day. Some of the best snacks are nuts, fresh veggies and dip, and fruit. During Phase 1, avoid the fruit, but feel free to integrate it in small portions once you’ve moved past the first two weeks. Homemade guacamole is a great snack that will keep you full until mealtime and you can substitute tortilla chips for red pepper slices to keep it on-plan. If guacamole isn’t your thing, or you’re craving a replacement for your favorite store-bought dip, this Creamy Herb Dip is the perfect accompaniment for your favorite veggies. 

What are some South Beach Diet desserts?

During every phase of the South Beach Diet, you are encouraged to eat a dessert as one of your snacks. This can help with those sneaky sugar cravings that threaten to derail you with a late-night, ice cream run. One of the most popular desserts on the South Beach Diet is a Lemon Ricotta Cream. Once you have reached Phase 2, you can satisfy your chocolate cravings with these Flourless Black Bean Brownies.

What are some South Beach Diet breakfasts?

For breakfast, a scramble like this Smoked Sausage Breakfast Scramble is a great way to make sure you’re eating plenty of veggies to kick off your day. Once you’ve reached Phase 2 of the diet, thin-sliced, whole grain bread is allowed in small portions so a great breakfast sandwich recipe can really come in handy and this Zucchini-Tomato Frittata Sandwich is loaded with veggies. The only adjustment that needs to be made to the recipe swapping out the Italian bread for something South Beach friendly.

Learn more about Whole30, another popular low-carb diet.

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