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Level of Effort: Medium

The South Beach Diet is meant to be practical and uncomplicated. There’s no need to count calories or figure percentages of fats, carbs, and protein. Your meals are normal in size.

Limitations: It’s OK to bend or break the rules every now and then. If you overindulge in Phase 2, Agatston suggests switching back to Phase 1 until you lose the weight you put on. Then return to where you left off.

Cooking and shopping: Dishes are easy to make, with ingredients found in supermarkets or in most restaurants. The plan requires snacks between meals, but they are “the kind that can be thrown into a briefcase or backpack in the morning and eaten on the run," as the book says.

Packaged foods or meals: Yes, although you don't have to buy them. South Beach Diet foods for sale include everything from snack bars to smoothies.

In-person meetings: None.

Exercise: The South Beach Diet doesn’t depend on exercise to work. But The South Beach Diet Supercharged, Agatston’s updated version of his original book, has an exercise program that includes walking and strengthening your core muscles.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Yes. Flexibility is one of the diet’s guiding principles.

Vegetarians and vegans: This diet is both vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. Protein alternatives to lean meat include beans, legumes, and soy products. Enrolling in The South Beach Diet Online gives you access to vegetarian-only recipes and meal plans.

Gluten-free: Gluten isn't banned, but since you're cutting down on carbs, you could certainly ditch those that include gluten. You'll still need to read food labels to be sure.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: Healthy eating can be costly. The South Beach Diet web site offers money-saving tips, such as buying food in bulk, shopping at farmers’ markets, using coupons, and preparing simple meals.

Support: The South Beach Diet Online offers tools you can use to track your weight, recipes, a customized meal plan, dining-out guides, and community support. Membership is $4 per week, but the first 7 days are free.

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