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What And How To Eat In The South Beach Diet

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Dr. Arthur S. Agatston, the developer of the diet discussing about The South Beach Diet for weight loss and the prevention of coronary heart diseases in this video on the CBN show.

When people think of the South Beach Diet, the mind conjures up images of tropical golden sun drenched beaches with fabulously tanned slim bodies of gorgeous beach goers in their skimpy and sexy swim wears and bikinis. Perhaps this figment of imagination may be a good motivator to lose weight with the South Beach Diet plan, don't you agree?

So what is the South Beach Diet all about? Well, the South Beach Diet was literally named after a glamorous beachfront playground in Miami Florida USA. This exotic beachfront is not only for lovers of sun sea and sand, but also boasts of a plethora of fine celebrity chef restaurants and a glittering and pulsating nightlife entertainment scene.

This weight loss diet was developed in 2003 by a cardiologist named Dr Arthur S. Agatston who graduated as a medical doctor at the New York University School of Medicine and he went on to study internal medicine at Montefiore Medical Center and after that was conferred his cardiology fellowship at the New York University.

Although the South Beach Diet is a low carbohydrate weight loss diet, the carb restriction is not as strict as the Ketogenic Diet or the Atkins Diet and this is one of the reasons why the diet is also sometimes referred to as a "modified low carb diet". The typical South Beach meal is low in carbohydrate and have a higher proportion of protein and good dietary fats. In other words, the diet is almost a balance of all three macro-nutrients making it very much nutrient dense.


The thinking behind the South Beach Diet is to have a well balanced diet regardless as to the intention to lose weight or simply to eat healthier meals. However, do consult your medical professional if this diet is suitable for you or not and especially so if you have some underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and hormonal imbalances.

The diet plan calls for the avoidance of high glycemic carbohydrates in your meals since high glycemic carbs will spike up your blood sugar level at a much faster rate than the low glycemic ones. Therefore you must be extremely sensitive and selective about the types of carbs that you are eating and as such, be knowledgeable about the measurement of glycemic which the South Beach diet called the glycemic level index (GI Index) table.

When high glycemic carbohydrates are eaten, it causes a surge in blood sugar actually and actually increases a your appetite thereby causing you to eat even more resulting in unwanted weight gain and obesity. To make matters worse, high blood sugar levels in your bloodstream can also lead to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, inflammation and certain types of cancers among other negative health problems. Now to you see a correlation here that obese people are more prone to these diseases?

Besides the avoidance of high glycemic food, the South Beach Diet also differentiates the different kind of dietary fats and followers of diet plan need to avoid unhealthy dietary fats such as trans fat and saturated fat but to replace those by having monounsaturated fat. Dieters are also urged to eat more high fiber food and as such your meals ought to have a fair amount of vegetables, whole grains and fruits. 

The South Beach diet is touted as not only a way of eating but it is also a lifestyle modifier. Adherents are also encouraged to abide by a regular exercise program into their lifestyle habit. This is to rev up the metabolism and to burn even more calories. At the same time to prevent your weight loss attempt from hitting a plateau coming to a standstill. Even if you are already at your ideal weight, exercising regularly is still very highly recommended as part of your South Beach diet lifestyle.

So how to start this diet plan? Well, there are three stages to it and they are :-

Phase 1 (2 weeks) - This starting phase is rather similar to the Atkins diet induction phase and it serves to get rid of your cravings for foods that are high in sugar and refined starches such as in flour products. So this phase is much stricter in the consumption of carbs. This will mean that all carbohydrates such as white rice, pastries, noodles, pasta, spaghetti, bread, fruits, sugary drinks, carbs in alcoholic beverages and so on are thrown out of the window. In other words, any food that is made from flour or can be made into flour will be out of bound. Anything with sugar is also not allowed and that is including fruits too since fruits contain sugars like glucose, dextrose and fructose. 

You should be eating more of lean protein such as lean meat cuts, seafood and skinless chicken breast. This is because animal fat is saturated fat and this is supposed to be "bad fat". High fiber food such as leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains are gamely allowed and are not restricted in any form at all.

Phase 2 - Herein lies the smoking gun! You will have to stay in this phase until you have reached your desired body weight. How long does this phase take? Well, that will depend on how much body weight you have to lose and how your effectively body is reacting to the diet and how strict are you in this phase.

The good news is that from here onward, the diet will not be as restrictive as in phase1 for you can now add some more carbs into your meals, but they should not be high glycemic types. So brown rice, whole grain breads, fruits, whole wheat products and so on is now deemed allowable.

One easy way to determine whether the food is high or low in GI without referring to any chart is that high GI food is quickly digestible as compared to low GI food. For example, soft white bread is digested much more faster than whole grain bread or white rice is digested quicker than brown rice. This is because since low GI food takes a longer time to digest, your blood sugar will not shoot up as fast in comparison with the higher glycemic ones. In a nutshell, the objective is to keep the blood sugar at low levels all the time.

Phase 3 - My heartiest congratulations! When you are at this phase, you would have successfully attain your desired body weight. Well done! As this third phase of the diet is a maintenance phase, your lifestyle and eating habits will be in this way for the rest of your life so as not to put back the weight in which you have lost and starting all over again.

In this final phase, you will combine the knowledge of the food you ate and how your body responded in the first two phases. You can now eat all foods in moderation and tweak them to your suitability, however do avoid high glycemic carbs whenever you can. Yes, you can have them, but not too much.


Since the first phase of the diet is the most restrictive one especially towards the consumption carbohydrates, some people will experience certain side effects especially in this phase. Here are 3 common side effects.

