The South Beach Diet was developed by cardiologist Arthur Agatston to help his patients lose weight and maintain a healthy diet for a lifetime. It is designed in phases, like the Atkins Diet, with different eating recommendations in each phase. All phases have the same underlying philosophy, though. Weight loss and maintenance depends on establishing a balanced diet that avoids ‘bad’ fats and carbohydrates.
The proponents of the South Beach diet claim that you can lose weight and maintain the weight loss without counting calories, weighing portions or depriving yourself of good-tasting, satisfying foods. This is accomplished by cutting out empty, high-carbohydrate foods like sugars, potatoes, rice and white bread. Each phase is specially designed to accomplish a particular goal.
Phase I: Adjusting your Metabolism
In Phase I, you eat three meals and two snacks daily, eating until you are no longer hungry. The phase lasts two weeks, during which time your body will shed 8-13 pounds.
These items are not allowed during Phase I: bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods, fruit, candy, cake, cookies, ice cream, sugar or alcohol
Phase II: Weight Loss
The aim during Phase II is to lose weight, with loss averaging 1-2 pounds per week. During this phase, you will gradually add the restricted foods from Phase I back into your diet, but you will eat less of them. The daily diet on Phase II should consist of:
- All the protein you want
- Minimum of 4 1/2 cups of vegetables
- Up to 3 servings of fruit
- Up to 3 portions of starch
- 1 1/2 cups of milk/dairy (including yogurt)
- 3 tbs. fat
In real terms, a typical menu for a meal on the South Beach Diet might include something like this:
2 scrambled eggs mixed with Monterey Jack cheese and salsa
1 slice of whole grain toast
Decaffeinated coffee or tea, fat-free milk and sugar substitute if desired
The eating plan recommended by the South Beach Diet emphasizes low carbohydrate foods, restriction of sweets, processed starches, white sugar and ‘unhealthy fats’, and all the protein you want. It specifies minimum amounts of low carb vegetables to be eaten daily that are remarkably close to the recommendations made by the USDA and the American Diabetes Association.
A key concept in the South Beach diet is the Glycemic Index. Foods are ranked on a scale of 1-100 according to their Glycemic index – the amount by which they raise blood sugar levels after meals. The focus of your diet should be on foods low on the GI level, such as yogurt, cucumbers and broccoli and whole grain cereal, while avoiding those high on the GI scale such as white bread, potatoes and pretzels.
In addition to the above, the South Beach Diet offers the following guidelines:
- Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water and other decaffeinated beverages per day (excluding fruit juices)
- Limit your intake of caffeine-containing beverages to 1 cup each day
- Take one multivitamin and mineral supplement daily
- Take between 500 and 1,000 mg of calcium daily
The lifetime maintenance plan is nearly identical to the weight loss phase, with more portions of foods allowed.
Dr. Agatston cautions that patients being treated for diabetes, impaired kidney function, pregnancy or other chronic illness should consult their physician before embarking on any weight loss regimen.