Our 2019 review: The South Beach Diet is a popular meal-delivery weight loss program that’s high in protein and low in carbs and sugar.
They promise to take the guesswork out of dieting by delivering healthy, prepared, pre-portioned meals to your door each month. Like Nutrisystem, its convenience makes it a favorite of busy people. (they now also offer a keto-friendly plan!)
So, does the South Beach Diet really work? Let’s learn more about how the program works from good and bad user reviews, expert ratings, and the results of clinical studies.
Here’s our review of the South Beach Diet:
1. What Is the South Beach Diet?
The South Beach Diet was invented in 2003 by a cardiologist named Arthur Agatston. He originally developed the 3-phase program to improve the insulin levels in his patients, but noticed that they also lost weight on the plan.
Unlike other popular “low carb” diets including Keto, Zone, and Atkins, South Beach doesn’t shun all carbs. Instead, the diet is about learning to eat the right carbs and healthy fats.
The program itself is a carb-restrictive diet that focuses on foods that are low on the glycemic index and low in saturated fat like: meats, cheeses, eggs, and vegetables. The South Beach diet also encourages exercise to help speed up your metabolism and facilitate weight loss.
Originally published as a best-selling book, the South Beach Diet is now a full weight loss program with monthly meal delivery. Here’s how it works:
2. How the South Beach Diet Works:
Oh, I see… They send you food, and then you just spin and frolic in the ocean until the weight comes off? Not really! here’s how it works:
Here’s how the diet really works: (from southbeachdiet.com)
- Eat the right carbs and healthy fats to keep you satisfied while losing weight
- Lose weight with a nutritionally sound plan that consists of a wide variety of wholesome foods delivered to your door
- Learn how to make better food choices for life for sustainable results
- Drink at least 64 ounces of water per day
- Get an average of 30 minutes of exercise or activity each day
- Track your progress in the South Beach Diet Planner
The diet has three phases, and here’s how they work:
• The 3 Phases of the South Beach Diet:
The South Beach Diet has three phases, each of which serves a different purpose in the dieter’s weight loss journey. Here’s how the 3 phases work:
- Phase 1: “7-Day Reboot“ – This phase is designed to be a 7-day reboot for your body and health. You’ll start with the low-carb, high protein diet plan, which begins to boost your metabolism, curb cravings, prepare you for your weight loss journey. Users can lose 7 pounds during these first 7 days of the program
- Phase 2: “Steady weight loss“ – During the second phase of the South Beach Diet you’ll keep losing weight until you hit your goal. During Phase 2 you’ll add in good carbs (like fruits, veggies, and whole grains) plus a DIY breakfast, lunch and dinner each week.
- Phase 3: “You’ve got this“ – The final phase of the South Beach Diet plan is intended to help you maintain a healthy weight without being hungry. Enjoy all foods in moderation, and follow the principles of the South Beach Diet on your own
So, the idea is to teach you healthy eating habits, and then ween you off of the prepared meals in Phase 3. Got it? No, let’s see if it actually works.
*Related: How Much Dies The South Beach Diet Cost?
2. Does the South Beach Diet Work?
That 3-part program sounds good in theory, but does the South Beach Diet really work? Let’s look at ratings from users and experts to decide:
• User Ratings:
In my search for verified customer ratings of the South Beach Diet, I was surprised to find that the best resource is actually on their own website. Let’s look at ratings for customer satisfaction to estimate a success rate: (updated 2019)
So, how can you tell if the diet works? Let’s assume that ratings of 4+ stars infer that the diet worked, and 1-2 stars means that it did not work. Here’s the user ratings distribution:
- Positive Rating: 62% of customers rate the diet favorably (4+ stars)
- Neutral Rating: 12% of users give the South Beach Diet a neutral rating (3-stars)
- Negative Rating: 26% of customers rate the diet negatively (1-2 stars)
Customer ratings conclude that the success rate of the South Beach Diet is about 62%, with the balance of the ratings being either neutral or negative. That seems OK, but a bit lower than Nutrisystem. To learn more about why the South Beach Diet may or may not work, let’s now look at expert ratings.
