Since its release in 2003, the South Beach Diet has become one of the most popular diet programs worldwide.

In 2019, the plan’s creator introduced the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet, a new variation that gives the South Beach Diet a low carb, ketogenic twist. This new program claims to rev up your metabolism, increase weight loss, and improve your overall health.

This article takes an in-depth look at the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet to determine whether it’s worth a try.

Diet review scorecard
  • Overall score: 3.8
  • Weight loss: 5
  • Adherence: 2.5
  • Whole body health: 3.5
  • Nutrition quality: 3.5
  • Health promotion: 4.5

BOTTOM LINE: Although the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet may lead to short-term weight loss, it eliminates many healthy foods and may be difficult to sustain in the long run.

The South Beach Diet is a low carb diet plan created by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston.

The diet limits saturated fats and encourages lean proteins and carbs with a low glycemic index (GI). A food’s GI measures how much it affects your blood sugar levels (1).

In 2019, the South Beach Diet unveiled a version corresponding to the very low carb, high fat keto diet. It’s described in Agatston’s book “The New Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet.”

This variation is higher in heart-healthy fats and lower in net carbs, which are calculated by subtracting the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbs.

However, unlike a traditional keto diet, it isn’t intended to help you reach or maintain ketosis — a metabolic state in which your body burns fat for fuel rather than carbs. Instead, it’s designed to promote overall health and weight loss by switching up the foods in your diet (2).


The Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet promotes healthy fats and high-quality proteins. It also limits high glycemic carbs to support weight loss and overall health.


  • more flexible than a standard keto diet or standard South Beach Diet
  • promotes weight loss
  • can boost heart health and blood sugar control


  • bans numerous healthy foods, such as fruits and legumes
  • not vegetarian- or vegan-friendly
  • may be difficult to sustain in the long run
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Like the regular South Beach Diet, the keto-friendly version is divided into phases with different guidelines.

Phase 1

The first phase of the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet involves limiting your carb intake to under 50 grams of net carbs per day.

Non-starchy vegetables, quality proteins, and healthy fats like olive oil and dairy products should make up most of your diet during this phase.

According to the book, you can stay on Phase 1 as long as you’d like, even using it to get back on track after vacations or holidays.

Phase 2

Once you’ve reached your weight loss goal, you can transition to Phase 2, the “lifestyle phase.”

During this phase, you slowly increase your intake of carbs to find what works for you. The book claims that the sweet spot is 75–100 grams of net carbs per day for most people.

In addition to enjoying plenty of healthy protein and fat, you can add more starchy vegetables, beans, high fiber grains, and low-glycemic fruits back into your diet.

Regular exercise is also encouraged. A variety of sample workouts are available on the company website.

Moreover, the South Beach Diet offers fully prepared, keto-friendly meals and snacks — though purchasing these products is unnecessary to follow the diet.


The Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet is divided into two phases that allow varying amounts of carbs.

While the South Beach Diet used to offer home delivery of prepared meals, these are no longer available through the company’s site. If you want to try the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet, you’ll be shopping for and cooking your own meals.

The price of the meals will vary depending on what you buy and where you shop.

The Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet offers guidelines on which ingredients you should limit and which you should emphasize.

Foods to eat

You should eat plenty of heart-healthy fats, proteins, and non-starchy vegetables. Examples include:

  • Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, eggplant, and cauliflower
  • Full-fat dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese, and butter
  • Proteins: meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, and pecans
  • Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds
  • Healthy fats: olive oil, avocados, avocado oil, and nut butter

Foods to moderate

Here are some foods that are allowed in moderation during Phase 2 of the diet:

  • High fiber grains: quinoa, couscous, brown rice, and oats
  • Low glycemic fruits: apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, and grapefruit
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, peas, and corn
  • Legumes: lentils, beans, and chickpeas

Foods to avoid

The Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet limits many foods high in carbs and sugar, including high glycemic fruits, processed snacks, and refined grains. Examples include:

  • High glycemic fruits: bananas, watermelon, grapes, raisins, and pineapple
  • Refined grains: white bread, white tortillas, white pasta, white rice, and breakfast cereal
  • Processed snacks: chips, cookies, pretzels, candies, and desserts
  • Sugar: table sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, and agave nectar
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, sweet tea, sports drinks, and energy drinks

The Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet limits many foods high in carbs and encourages high quality proteins and healthy fats.

