Every year, just in time for serious New Year’s Resolutions, the internet is full of searches for things like, ‘best diet’, ‘easiest diet’, or ‘quick weight loss’. Now, we all know that there’s no such thing as quick weight loss (unless you’re a high school wrestler) and losing a significant amount of weight in a short period of time generally means you’ll be gaining it back and then some in as little as one month. Alas, being the true Americans we are, we just love a good diet to make us feel like we’re not suffering enough.
To help weed out the terribly unattainable diets, U.S. News & World Report debuts its list of the best diets. The 38 regimes are ranked by a panel of health experts. The criteria for the rankings are as follows: “To be top-rated, a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease.”
Pretty straightforward, no? Let’s get cracking.
10. The Jenny Craig Diet
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Receiving an overall score of 3.7 of 5, the Jenny Craig diet claims that participants will drop around two pounds per week by monitoring portions, fat content, and restricting calories. Participants eat pre-packaged Jenny meals and meet with Jenny Craig consultants.
The kicker? As U.S. News puts it, the consultants are “not nutrition professionals – anyone who is ‘health-oriented and customer-focused’ can attend a training course and get certified.”
In terms of cost, Jenny Craig can put a dent in your wallet. To become a member, there’s a $99 member enrollment fee and the consulting and web access will run you about $19.99 per month. The food costs about $15 to $23 per day and that doesn’t include shipping costs. Yikes.
However, Jenny Craig is fairly successful. A 2015 medical review comparing weight-loss programs found that “Jenny Craig participants lost the most weight over 12 months – almost 5 percent more than a control group given education and counseling.”
Jenny Craig received 3.3 out of 5 stars in terms of Best Diabetes Diets, 3.6 stars of 5 for Easiest Diets to Follow, 3.3 stars for Best Heart-Healthy Diets, 3.3 stars for Long-Term Weight Loss, 3.9 for Nutrition, 4.2 stars for Safety, and 4.1 stars for Short-Term Weight Loss.
9/8. Volumetrics Diet
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Both the Volumetrics Diet and the Fertility Diet received 3.8 stars of 5 for Best Diets Overall, so they share spots 9 and 8. The Volumetrics Diet claims that participants will drop a pound or two per week, and focuses on getting more from what you eat in terms of loading your plate with lower-calorie foods so you don’t feel as though you’re being deprived.
It’s hailed as more of an eating approach as opposed to a strict diet and categorizes food into one of four groups: very low-density, low-density, medium-density, and high-density. The density amounts of each food depend on its energy density – most low-density foods are water-based, like soups, fruits, vegetables, pasta, and yogurt.
This diet only requires one item for success: The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off by PhD Barbara Rolls, who created the approach. Grocery costs shouldn’t change as no fancy ingredients are generally required.
It’s very likely that participants will lose weight as the scientific approach of using low-density foods to promote fullness tends to be both physically and mentally successful.
In fact, people who follow this approach are less likely to be obese and have smaller waist sizes.
The Volumetrics Diet landed 3.5 stars of 5 for Best Diabetes Diet, 3.5 of 5 for Easiest Diets to Follow, 3.6 stars for Best Heart-Healthy Diets, 3.5 for Long-Term Weight Loss, 4.3 stars for Nutrition, 4.5 stars for Safety, and 3.9 stars for Short-Term Weight Loss.
8/9. The Fertility Diet
Sharing the spotlight numbers 9 and 8 with Volumetrics Diet is the Fertility Diet. The Fertility Diet was designed to boost ovulation and improve fertility, while changing your diet can help women get pregnant quicker through promoting weight loss and activity.
The study began in 1976 and “grew to include 238,000 female nurse participants aged 30 to 55.” The diet is mainly focused on increasing ovulation and zeroes in on a good fat vs. bad fat analogy. Included in the diet is a 10 step approach. However, there’s no guarantee to pregnancy.
There are no special materials or ingredients needed for the diet that will run your grocery bill higher. Full fat dairy products are encouraged over skim products and other sugar-laden beverages.
In terms of weight loss, it’s likely participants will lose weight because as the regulations follow a healthy program that encourages a well-balanced diet and regular exercise regime.
Ranking with 3.8 stars out of 5 for Best Overall Diet, it also ranks with 3.7 stars for Best Diabetes Diet, 3.7 stars for Easiest Diet to Follow, 3.8 stars for Best Heart-Healthy Diet, 2.9 stars for Long-Term Weight Loss, 4.4 stars for Nutrition, 4.3 stars for Safety, and 3.1 stars for Short-Term Weight Loss.
7/4. Weight Watchers Diet
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The next four diets all received a score of 3.9, so they are ranked accordingly. Weight Watchers claims that participants will drop around two pounds per week while living healthier lives. The Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale program realigned the program in 2015 to focus on shifting the mindset of weight loss, as opposed to just shifting the diet.
