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    You’ve seen the books on the shelves of Costco and Borders. You’ve heard people rant and rave about another new weight loss plan. The South Beach diet boasts that it can make you want to wear a bathing suit in public.

    Dr. Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist from Miami, developed this new diet specifically for his overweight heart patients. The South Beach diet is split into three different phases, each with its own specific meal plans and recipes. Dr. Agatston recommends a healthy balance between “good” carbs and fats. “Bad” carbs include highly processed baked goods, sodas and anything with high sugar content such as ice cream and candy. A correct balance of food will allow your body to metabolize faster without excessive sugar and high-calorie foods to slow it down.

    So what’s the deal with the three phases? Let’s take a look at the basic breakdown of the South Beach diet and how you can make it work with the food at UCSD’s dining halls:

    Phase 1: Rapid Weight Loss of 8 to 13 pounds.

    Duration: 2 weeks

    Difficulty: Strict

    What you can eat: Everything except fruit, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, sugar, alcohol, baked goods and junk food during all meals and snacks. After 14 days, you may begin to add these foods back into your routine. According to Dr. Agatston, “During the first week the cravings will virtually disappear.”

    Sample dishes: Grilled tuna steak with green beans at Café Ventanas; charbroiled salmon patty with a green salad at Canyon Vista; Mediterranean chicken salad at OceanView Terrace; veggies with a Mediterranean steak at Plaza Cafe; a hearty carne chili at Sierra Summit; or Oriental salad with cold shrimp at Foodworx.

    After significant weight loss, your body will be accustomed to eating good, healthy food. This is not because you are eating less, but because you are eating right and staying away from the high- fat foods your body used to crave. The recipes for Phase 2 incorporates foods like bread, rice and even chocolate. Believe it or not, you can eat as much of the food in the meal plan as you want.

    Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss

    Duration: Until you reach your ideal weight (weight loss is usually one to two pounds per week).

    Difficulty: Moderate

    What you can eat: Eat chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, vegetables, eggs, cheese, nuts and salads. The specific meal plan includes recipes for three meals, a mid-morning snack, and afternoon snack and a dessert after dinner.

    Sample dishes: Salmon or chicken Caesar salad at Café Ventanas; Beef Burgundy with baby carrots at Canyon Vista; Chinese tofu salad at OceanView Terrace; chicken parmesan at Plaza Cafe; Thai chicken salad at Sierra Summit; and a garden salad with avocado and chicken at Foodworx.

    The purpose of this phase is to form good eating routines that cause gradual weight loss. The diet is more flexible than Phase 1 since you can incorporate carbs and sweets in healthy quantities while still losing those love handles.

    Phase 3: Maintain Weight

    Duration: The rest of your life

    Difficulty: Easy

    What you can eat: Anything at the dining halls in normal-sized portions.

    Now that your body has reached its ideal weight, you simply need to follow a few basic rules while eating regular foods. By this phase, your body should be conditioned to eating right because good habits have been formed throughout Phases 1 and 2.

    Check out Dr. Agatston’s new book, “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss,” if you want to look even better in that bathing suit.

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