South Beach Diet vs Paleo [Nov 2019]: Which is Best?

Last Updated on by Owen Alexander

Main Differences Between South Beach Diet and Paleo

Compared, here are the main differences between the South Beach vs Paleo:

  • You eat 6 times a day with South Beach and 3-4 with Paleo
  • South Beach Diet emphasizes glycemic index, while Paleo emphasizes alkaline levels
  • South Beach Diet has as a phased approach
  • Paleo diets eliminate any produced grains, and sometimes dairy
  • South Beach Diet has one meal delivery service; there are many for Paleo
With nearly half of Americans dieting at any time, it’s no surprise that the South Beach Diet and Paleo have both climbed in popularity and remain so today. Of those twenty years old or older, forty-nine percent said they were currently, or had tried to diet within the past calendar year.
By comparison, only forty-three percent of Americans reported dieting from 2007 to 2008, and CDC records show us that the number attempting or actively dieting has steadily increased over the past decade.

There’s one problem: many diets don’t work. While it is difficult to estimate exactly how many diets fail or succeed, in part due to reporting bias, some studies have found that as many as ninety-five percent of dieters either give up or regain weight within the first five years. That means that as little as five percent succeed at long term weight loss.

But it’s not all bad news. In fact, the main reason people do not succeed at diets is because they are going on diets that are not practical in the long term, do not fit their lifestyle, and do not teach them healthy habits.

But where does the South Beach Diet fall compared with the so-called Paleolithic diet? We’ll investigate what both diets have to offer–for long and short term weight loss, but also the overall quality and how easy they are to follow.

Why do most diets fail?

If you’re looking at the South Beach Diet vs Paleo, you want it to succeed, and you’re looking for long term results probably–not just a quick fix. If you feel discouraged by past attempts at dieting or what some studies say, take heart: by being aware of the top reasons diets fail, you can make your chances of succeeding greatly improved.

  • They’re too impractical. Diets that require you to eat only at certain times, that don’t have any flex room to allow you to eat with others or eat out, or that require onerous preparation simply are not suited for long term success. Life gets crazy, and too many rules that are inflexible makes it very difficult to keep up with.
  • They don’t teach new habits. While replacing meals with protein shakes may be an effective way to initially lose weight, there still needs to be a full plan. No matter what diet plan you opt for, make sure you also learn healthy eating habits and places you might be going wrong so you can maintain your weight loss.
  • It’s (partially) genetic. This goes both ways–some dieters give up, thinking their genes determine their weight entirely, while others struggle to make peace with their body shape. None of our bodies were meant to be overweight–that is obvious by the health consequences that come with excess weight. However, extreme dieting to get to a size below your body’s ideal or ‘happy weight’ is not helpful for long term success. Different bodies are naturally larger or smaller. A good way to set a healthy goal is to look at past growth charts and also average out ideal body weight calculators online. Aim for a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.
  • It’s just a fad. You’ve certainly heard about fad diets and their possible health consequences–or at very least how ineffective they are for long term weight loss. But how exactly do you tell if a diet is a fad? Fad diets tend to have the following characteristics:
    • A quick fix, with next to no effort on your part
    • Advertising one food or supplement that can ‘melt away fat’ or ‘burn calories’ in ways nothing else can
    • Rigid rules that cannot be broken
    • Complete or next to a total elimination of whole food groups
    • Claims to have an answer to weight loss that no one else has
    • Promises rapid weight loss--professional recommend an average weight loss of no more than a few pounds a week.

Spotting a fad diet is not so difficult once you think about it. Fad diets promise to hold all of the answers and force you to eat in perhaps a way you, and others around you, never have in your life. Fad diets not only are more likely to fail, but they can health consequences too. Many do not supply sufficient nutrients, and may even cause long term psychological issues for anyone prone to developing an eating disorder.

  • They focus on only a number. Diets are meant to help people reach a goal weight–in fact, having a goal weight (a range of a few degrees is recommended, as opposed to a single number) is a key to success, but only focusing on weight loss misses the point. Diets should also help you develop new habits to make sure you learn a healthy lifestyle. They also should pack in healthy nutrients to help improve your health overall.
  • They don’t fit your lifestyle. This one’s important. Another reason why too strict diets are a recipe for disaster is not only that they are not convenient but might also not take dietary needs and preferences in mind. The best diet plans help develop a plan around a plan for those with special concerns, including gluten-free, vegan, and working around food allergens.
  • The person isn’t committed. Of course, the diet itself is not solely responsible for whether or not the dieter will succeed. In order for a diet the work, you need to have a clear plan, be consistent, and maybe add in some exercise. While food intake will have the greatest impact on your weight, activity is a must for most for long term weight loss, but also cardiovascular health.

