PROS / The South Beach Diet offers numerous online tools to help you stay on track.
CONS / You'll need to muster up willpower to stick to this relatively restrictive diet program.
VERDICT / If you're committed to giving up certain foods, the South Beach Diet is dramatic in its effectiveness.
You can say what you want about the South Beach Diet, but it does work. Created by a medical doctor, this popular weight loss program emphasizes eating plenty of lean protein. The South Beach Diet website guides you through three phases, and while it may seem awfully restrictive initially, the website provides a number of tools and resources to help you stick with it, including a phone app that helps you stay on track even on the go.
The diet program differs from other low-carb diets in that it restricts saturated fats and high-sugar carbs. The first two-week phase of the diet focuses on maintaining your blood-sugar levels and eliminating cravings for sweets and "bad" carbs. Such foods include bread, rice, fruit and baked goods. The second phase introduces some – but not all – carbs, including pasta, rice and some fruits, back into your diet. The final, indefinite stage involves continuing to make healthy eating choices to maintain your health and target weight.
While there is no strict calorie counting with this healthy eating plan, its restriction of many common foods in the American diet may make it more difficult for some people to follow, particularly long-term, than other online diet plans. Fortunately, the South Beach Diet website offers beneficial tools to help you stay on track. You can log your daily meals and snacks to keep a close on eye on your nutrition intake. The food tracker includes helpful eating guides that show you what you should be eating each day (e.g., four cups of vegetables, one serving of legumes and so forth). To make things even easier, the online program offers a weekly meal planner with recipes and ideas.
We also like that the plan doesn't leave you in limbo once you've completed the first two phases of the diet. Long after you've reached your target weight, the program continues to provide food recommendations and some basic dietary guidelines.
The South Beach Diet was not originally designed to incorporate a fitness plan, but the online portion of the program has some fitness features. There is no virtual trainer, but you can access sample exercise plans that you can follow, and its fitness guides serve as informational resources on how to incorporate physical activities into your routine.
The website also has a decent community, replete with message boards, member challenges and, most important, weekly chats with nutritionists. The latter gives you an opportunity to speak with an expert about your diet plan to get answers to your most pressing health and diet questions.
The best online weight loss program is the one that works, and this one did for our tester, who shed over 10 percent of her body weight in just a couple of weeks. While the South Beach Diet focuses on healthy eating overall, some phases are pretty extreme, and its total elimination of refined carbs and white sugar will undoubtedly make it difficult for some people to follow. You may need to muster up major willpower to stick to the program and see significant long-term results. That said, the South Beach Diet provides the essential online tools – including tracking features and an active member community – to provide the encouragement and support you need to succeed.