Founded by Miami cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston, the South Beach Diet focuses on teaching dieters to manage their weight by making responsible food choices. Although not promoted as strictly a “low-carb” or “low-fat” diet, the South Beach Diet aims to promote the consumption of good carbs and heart-healthy fats, making it more of a change in lifestyle rather than diet. The South Beach Diet is divided into three phases that target initial weight loss, meeting goals and healthy living.
The first two weeks of the South Beach Diet focus on changing eating habits to eliminate the various sources of refined sugars, also known as “bad carbs,” that are found in bread, rice, potatoes, cookies, baked goods and alcohol. Even fruit is off limits. Dieters are encouraged to eat three balanced meals each day that include a reasonably-sized portion of meat or seafood and a generous helping of vegetables. Dieters can also enjoy two snacks a day plus dessert after the evening meal. During this initial phase of the South Beach Diet, most people lose approximately 14 lbs.
Once the initial two-week period is complete, dieters can then slowly reintroduce previously off-limit items back into their meals. The goal of this phase of the South Beach Diet is for the dieter to reach her target weight loss. Once that occurs, no food is considered off limits, and she then graduates into the third phase of the South Beach Diet.
The third phase of the diet is maintenance. The South Beach Diet is atypical of other diets that generally restrict food choices, rather, it should be considered a way of life. In the third and final phase, dieters will focus more on making small adjustments in their food choices to maintain a healthy weight rather than on losing the weight itself. If a dieter is unable to maintain her weight, she can easily start the diet over at the initial phase.
In order to prevent the burst of energy followed by a feeling of general sluggishness that is typical of a spike and plummet in blood sugar, the South Beach Diet focuses on eating six meals spread throughout the course of a day. This helps to control and level out blood glucose, as well as stifle cravings. These six meals are divided into three main meals, two snacks and one dessert. Main meals should include a source of protein and at least one vegetable. Dieters are also welcome to eat dairy in moderation. Snacks might include fresh fruit, and dessert could be a scoop of ice cream topped with a bit of chocolate sauce. The whole point of the South Beach Diet is not to eliminate any food group but to make responsible choices.
Just as with any diet plan, there are pros and cons to the South Beach Diet. While the diet can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol, dieters have to be committed to making smart food choices and taking the time to prepare healthy meals. Likewise, dieters might appreciate the initial weight loss, usually attributed to a loss of water, but feel frustrated if they gain back a few pounds during phases two and three. Regardless of the diet plan a person chooses to follow, she should first consult with her doctor to determine what “healthy” means for her.