• Expert Ratings:
U.S. News recently asked a panel of professionals in the health and nutrition field to rate the South Beach Diet on a number of important criteria. Here’s how South Beach scored:
The South Beach Diet scores highly for “short-term weight loss,” but lower for “long-term weight loss.”
That seems to infer that users experience fast initial weight loss, but after a couple of months may tire of the program and its menu restrictions and prepared meals.
In an attempt to further investigate whether the South Beach Diet really works, let’s look at independent studies and clinical trials.
• Clinical Studies
- A 2004 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine compared the South Beach Diet with the government’s National Cholesterol Education Plan (sounds exciting!) and found that over a 12 week period 60 South Beach dieters lost about 13.5 pounds compared to 7.5 pounds on the NCEP plan.
- A 2017 study by Biofortis Clinical Research of 31 obese women and men found that following the South Beach Diet for 4 weeks resulted in “meaningful reductions in body weight, and body fat mass.”
- A 2014 study of weight loss results of several popular diets, including South Beach, showed that while the diet did promote short-term weight loss, the long-term results were inconclusive
Wow, clinical studies are boring to read!
• OK, So Does the Diet Work?
Based on user reviews, expert ratings, and the findings of independent studies I would conclude that the success rate of the South Beach Diet is about 62%. The diet appears to be more likely to work for those who value convenience and results over menu freedom and flexibility.
A successful diet should address the psychological component of weight loss, and foster positive, life-long behavioral change. I would have to assume that South Beach falls short in this area for those who quit after only a couple of months, or joined merely as a means to quickly reach a short-term weight loss goal.
Now, let’s look at pros and cons of the diet to better understand why it did, or did not work for customers.
3. Reviews: Pros and Cons
It’s important to remember that no single diet will work for everyone. A sustainable diet should be compatible with the personality and lifestyle of the individual.
Well, if 11 million people have tried the South Beach Diet (online or book) then they must be doing something right?! The majority of users leave a positive review or rating, so let’s look at South Beach Diet reviews by users to learn about the pros and cons of the South Beach Diet.
• PROS (from good reviews)
- Fast Weight Loss – The most common praise for the diet is that it produces fast weight loss results. This is likely a result of Phase 1, which drastically cuts calories and carbs
- Convenient: Planning, preparing, and portioning meals is time-consuming. That’s why it seems the diet is rated highly by busy people and those who don’t like to cook.
- Structured – Many people consider meal-delivery diets like South Beach after the DIY diets and apps have failed them. In this case, the structure may help them take back control of their eating, and their health
Meal delivery diets like South Beach and Nutirisystem can feel restrictive, but many customers find that the convenience and fast weight loss results outweigh the sacrifices.
Tip: To be successful on this diet, think of it as a long flight on an airplane; the food isn’t great and you don’t have much freedom, but ultimately it gets you to a better place!
• CONS: (Complaints from bad user reviews)
South Beach gets more than it’s share of bad reviews, so let’s look at what users complain about most:
- Food Taste: The most common complaints in bad reviews are about the taste and portion sizes of the food. Some complained that the food was spicy, or even “inedible,” while others quit because they missed eating more “real” (restaurant / home-cooked) food
- Cancellation Policy: A number of bad reviews expressed anger after trying to quit. Basically, if you cancel auto-delivery before the second month delivery, you are charged a cancellation fee of $125 – more
- Not Working: The diet didn’t work for a number of people, who lost motivation and didn’t make the adjustment to scheduled, pre-made, pre-portioned meals
- Nutrisystem is Better– A number of users who tried both South Beach Diet and Nutrisystem preferred the latter for both food and price. (compare)
As with any diet, weight loss should not be the only goal. In fact, diets that focus only on short term weight loss are prone to long-term failure. Sustainable weight loss should come from living a healthier lifestyle, and positive life-long behavioral change.