How do I choose between South Beach Diet and Paleo?

The good news is that, when followed correctly, neither South Beach Diet nor Paleo are fad diets. Both have extensive plans filled with healthy nutrients and help guide towards long term weight loss, as opposed to rapid weight loss. But there are some key differences between the diets.

In order to compare between the two diets, we’ll take a look at the core philosophy behind the diets and a handful of factors critical to both short and long term weight loss. We’d also like to issue a note of clarification before we begin: while South Beach Diet offers its own meal delivery service, for Paleo, you’d need to look at another meal delivery service, like Green Chef or Nutrisystem, which offers paleo based plans.

1. What is the general philosophy of the South Beach Diet vs Paleo?

When looking at the basic philosophy of a diet plan, we’re concerned with both the how and why: what nutritional basis the plans are based upon, and how it works.

  • South Beach Diet is a high-protein diet, low-carbohydrate diet and low sugar plan that promises quick short term weight loss, but also lasting weight loss. Fats are also paid special attention: while some weight loss plans group fats together, the South Beach diet emphasizes the addition of healthful, unsaturated fats and makes a point of incorporating nuts and seeds, olive oil and fatty fish (for non-vegetarians). Similar to Paleo, South Beach isn’t an intentionally low-fat diet. A key factor of the South Beach Diet is glycemic index (blood sugar), where you are supposed to avoid foods with higher indexes that may have a sharper impact on blood sugar levels. It consists of three phases, the first being the most restrictive in terms of carbohydrate consumption to optimize weight loss; in the second and third phases, you start adding fruits and whole grains back in (in addition to vegetables). Another part of the plan is including a sweet treat or dessert every day to keep your cravings at bay. It does promise a weight loss of up to ten pounds per week during the first phase–which well exceeds a recommended one to two pounds per week. Another key component? Eating every two to three hours to keep blood sugar levels stable.
  • Paleo Diet is also low carb intake, high protein, low sugar diet. However, their focus is not on the glycemic diet but based upon what ‘our ancestors ate’ A higher consumption of meats, seafood, and eggs are encouraged while any new foods, especially packaged foods or refined grains is discouraged. There is some mention of the glycemic index, but there’s a greater focus on alkalines. Alkalines refer to the acids released after food is digested; there is an aim to balance more alkaline based foods with those with lower levels. There’s also an emphasis on high fiber, non-starchy vegetables, higher potassium intake, lower sodium, vitamins and phytochemicals, and a moderate to high intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Verdict: It’s (practically a tie). Both have their pluses and problems. South Beach Diet is overall slightly more balanced once you get to Phase Three–but both are higher protein and fat diets than the typical average American diet. The first phase of South Beach Diet may be encouraging, but the pace of weight loss is slightly concerning (not all dieters experience this and much of it might be water loss). In terms of the paleo diet, there is mixed evidence about high-fat diets, but they do promote healthy fats. Unlike what some might believe, paleo is not a meat only diet and, like the South Beach Diet, has a healthful amount of fruits and vegetables. As we explore further into what you’d eat on both plans, we’ll make a more detailed verdict.

2. What do you eat on the diet?

What you eat is also of course important. While we’ve already touched on this some, we’ll take a look at a typical day on both diets.

  • South Beach Diet has you eating every two to three hours, or six times a day. A day on the plan looks quite different depending on what phase you’re in. During Phase One, which lasts two weeks (you can adjust if you want to) you’ll be asked to avoid fatty meat and poultry; butter and coconut oil; whole milk; any refined sugar; any nutritive sweeteners; all grains and all fruits and all starchy vegetables. In phase two and three, you’re allowed up to four servings of whole grains or starchy vegetables and up to three servings of fruit a day. All phases you’ll be eating protein-based meals with healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables. Stevia and non-nutritive sweeteners are allowed for daily dessert or treat. Servings are based upon a balance of calories and glycemic index.
  • Paleo Diet normally encourages three meals and a single snack a day, or three to four times eating per day. Instead of phases, you’ll start with a baseline principle of proportions: half of your plate should be a vegetable, a 1-2 palm-sized serving of animal-based protein, a serving of healthy fat (coconut oil is included) and an optional starchy fruit or vegetable if you need more. A typical day might look like scrambled eggs for breakfast; tuna and avocado salad for lunch; ham and pineapple skewers for dinner, and a piece of fruit as a snack.

