South Beach Diet vs. Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet, introduced nearly forty years ago, has been credited for beginning the now popular low-carb revolution. Though buzz about low-carb diets had quieted over the past several years,  the Atkins Diet remains a popular way for people to lose weight by eating fewer high carbohydrate foods and more high fiber vegetables.

Newer to the scene is the South Beach Diet, which is less prohibitive than the Atkins Diet and restricts saturated fats, which have been associated with health problems such as heart disease and high cholesterol.

For the purposes of this comparison I am using Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution, the last book actually written by Dr. Robert Atkins before his death and The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health For Life.


Both of these books are available online and in stores for less than $20.00. Both the Atkins Diet and South Beach Diet have websites that offer free tools to help dieters count carbohydrates, set goals and encourage other members of the diet community. Both diets offer various packaged foods you can buy at the grocery store that help users stay on track which can increase the cost of the diet for individuals.


Both diets feature several phases; Atkins with three and South Beach Diet with four.  The phases of the Atkins Diet include induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance and lifetime maintenance. The induction phase lasts a minimum of 14 days followed by the ongoing weight loss phase, which lasts until you are within 10 pounds of your goal weight. The pre-maintence phase begins when you have ten pounds left to lose and the lifetime maintenance phase is meant to become a lifestyle as it continues indefinitely.

The three phases in the South Beach Diet are eliminate cravings and kick start weight loss, lose steadily, and maintain for life. The first phase is the shortest and lasts for two weeks, in which dieters eliminate starches and refined sugar. During this period, the focus is to eat plenty of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods that satisfy your appetite. The second phase is the long-term weight loss solution, where you can continue to eat everything from the first phase as well as select carbohydrates, like brown rice and whole-grain bread. During the final phase, you continue to eat a healthy diet and are allowed occasional indulgences.


Both the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet encourage exercise as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Before beginning a new physical fitness regimen, it is always important to contact your doctor or health care provider.


  • Phase 1: On the Atkins Diet, dieters may only eat poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, red meat, butter, olive oil or other vegetable oils, cheese and non-starchy vegetables. Dieters must consume no more than 20 grams of carbohydrate per day. On South Beach Diet, you will eat fish, skinless chicken or turkey, lean cuts of beef, high-fiber vegetables, reduced-fat cheese, eggs and low-fat dairy. You can also have moderate portions of healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, seeds and extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Phase 2: Atkins includes the same foods as the induction phase with the addition of carbohydrates that include nuts, seeds, fruits and legumes. Following South Beach Diet you will add good carbs including whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, fruits and some starchy vegetables.
  • Phase 3: On Atkins, the pre-maintenance phase lets you incorporate most foods into your diet in order to help discover what foods you can handle in order to maintain your weight loss. On the South Beach Diet, the third phase is the final phase of the diet, in which normal eating is resumed while remaining true to the healthy principles of the diet.
  • Phase 4: On Atkins, the final phase lets you achieve what is called an “Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium” that will allow you to maintain your weight loss.

About the Authors

Dr. Robert Atkins earned his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in 1955. Having once been overweight, Dr. Atkins successfully lost weight after implementing a low-starch diet.  He went on to treat 65 of his overweight patients before he published Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, in 1972.

Dr. Arthur Agatston, the creator of the South Beach Diet, worked as a preventive cardiologist and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine before he authored the The South Beach Diet in 2003.


Both plans, when followed correctly, will lead to weight loss, however both can be restrictive and at times, difficult to follow. The Atkins Diet is typically more prohibitive than the South Beach Diet, which only eliminates starches for two weeks and then allows you more flexibility in your meals and snacks. While each diet provides guidelines and rules for life-long maintenance, it is difficult for many people to restrict their carbohydrates, which ultimately leads to weight re-gain.

Learn More About Atkins:

Learn More About The South Beach Diet

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