1) Bad Breath - Sometimes referred to as the ketogenic breath or the ketosis breath. Not all dieters will experience this phenomenon and if it occurred at all, it is usually in phase 1 because of the strict carbohydrate restriction and when our stored carbohydrates are depleted and ketones are being produced. 

The slightly metallic smell in the breath is caused by acetone, which a by product of ketosis. Ketosis is a state when your body is depleted of carbohydrate stores (glycogen) and energy is taken from body fat for your day bodily function and activities.

In other words, your body is now taking your fat for energy instead of carbohydrates because there are no more carbs to burn. Therefore your body is now burning body fat more effectively and efficiently. This is very good news for those who want to lose weight fast, isn't it?

For most people, the bad breath will go away on its own in a week or two. To diminish the smell, do drink plenty of water, take good care of your oral hygiene and spray some oral breath fresheners as and when necessary. The ketogenic breath will almost certainly go away completely when you are into the second phase.

2) Abdominal bloating - Some people may feel some tummy discomfort or belly bloating. This is probably due to the increased in the consumption of vegetables and beans which are highly in fibrous which is likely to cause an increased accumulation of air in the tummy, thus the belly bloating feeling. You may also experience more frequent gas discharge by the way of farting and burping as a result of the air built up.

This bloating syndrome will usually go away on its own after a period time. However you can find some relief by exercising regularly or taking some over the counter anti-gas bloating medication. Just ask your friendly neighborhood pharmacist for a recommended medication to do just that.

3) Constipation - If you are experiencing constipation, then you were probably a ravenous carb eater before starting on the South Beach Diet and your body is reacting to the sudden absence of carbohydrates especially during the first phase of the diet. Again, the constipation will usually subsides when your body gets used to your new dietary habit.

In the meantime, you can drink more water to soften the stool for easier bowel movement. You can also increase your consumption of fibrous food such as more vegetables so as to have a more efficient passing motion. You can also get your hands on some over the counter fiber supplements such as those containing methylcellulose, polycarbophil or psyllium.


If the constipation is bothering you, then try some laxatives such as Senokot and Dulcolax. However, use the laxatives only when it is necessary as your body may get used to them and resulting in being reliant on them for your bowel movements and having more constipation when you are not taking the laxatives.

There you are, this is The South Beach Diet in a nutshell. If you find the diet too restrictive and difficult to keep up to, then you may want to take a look at How To Lose 23 pounds in 21 Days.

1) I am on the South Beach diet for a couple of days now but is now having some symptoms of hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar level) ? Should I carry on with the diet?

Some people will get symptoms of hypoglycemia especially during phase one of the diet. This is an acute drop in blood sugar level (glucose) which is the body's main source of energy. Most people will get over the hypoglycemic symptoms after a while and so you can continue on with the diet even though you may be experiencing the hypoglycemic condition if you are in general good health.

If you are a diabetic, do consult your doctor before carrying on with the phase one part of the diet or move on to phase two or stopping the diet completely.

For people who are on hypertension medication to lower the blood pressure, do be aware that your pressure may drop when you are on this diet, and if so, under the advise of your medical physician, you may need to lower the dosage of your medication or refrain from taking them.

2) I workout in the gym quite regularly, but when I started this diet, I felt that I am drained of energy to workout. What should I do?

During the first phase of the diet, you will lose bodily fluid and glycogen. Your blood sugar level will also drop depriving your body of its first source of fuel for energy. That is why you felt as if you have no energy for your gym workouts.

However as you carry on with the diet, your body will quickly adjust to these changes, usually in a matter of a few days to a week or so, your energy level will be back to normal. In the meantime, do drink lots of water and add some salt to your meals to help in water retention.


3) My wife is expecting a child, can pregnant women be on the South Beach diet program?

Yes, she can be on the diet since eating the good healthy fats and good carbohydrates are what we are supposed to be eating anyway. However, she should not go on the first phase of it as losing weight too rapidly may not be good for the baby. So choose low glycemic carbs with whole fruits (not fruit juices) and vegetables that will give her plenty of natural vitamins. Also eat lots of fish for its omega-3 fatty acids as this can help in the brain development of the baby.

4) The article spoke about the glycemic index. Can you elaborate more? 


The glycemic index or GI is a table which gives you an idea of telling which foods are low or high in the glycemic values so that you can choose the foods you eat as in accordance with the South Beach diet and to keep your blood sugar more balanced out. The foods are given a number to provide you with a measurement on how quickly your body converts the carbohydrates into glucose. Do be aware that foods with the same quantity of carbohydrates may have different glycemic numeric allocated to them.

The smaller the number means lower glycemic, the less effect the food has on your blood sugar level and this is supposed to support your weight loss objective. The measuring guidelines are as follows:-

Less than 55 - Low glycemic (good for weight loss and control of diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension)

56 to 69 - Moderate glycemic

70 or higher - High glycemic (which you should avoid regardless which diet you are on)

Those numbers act only as indicators and are not absolute since the numbers can vary depending on several factors. Take for example, the longer time you take to cook carbohydrate starches such as rice, noodles, pastas etc, the higher the GI will go up as these foods will get softer and softer during the cooking process making them more easily digested and being absorbed thus raising the blood sugar faster. In fruits such as bananas, jackfruits, soursop, durians and mangoes, the glycemic index also races upwards as the fruits become sweeter as they ripened up.




3 Phases Of The South Beach Diet Plan

South beach diet eating plan food table

A Typical Sample of South Beach Diet Phase 1 meal plan chart

What Are The Side Effects Of The South Beach Diet?

Frequently Asked Questions And Answers (Q&A)

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