The three components that define the Beyond the Scale Program are: “eating healthier, fitness that fits your life, and learning skills and techniques that help you shift your mindset.” The program uses a SmartPoints system that calibrates food to a specified eating plan. FitPoints help users track activity in alignment with their plan.
To begin, all new members pay a $20 starter fee and can select from one of four plans with different price-points. OnlinePlus costs $19.95 per month and focuses on digital tools, along with a 24/7 chat support service.
Meetings, which includes OnlinePlus, costs $44.95 per month and covers unlimited in-person meetings. If you’re not sold on the idea, you can pay as you for $12 to $15 per week.
Personal Coaching includes one-on-one personal support with a coach and OnlinePlus costs $54.95 per month. Total Access, which includes all items in the former plans, costs $69.95 per month.
Weight Watchers is a generally successful program, though it is no major stand-out among other weight loss initiatives. With its built-in support system, included in every level of the program, “researchers found overweight and obese participants assigned to Weight Watchers were nearly nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their weight” than participants who did not receive person-to-person support.
The program received 3.9 stars of 5 for its overall score. For the remainder, it ranked as follows: 3.6 stars of 5 for Best Diabetes Diet; 3.7 stars for Easiest Diets to Follow; 3.5 stars for Best Heart-Healthy Diets; 3.7 stars for Long-Term Weight Loss; 4.4 stars for Nutrition; 4.5 stars for Safety; and 4.3 stars for Short-Term Weight Loss.
6/4. TLC Diet
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Also receiving a score of 3.9 of 5, the TLC diet was created to cut high cholesterol. With that goal in mind, it claims that participants will lower their bad LDL cholesterol by “8 to 10 percent in six weeks.”
Participants begin by choosing their target calorie level and zone, and begin to cut saturated fats to less than 7 percent of the daily allotted calories. Red meat is generally kept a minimum, while carbs and starches are advised for six to 11 servings per day.
There are no special materials or ingredients needed for the diet that will run your grocery bill higher. Because red meat is kept to a minimum, you won’t see your grocery bill attached to increasing/decreasing meat prices.
While weight loss is not marketed as a direct result of the TLC diet, “reducing daily fat calories by 10 percent was associated with a loss of [around] 6 pounds over six months.” The TLC diet mostly pulls its strength from lowering cholesterol, which is what is was designed for.
While its score was 3.9 stars for Best Overall Diet, it also ranked as follows: 3.5 stars of 5 for Best Diabetes Diets; 3.3 stars for Easiest Diets to Follow; 4.5 stars for Best Heart-Healthy Diets; 2.9 stars for Best Long-Term Weight Loss; 4.5 stars for Nutrition; 4.6 stars for Safety; and 3.4 stars for Short-Term Weight Loss.
5/4. Mayo Clinic Diet
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The Mayo Clinic diet was designed to help participants not only lose weight, but also adapt to a healthier lifestyle. The goal is that practicers will shed 6 to 10 pounds in two weeks and plateau to losing about 1 to 2 pounds per week until the desired goal is reached.
During the first two weeks, participants undergo the Lose It! portion of the program, where heavy weight loss is most expected. After two weeks, participants will move on to the Live It! portion where they can begin to convert Lose It! tactics into their daily lives depending on the routine that works best for their lifestyle.
With no membership fee, the only purchased item required is The Mayo Clinic Diet, which details the program, expectations, and expected results.
Weight loss is likely if participants follow the rules, and the program, beyond the two-week Lose It! portion. The general idea of the diet, which focuses on low-energy-dense foods, similar to the Volumetrics diet, has been proven to result in weight loss. The Mayo Clinic Diet, however, relies heavily on independent willpower.
The Mayo Clinic Diet received 3.9 stars out of 5 for Best Diets Overall. For Best Diabetes Diets, it received 3.7 stars; for Easiest Diets to Follow, it received 3.4 stars; for Best Heart-Healthy Diets, it received 3.9 stars; for Long-Term Weight Loss, it received 3 stars; for Nutrition, it received 4.5 stars; for Safety, it received 4.6 stars; and for Short-Term Weight Loss, it received 3.5 stars.
4/4. The Flexitarian Diet
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The last diet ranking at 3.9 stars out of 5 for Best Overall Diet, the Flexitarian Diet is designed for not only weight loss, but also optimal health. Overall, it is a progressional plan that encourages healthy living with weight loss as a by-product.
The backbone of the diet combines vegetarianism with limited meat intake – many families practice this form of healthy eating by partaking in Meatless Mondays or the like. The diet aims to add five food groups (tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, and eggs) to your diet, without subtracting any at all.
The diet adds no additional cost to participant’s pocket and encourages users to make seasonal produce a regular part of their regime, switching out items as they are naturally in season which can help keep costs down.
