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Ask a loser: What did you eat on the South Beach Diet?

I have been studying South Beach for the last few weeks and have decided it’s the path I’m going to follow for a while. My question for you is how closely you followed it especially in phase 1. Did you make every meal he tells you to or did you modify based on your likes and dislikes for food? – Kim

One of the reasons I didn’t say what diet I was following in my book is because I don’t want people think there is only one way to lose weight. If you are on a sane, healthy, balanced diet that results in burning more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. There are lots of plans that will get you there and South Beach is only one of them. I like South Beach, but honestly, I don’t care what you’re eating. (Unless you have a Cadbury Crème egg, in which case – Look! Over there! Something shiny! *PastaQueen steals chocolate-creamy goodness and stuffs it in her face.*)

That being said, I’ve gotten several inquiries into what I eat during different phases of the plan, so I’m just going to share some of the foods I munch on when I’m not swiping other people’s chocolate. I have a list of all the meals, snacks and foods I can eat. When I have a food craving, I can refer to the list for ideas. It helps to focus on things I can eat instead of lamenting everything I cannot eat.

The South Beach Diet book has a list of foods to avoid and to enjoy during both phases of the diet which I used as my guideline. If you’re going to do this plan, you should really just cough up the cash to buy a copy of the book. You can probably get it cheap at a used book store. I didn’t use any of the recipes in the original book, but I’ve used some in other cookbooks I’ve listed here.

Phase 1

Phase one of South Beach is two weeks of a low-carb diet. It’s meant to curb your carb cravings, but I suspect it’s also there because you lose a lot of (water) weight quickly and get valuable positive reinforcement for your efforts. I only managed to do the suggested two weeks of this once when I started in 2005. I tried it again once in 2008 and lasted about 9 days before I cracked and had an apple. What did I eat when I wasn’t dreaming about fruit?

Light mozzarella sticks

Fish (or as my friend calls them, swimmy meats)

Plain yogurt with artificial sweeteners (I don’t care if my babies have 2 heads)

Omelets (lots and lots of omelettes)

Scrambled eggs

Grilled chicken

Green veggies (Broccoli, green beans, spinach, oh my!)


Lean Cuisines (one of the only TV dinners I’ve found that has low-cal meals without potatoes, rice, or pasta)

Ricotta-based desserts

Roasted veggies

Cottage cheese (sometimes with tuna and green peppers)

Protein shakes

Phase 2

Phase two adds carbs back in, but you still avoid white flour, white rice, and potatoes. It’s also recommended that you stick to veggies, lean meats and other healthy stuff like that instead of eating a whole loaf of whole-grain bread.


Sweet potatoes (good in muffins and pancakes)

Whole-grain spaghetti

Flavored light yogurts


Fruits (sweet, sweet, fruits!)


Brown rice

Sugar-Free Fat-Free pudding

The other traditional tips apply. Prepare food in advance. Have it handy so you don’t have an excuse to eat a candy bar. Eat until you’re full, but don’t pig out. If you have to pig out, try to do it on celery sticks. Losing weight is hard. It’s more than just the food you eat, but hopefully this information will at least help you in that area.

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Tina • January 23, 2009 at 9:50 am

Yay for South Beach…. I didn’t actually follow the plan, but instead worked with a nutritionist who recommended balancing carbs and proteins and limited overall carb intake. I used several of the SB cookbooks (the summer cooking one and the quick and easy meals) and found all of the recipes I tried flavorful and easy to make.

As for the chocolate addiction: I’ve developed a new appreciation for 85% dark chocolate. I buy a bar every week or two and break it up into squares. One square after lunch cures my chocolate craving enough so that I’m not attempting to break into the candy vending machines at work. I think the Lindt bar has about 50 cal per square, 2g carbs, almost 1 g fiber and 1 g protein.


amy jo • January 23, 2009 at 10:10 am

I thought the ricotta thing was wierd, until I made it; and it was soo yummy! (although I do admit, I added a bit too much sugar, so that might have cancelled out the good effects).


nolafwug • January 23, 2009 at 10:18 am

I lost 100+ pounds on a roll-your-own vegetarian diet that emphasized fruit, veggies, and protein from a variety of non-meat sources. Oh and chocolate. :)

I’ve noticed recently that simple carbs trigger a More-More-More response in me that causes me to move towards the kitchen like a zombie ready to cram everything in there into my face. But if I visualize a nice, healthy meal I suddenly think No way! I’m too full! Then I think Where’s the ice cream? It’s funny how that feeling mimics hunger but isn’t.