Below is a 3-day sample menu for the first phase of the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Vegetable omelet with a side of avocado
  • Lunch: Bolognese zucchini noodles
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with cauliflower rice and grilled mushrooms
  • Snack: Greek yogurt with a handful of nuts

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Broccoli and mushrooms frittata
  • Lunch: Chicken lettuce wraps with peanut sauce
  • Dinner: Ground beef stuffed zucchini boats
  • Snack: Cottage cheese topped with avocado, cucumber, and tomato cubes

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Hard-boiled eggs with spinach, feta, and tomato salad
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken breast with Caprese stuffed avocados
  • Dinner: Shrimp and green beans stir fry with mashed cauliflower
  • Snack: Baby carrots and bell pepper slices with guacamole

Although specific research on the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet is limited, studies show that similar eating patterns may aid short-term weight loss.

For example, one review concluded that a low carb keto diet might help control hunger and increase fat burning, which may lead to weight loss (3).

An 8-week study in 34 older adults found that participants who followed a very low carb diet lost significantly more body fat and belly fat than those who followed a low fat diet (4).

A small 12-week study of 77 people observed similar findings, noting that those who followed a very low carb diet lost an average of 9 pounds (4.1 kg) and experienced significant reductions in belly fat (5).

The Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet is also high in protein and fat, which may promote feelings of fullness, thereby decreasing your appetite (6, 7).

According to one study in 148 people, a low carb, high fat diet led to smaller reductions in levels of peptide YY — a hormone that increases feelings of fullness — than a low fat diet (8).

All the same, specific research on the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet is needed.


Studies suggest that very low carb diets lead to short-term weight loss and may help decrease hunger and appetite.

In addition to promoting weight loss, the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet may offer several other benefits.


First, it’s more flexible than the regular keto diet and focuses on healthy food choices rather than maintaining ketosis.

For instance, it encourages several foods that aren’t allowed on the regular South Beach Diet, including full fat dairy and — during Phase 2 — moderate amounts of whole grains and starchy vegetables.

May improve several aspects of health

What’s more, similar eating patterns have been shown to improve several aspects of health.

For example, one review of 12 studies found that low carb diets may reduce body weight, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure, high levels of which are all risk factors for heart disease (9).

May improve blood sugar

Other research suggests that decreasing carb intake on a low carb or keto diet may improve blood sugar management in people with type 2 diabetes (10).


The Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet is more flexible than the standard keto diet and encourages several foods that the standard South Beach Diet bans. Low carb and keto diets may also benefit heart health and blood sugar management.

Despite the potential benefits of the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet, it has several drawbacks.

Eliminates some healthy foods

Although it’s less restrictive than the traditional keto diet, it eliminates many healthy, nutrient-rich ingredients. In particular, Phase 1 bans fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

These are not only foods high in fiber but also rich in beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

May be difficult to maintain

Furthermore, limiting carb intake to under 50 grams of net carbs per day may also be challenging for some people. Even Phase 2 may be difficult to sustain long term.


The Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet restricts many healthy ingredients and may be difficult to follow long term. The program’s paid plans can also be very expensive.

What’s the difference between the keto diet and the South Beach Diet?

Traditional keto diets are high in fat, moderate in proteins, and low in carbs — limiting total carb intake to 20 grams per day (2).

In contrast, the original and Keto-Friendly South Beach Diets are high protein diets with a low carb approach that allows an intake of 50 grams of net carbs daily. They are also more flexible than keto diets by allowing the intake of fruits and complex carbs during its second and third phases.

What can you not eat on the South Beach Diet?

The first phase of the South Beach Diet bans complex and refined grains, processed snacks, legumes, starchy vegetables, alcohol, and fruits and fruit juices — with berries being limited to less than a cup per day.

You may reintroduce whole grains, legumes, and fruits in phase two.

Is the South Beach Diet ketogenic?

The keto and South Beach diets promote higher intakes of fats and protein and lower intakes of carbs and sweets.

However, the South Beach Diet has a different nutrient composition than the standard keto diet, is more flexible, and allows the intake of healthy carbs during its second and third phases.

This means it promotes weight loss without reaching and maintaining ketosis, a key element of traditional keto diets. Thus, the South Beach Diet and Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet are not keto diets, but low carb diets (2).

How many carbs can you have a day on the South Beach Diet?

Like the Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet, the original South Beach Diet allows for different amounts of carbohydrates per day depending on the diet’s phase. The first phase limits your net carb intake to 50 grams per day. You may then add some healthy carbs in phase two. Lastly, you may increase your net carb intake to 75–100 grams in phase three.

The Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet is a new variation of the South Beach Diet that’s lower in carbs and higher in heart-healthy fats.

Some research indicates that similar dietary patterns may promote short-term weight loss, heart health, and blood sugar management. However, the diet is very restrictive and may be challenging to follow long term.