Which is better? In terms of easy to follow, both are fairly easy, but with the Paleo diet, you can eyeball what you need without consulting much of anything. The South Beach Diet is a little more specific, and you also have a longer list of foods you are focused on not eating in the initial phase. That said, Paleo is even more low carb than South Beach. One nice thing about the different phases on South Beach is that you slowly add back in carbohydrates–Paleo restricts even fruit more. While Paleo is more intuitive, it is overall a bit more restrictive. Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, South Beach Diet is by far the more friendly option.

3. Which one is better for weight loss?

One question on nearly everyone’s mind is which one produces better results in terms of weight loss. In fact, both have had dieters succeed and fail–and while Paleo does not set a weight loss rate you can expect, both, as low carbohydrate diets, may promote faster weight loss initially. Multiple studies back up both approaches, as least in terms of lower carb, higher protein approach, for long term weight loss. That said, it mostly depends on which fits your lifestyle and diet preferences more.

4. Can I order meals for either?

  • South Beach Diet, along with diet books and plans, does offer its own meal delivery service. The meal delivery service, which we’ve reviewed in full, is a fairly decent value, at ten to thirteen dollars per day, and provides four week plans, your choice of chef-inspired ready meals, and three shipping, They also offer a plan specifically for diabetics and offer room for DIY meals so you can eat out and with friends.
  • Paleo Diet does not have a specific meal delivery service attached with it, but paleo menus are commonly offered via popular home delivery services; in fact, you’ll have even more options for paleo meal delivery kits. Meal delivery services that offer Paleo include Green Chef, Freshly, Home Basket, and many more. If you’re interested in meal delivery services, we recommend Subscriboxer, a blog which reviews meal delivery kits in detail.

5. Is one healthier than the other?

It’s obvious that there is a good deal of overlap between Paleo and South Beach Diet’s approaches. When compared on a nutritional basis, that depends on how you do it. Both do incorporate fresh produce, which is important for essential vitamins and minerals, as well as phytonutrients.

  • South Beach Diet is effective but rather restrictive in the first phase. If you can stick through Phase One, it may be a great way to lose weight, but the initial phase does cut out some healthy fruits and vegetables. Since it’s only a two week period, that’s not too large of a concern, and the emphasis on healthy fats is welcome. Lower carbohydrates, but not severely low, and a focus on smaller meals with lower glycemic indexes are helpful for blood sugar levels.
  • Paleo encourages animal products but also starchy vegetables. The stricter forms of Paleo do not allow you to eat dairy, though more liberal forms do. In general, cultivated grains or even livestock are a big no-no. While this diet does emphasize protein and healthy fats, one thing gives us pause: it may be more nutrient deficient than the South Beach Diet. The other problem: though inconclusive, studies have found a potential link between following strict Paleo and a slight increase in heart disease risk. The only issue is that these studies were short term, and as with studies with South Beach Diet, did not study long term benefits or risks.

Overall, what do we recommend?

south beach diet vs paleo

Bottom Diet: If we had to choose between the two diets, we’d opt for the South Beach Diet for most people, simply because the final phases are a little more balanced, and it’s also easier to incorporate dietary preferences such as vegetarian and vegan.

While the studies linking risks to Paleo are far from conclusive, they do point to a reason for caution.

If followed more moderately it’s possible most of those risks associated with Paleo could be mitigated. If you think Paleo sounds more of your thing, we highly recommend you opt for a meal delivery service so you make sure you’re getting nutritionally sound and balanced meals to at least jumpstart your diet. And if you’re doing Paleo on your own, be sure to check out the official site for recipes and more.

Another question: which diet, if either, do you see following long term? Remember that weight loss is just the first step, with weight maintenance being the ultimate goal.

Further Reading on Related Diet Programs

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