Anyway I’ve got bad body sense so maybe I’m way late in the game recognizing this feeling. It’s nice to know it’s there though and isn’t hunger at all. It helps me to not feel deprived when I stop snacking even though I could go on and on.

On chocolate – forget about Cadbury Creme eggs. My favorite chocolate right now is Lindt Hot Mango. OMG y’all! Dark chocolate, over truffle-like stuff, over spicy mango goo. It is the absolute bomb! Woo! And one square is an awesome experience. It’s plenty satisfying and doesn’t trigger the More-More-More response, at least for me. :) Good luck everyone!


Deirdre • January 23, 2009 at 10:38 am

I too did South Beach, I think the toughest is obviously the first two weeks, but afterwards I though it was relatively great! I didn’t feel deprived at all.

I usually will get the new South Beach Diet cookbooks from the library and take what I need, some of them are fantastic, but some only offer a few recipes I’d ever eat. So it’s a great free way to take a look at the book and get the recipes you do like.


lc • January 23, 2009 at 10:56 am

Talk about timely! I got the book back out on Monday, and have spent this week on Phase I.

It’s a challenge, because I can’t do dairy, but I went to the health food store and got lots of soy based yogurt etc.

I’m turning 50 in October, and this is my gift to myself.


Helen • January 23, 2009 at 11:06 am

“If you are on a sane, healthy, balanced diet that results in burning more calories than you consume, you will lose weight.” You are a smart girl PQ but we knew that already.

I’ve been reading Charlie Hills book lately and he has a whole chapter in which he goes through all the diet plans and then proceeds to heartily recommend them all. Why? How? Because as he says, only YOU can determine what to eat to help yourself lose weight. It’s YOU that makes the diet work, not the other way around.

So, just like lc above who swapped out dairy for soy, each of us has to find the path that works for us with our body and with our lifestyle.


metro15 • January 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm

I totally agree about phase 1 being so you see a scale drop to keep you going. The plan I am currently following has a 30 day “metabolism reset” where you’re restricted to one grain per day. The author says you can retrain your metabolism during this time. I think it’s really about getting you to stick to the plan because you do see results quickly (even if it is all water weight, that lower number is still a big motivator.)


victoria • January 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Even though we could just buy the book, and even though you don’t like to tell people what to eat, I still think this post was helpful. Really, even if the information is out there in other forms, even if we’ve already heard it a million times, it’s still useful to hear it again from a friend in the computer. It’s sort of like how you totally know exercise is good for you, you’ve read books telling you how good it is for you, you’ve read websites telling you how good it is for you, your doctor has told you it will help with you [insert random annoying medical condition here], you’ve experienced the well-being it gives you, but you can STILL be motivated to go to the gym TODAY by a random newspaper article about how regular exercise delays dementia.

Every time I come across a website talking about choosing vegetables over carbs it helps me.


KIm • January 23, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Thanks so much for foregoing the privacy thing for a few minutes to post your blog today. I think when you have weight to lose, no matter how much (unless you are on Real Housewives of Anywhere & need to fit a dress in 3 days, in which case you don’t count!) you will take any and all knowledge and suggestions from the ones who go before you. So, thank you for sharing. I did what I told you in my email and have since dropped about 20 lbs. Long way to go, but I’m optimistic and don’t cry on this plan like I did Atkins.haha My husband couldn’t shove a baked potato at me fast enough. One cool snack I have found is Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds in the tall green container. Just enough cocoa taste to take the edge off, but only 3 carbs that count. Thanks again!!


AndrewE • January 23, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Hmm…that’s very interesting. I think I might be doing South Beach without realising it. I’m eating mainly the food on your list – without the meat (swimming or not).

I might have to buy the book and have a read now!


Sarah • January 23, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Yogurt is pretty irritating. (How is that for an overly dramatic description? It IRRITATES me.)

But really … plain yogurt is just kind of gross (as you mentioned, you could use the artificial sweeteners in it – actually, someone gave the suggestion on Good Morning America that you could add sugar-free Jello powder to it, which sounded pretty good – but of course you have to worry about all the risks that go along with using them).

