Although some user reviews compare the South Beach diet to the Atkins diet, experts are quick to point out that unlike Atkins, South Beach doesn't ban all carbohydrates but promotes "healthy" carbs, with a lower glycemic index, over refined and processed foods. Experts and users alike comment on how difficult the first two-week phase can be; it focuses on only lean meats and some vegetables, no starch at all. In the second phase you can add low glycemic index fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates such as whole-wheat bread. One source describes the third stage as "your diet for life," with just a few guidelines to help you "eat normal foods in normal portions."
Experts are sometimes skeptical about how information is presented in the book itself. One registered dietitian describes the South Beach diet as the "best of the reduced-carb regimens," and suggests readers skip the extremely restrictive first stage and go straight to the second stage. Another expert source chooses SouthBeachDiet.com (*Est. $3 to $5/week) as the best overall diet site, citing its many tools (including a grocery shopping planner and tips for dining out) and the one-on-one or question-and-answer support options. Most users really like the diet itself, although a few are dubious of the book's presentation, and there seems to be some conflict between Atkins enthusiasts and South Beach dieters.
The South Beach diet receives positive reviews in U.S. News & World Report and Health magazine, both of which used expert consultants to evaluate the plan. We also found helpful reviews in WebMD and Good Housekeeping, as well as hundreds of user reviews for the book on Amazon.com and more than 70 at Viewpoints.com.
1. U.S. News & World Report
U.S. News & World Report asks a panel of health experts to rank 20 diet plans on criteria such as nutrition, safety, weight loss, and how well they protected against diabetes and heart disease. They like that the South Beach diet doesn't involve calorie counting and give it a good rating for short-term weight loss, but cite no evidence of its long-term weight-loss abilities.
Review: South Beach Diet, Editors of U.S. News & World Report, June 2011
A registered dietitian describes this diet as "the best of the reduced-carb regimens," although she's concerned about the restrictiveness and efficacy of the first phase, which severely limits carb intake. She recommends that dieters go straight to phase two of the diet, which allows for low glycemic index fruits, grains and vegetables.
Review: The South Beach Diet, Maureen Callahan, MS, RD, April 18, 2008
This article includes comments from a registered dietitian, and praises the South Beach diet for not leaving out any major food groups as well as focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. However, there's a concern about possible electrolyte imbalances due to water weight lost in the first phase.
Review: The South Beach Diet, Editors of WebMD
4. Good Housekeeping
The Good Housekeeping Research Institute reviews the 10 most popular diet websites, and names SouthBeachDiet.com as the best overall. Editors like the diet's scientific basis and the website's many features, including one-on-one counseling (for a small extra fee) and an "Ask the Nutritionist" message board.
Review: Best Diet Websites, Editors of Good Housekeeping
More than 800 contributors give the original 2005 version of this book an average rating of 4 stars out of 5. Most love it, although a few say the diet "puts forth unrealistic goals," and another says it's "just a healthy way of eating. It's not a miracle or anything new, for that matter."
Review: The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss, Contributors to Amazon.com
More than 225 readers give the updated version of the South Beach diet book 4.3 stars out of 5, praising its focus on natural foods. Most describe the diet as a useful, comprehensive plan for healthy living and like its section on exercise, although a few complain that nothing has really changed about the diet plan.
Review: The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life, Contributors to Amazon.com
A registered dietitian gives an overview of this diet and describes what's to like or not, including that dieters may struggle with the carbohydrate restriction in the first (two-week) phase. She isn't entirely happy with all the claims made in the South Beach book, and wishes the diet focused more on low glycemic index foods.
Review: South Beach Under the Spotlight, Juliette Kellow, BSc, RD
More than 70 reviewers give this diet a 4-star average rating out of 5, listing its pros and cons plus brief comments. Positive points include feeling good, the wide variety of acceptable foods and lifestyle changes; some, however, struggle with cravings and have a hard time getting through the first couple of weeks.
Review: The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston with Joseph Signorile Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com