Research shows it’s likely that participants will lose weight as vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories than their fully carnivorous counterparts. Overall, according to a review of 87 previous studies, “vegetarians weigh about 15 percent less than nonvegetarians.”
While it received 3.9 stars for Best Overall Diet, it also ranked in the following ways: 3.7 stars for Best Diabetes Diet; 3.6 stars for Easiest Diets to Follow; 3.9 stars for Best Heart-Healthy Diets; 3.4 stars for Long-Term Weight Loss; 4.3 stars for Nutrition; 4.4 stars for Safety; and 3.6 stars for Short-Term Weight Loss.
3. MIND Diet
The MIND diet ranks at a solid 4.0 for Best Diets Overall and combines two well-known methods (the DASH diet and the Mediterranean Diet) in order to spotlight the foods that specifically affect brain health to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
By including 10 brain-healthy food groups in one’s diet, participants may lower risk of mental decline over time by focusing on consuming “green leafy vegetables in particular, all other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine.” Research has seen slower cognitive decline in participants who consumed at least six servings of leafy green vegetables.
While processed foods are cut out and fresh produce is introduced in its place, it can be slightly pricier, but not by much.
The MIND diet is not particularly designed for weight loss, but naturally by cutting out high sugar content and processed foods, participants tend to see a natural weight loss occur.
Earning 4.0 stars for Best Diet Overall, it also earned the following stars: 3.7 for Best Diabetes Diet; 3.7 for Easiest Diets to Follow; 4.2 for Best Heart-Healthy Diets; 3.1 for Long-Term Weight Loss; 4.6 for Nutrition; 4.6 for Safety; and 3.2 for Short-Term Weight Loss.
The Mediterranean Diet, scoring a 4.1 of 5, follows a fairly simple premise: eat and live your life in the way that most people in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live. Weight loss, heart health, brain productivity, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention are all positive outcomes associated with this diet, which is more so a lifestyle choice than a diet.
When beginning this regime, it’s shown that weight loss occurs, stays steady, and participants experience lowered risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart attack, and cancer. Participants focus on “eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices; fish and seafood at least a couple times a week; and poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation, while saving sweets and red meat for special occasions.”
Because red wine, fish, fresh produce, and good olive oil are sometimes more expensive than processed products, a higher grocery bill can be seen, but that can be quelled by eating produce in season and springing for cheaper wines than top dollar options. Channel your inner 21-year-old that bought Carlo Rossi jugs.
Weight loss tends to occur, especially in those that utilized olive oil in preparation of food items, but the focus of the diet is to create a lifestyle as opposed to a strict regiment. The Mediterranean diet should feel natural, which encourages longevity in practice.
For Best Diets Overall, the Mediterranean Diet scored a 4.1 out of 5. Its additional rankings are as follows: 3.8 for Best Diabetes Diet; 3.7 stars for Easiest Diets to Follow; 4.3 stars for Best Heart-Healthy Diets; 3.2 stars for Long-Term Weight Loss; 4.7 stars for Nutrition; 4.7 stars for Safety; and 3.4 stars for Short-Term Weight Loss.
1. DASH Diet
The highest ranking Best Diet Overall is the DASH diet for 4.2 stars, according to U.S. News & World Report. It’s not a program designed for weight loss, but is aimed at preventing and lowering high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
The DASH diet focuses on increasing nutritional intake like potassium, calcium, protein, and fiber. There’s no strict rules to follow, except maybe shunning foods that are always considered unhealthy like sweets heavy in fats and sugar. DASH takes into account age and activity level, leaving you with a general caloric intake to shoot for.
There won’t be any major hits to your wallet, except for the addition of fresh produce which can be countered by picking items that are in season and lower in price.
If a participant chooses a plan with a set caloric deficit compared to activity level, weight loss will occur, but the DASH diet works to lower hypertension and is more of a lifestyle choice than a diet.
Receiving 4.2 stars for Best Diet Overall, the DASH diet also ranked in the following ways: 4 stars for Best Diabetes Diet; 4.6 stars for Best Heart-Healthy Diet; 3.2 stars for Long-Term Weight Loss; 4.9 stars for Nutrition; 4.8 stars for Safety; and 3.4 stars for Short-Term Weight Loss.
The best diets, and the ones that are most successful, aren’t diets at all – they’re lifestyle choices that works to incorporate healthier foods and shuns processed foods. Deprivation is one of the leading causes of yo-yo dieting and is entirely unhealthy for one’s body to maintain.
Find the best lifestyle choice for you and focus on how your body feels and its signs. Are you thirsty instead of hungry? Are you actually hungry or are you just bored? These are some of the first questions to ask so you can begin to intuitively eat the way your body requires.
All information and statistics provided in 2017 by U.S. News & World Report.