The supposedly healthy yogurts always contain either high fructose corn syrup or aspartame, sometimes both. I bought a bunch of Fat Free Yoplait at the grocery store this week – admittedly, because it was on sale – and I guess I didn’t read the labels carefully enough, because when I got home I discovered that it contained both HFCS and aspartame.

I sometimes get the fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt from Whole Foods (their 365 brand, which is relatively inexpensive), but I don’t go there often enough because I don’t feel like spending my whole paycheck on groceries. I’ve checked out fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts at the poor/regular people grocery stores, and they often include added sugars anyway.

Whoa, sorry for using your blog to rant about yogurt, but your “I don’t care if my kids have two heads” comment made me laugh and got me thinking about this dilemma.


Sarah • January 23, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I have never had a Cadbury egg in my life. My local CVS has a gigantic bin of them right now up by the registers … I think they’re two for $1 or something like that.

Ah, maybe I shouldn’t have told you that!


Lauren • January 23, 2009 at 2:43 pm

The Ricotta Creme desserts in the South Beach book are delicious! I just made my first one the other day and it was soo good!

The other important part of any weight-loss plan is increasing physical activity. Start small. Walk to the corner. Walk a little further the next day.


Laura N • January 23, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Great post. Even phase 1 has a lot of yummy foods. Carbs are insidious. You eat one, you want a million more. Well, at least I do.

Your cadbury egg thing cracked me up. It’s almost that time of year again. Woohoo! I like the ones with caramel in the center.


Lyn • January 23, 2009 at 3:28 pm

I don’t follow South Beach, but it really does have great principles for anyone: focus on produce, lean meats, low fat dairy, healthy fats, and then later, whole grains. That’s a good basis for eating IMO.


Deb • January 23, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I lost 30 pounds on SB. I loved it! It was the perfect combination of freedom and restriction, with no counting, which I abhor. During phase 1, I had a lot of eggs, canadian bacon, nonfat cottage cheese with tomatoes, turkey breast, pea pods with hummus, salad, and other meat (even steak or a hamburger). The SF Fudgsicles were my treat at night, which helped. Phase 2 was scary, but I did it. Added in whole grains, sweet potatoes, fruit, SF pudding. Now that I’m in Phase 3 (maintenance), I “cheat” a lot, but keep weighing myself. I made it through the holidays without gaining, but this cold weather is a challenge. I still exercise 5-6 days a week and I’m just not going to let myself get above a certain weight (.8 lb from this morning’s figure). Usually, if I just watch it for a day or two, I’m right back down. So, I recommend it. Once you understand the principles, it’s easy to just eat foods you like that fit. I use the cookbooks for dinner ideas, not meal plans. I look and feel so much better now. I can’t say enough good things about SB.


Joe S • January 23, 2009 at 5:47 pm

While I’ve never read the south beach book, when I look at what it focuses on it is basically what I am eating. The only thing is I haven’t gone through phases


Bethama • January 23, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Alas, you forget, the Cadbury Egg ITSELF is shiny, and thus your tactic has no hope of success. (That is, unless the egg is out of its wrapper, in which case why, oh WHY would it not already be in someone’s mouth? Or all over their fingers? Simple logic.)


Jenny • January 24, 2009 at 9:16 am

@Sarah – Yes, good God, they are back, everywhere. But isn’t it responsible eating when you are choosing foods in season? :X


PastaQueen • January 24, 2009 at 10:13 am

@Sarah – My adventures with yogurt are worth of an entire post. But basically, I hear ya’.


PastaQueen • January 24, 2009 at 10:16 am

@Bethama – Oh my, you make a good point. It is a paradox, isn’t it? :)


Cindy • January 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I will be starting Phase I of South Beach Diet on Februrary 1. If anyone is interested, they can go to my blog and click the link on the right to see how my experience with it goes. I’m not going to mention the name of the blog though, because i know that’s a no-no :-) I’ve already posted what menus I plan to cook and a shopping list for the first week. I would love to get some online friends to comment or email me so we can compare results and swap recipes.


Greg • January 25, 2009 at 11:41 pm

I lost quite a bit of weight on the SB diet some time ago, then gained it all back. Then I figured out to apply the principles for long term eating, rather than a short term fix.

Learn from the diet, but don’t quit when you hit your goal…

BTW – Cadbury eggs. The best…


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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