Do you do well with guidance and a structured plan, or do you prefer to go it alone? If you are the DIY type who loves to cook, this is not the diet for you!
South Beach Diet Alternatives? If you like the idea of meal delivery and a structured eating plan, consider Nutrisystem (review, cost), a similar diet that customers and experts rate better than the South Beach Diet. If you like the idea of a DIY diet with no forbidden foods, check out Weight Watchers or Noom!
4. South Beach Diet Food:
The South Beach Diet menu is a balance of nutrient-dense foods emphasizing: good carbs, lean protein, fiber, and healthy fats. While you are on the program, the South Beach diet educates you on the difference between “good and bad” carbs and fats.
Tip: While most of the food you eat is the prepared meals, you do have to supplement the food with groceries including fresh fruits and vegetables
You’re also allowed several DIY meals each week including one breakfast, lunch, and dinner on your own. You can cook these meals yourself, or dine out at a restaurant.
Want to know what food is the best? It’s easy to read user reviews and see ratings for specific foods on SouthBeachDiet.com. Here’s how:
• Read Food Reviews!
Tip: Make the most of your menu by reading user reviews and ratings for each food. You can also see the nutrition facts, and ingredients. This is great if you have a special diet or want foods with more protein or less sodium and sugar.
• How Meals Work:
Here’s how your meals and snacks are structured:
- Lean proteins include: lean beef, pork, skinless chicken and turkey breast, fish, shellfish, eggs, soy-based meat substitutes, and low-fat hard cheeses learn more
- Good Carbs are low-glycemic foods that are high in fiber and nutrients like: fruits, vegetables, legumes, hummus, quinoa, brown rice, and whole grains
- Healthy fats include (mostly monounsaturated) fats like: olive oil, peanut butter, avocados, nuts and seeds.
- Non-Starchy vegetables include all veggies except root vegetables (like white potatoes and carrots), peas, corn, and winter squash more
So, what does a day of actual food look like on the South Beach Diet? Here’s a sample menu:
• Sample Menu:
Here’s what a sample day of meals and snacks looks like on the South Beach Diet: (in Phase 2)
Tip: You’ll also need to drink at least 64 ounces (8 cups) of water each day to stay hydrated, so keep a good water bottle handy!
The South Beach Diet menu can also be customized with foods for special diets including for those who are diabetic or vegetarian.
How much weight can you lose following the South Beach Diet? Here’s more about weight loss results:
5. Weight Loss Results?
“I know I just posted a lot of videos and a picture but I’m just so excited about this program (South Beach Diet) and really feel like it could help anyone who is struggling with weight loss!
This is the fastest I have ever lost weight from all of my pregnancies and I truly think it’s just from educating myself and knowing what to do and having this program right in front of me.
My goal now as far as my body goes is to be healthy and happy and fit, and the best version of myself.”Jess James Decker
Those are before and after photos of Jesse James Decker, who used the South Beach Diet to lose 25 pounds of stubborn weight after baby number three. So, how much weight can you expect to lose?
*Note: The South Beach Diet claims that you will lose 8-13 pounds during Phase 1, followed by more sustainable weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week thereafter.
Those claims are only slightly more optimistic than a recent study that showed users lost an average of 5.8 pounds the first week, and 1-2 pounds in subsequent weeks.
Conclusion: Will the South Beach Diet Work for You?
By considering user reviews, expert ratings, and the results of clinical studies, we have a pretty good idea of how, and if the South Beach Diet really works.
However, the more important question is, “will the South Beach Diet will work for you?”
South Beach Diet rates highly for short-term weight loss, but not well long-term. That suggests that many people lose motivation and quit because they want to eat “normal” meals again.
If you’ve tried fad or DIY diets and failed to lose weight, then the South Beach Diet might be a good option for you. It’s a favorite of busy people who prioritize weight loss results over menu freedom and cooking.
If you ‘re thinking of signing up for the South Beach Diet, make sure you use the 40% off promotion for the best price. (also available for keto-friendly plan) Unlike the other offers and coupons, the 40% off promotion locks-in the initial price: