The Dietary Guidelines is a joint report created by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). It’s designed with the purpose of setting a general basis for what constitutes a healthy diet. The most recent Guideline was published in 2015 and will be updated in 2020. They include five key recommendations:
“Don't like eating meat?” asks Ginger Hultin, RDN, a dietitian in private practice in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Then don't be paleo! Travel a lot and rely on eating out? The DASH diet may end in frustration for you.” The bottom line: The diet you choose needs to be safe and effective, while taking into account your lifestyle.
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Phase 1: This is the “metabolism reboot” phase, and the most restrictive part of the plan (but it only lasts two weeks, so that’s good news). You’ll basically cut all carbs from your diet, as this phase allows for no more than 40 grams of net carbs per day. The purpose of this first phase is to reset your metabolism and help your body burn fat instead of carbs. Carb lovers beware! You will not be able to eat bread, pasta, rice, and some fruit, which might be too restrictive for some. Because of this strict approach, you’ll most definitely see weight loss results at the end of the plan’s first seven days.

"People should pick activities they enjoy and that fit into their lifestyle in order to increase their chances of sticking with it to lose the last 10 pounds. For those who have hit a weight-loss plateau and can't seem to lose that weight, you'll need to mix things up in order to see results. Tabata-style training, HIIT classes and resistance training can all be effective weight-loss modalities for the right person." — Timothy Lyman, ACE certified personal trainer and Director of Training Programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh

Take cauliflower gnocchi to the next level with these hearty, plant-based meal-prep bowls. Here we double up our Roasted Butternut Squash & Root Vegetables recipe (see Associated Recipes) and combine it with white beans, pesto and store-bought cauliflower gnocchi to make a week of healthy meal-prep lunches. You'll have leftover roasted veggies, so plan to use them as easy side dishes for dinner throughout the week or incorporate them into another recipe, like Creamy Roasted Vegetable Soup with Chicken or the Piled-High Greek Vegetable Pitas (see Associated Recipes).
Ansari says alcohol can prevent weight-loss in several ways, including the fact that heavy alcohol intake can stimulate food intake. "Binge drinking can overload the liver. The liver then prioritizes processing alcohol over other nutrients and then stores the protein, carbs, and fat as fat in the body," Ansari explains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as having five or more drinks for men, and four or more drinks for women in two hours. "Also, alcoholic beverages are often mixed with sugar-rich beverages. Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can cause calories to add up quickly."
Skimp on fluids, and your body will release an antidiuretic hormone that leads to water retention that could affect the scale, Dr. Setlzer says. While this sneaky effect is one reason why the scale is a poor measure of body mass loss, you can outsmart it by drinking more—particularly if you fill your glass with water or non-calorie alternatives like unsweetened coffee and tea.
U.S. News evaluated and ranked the 41 diets below with input from a panel of health experts. 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. The Mediterranean diet took the top spot, while the government-endorsed DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, came in second.
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting — ranging from fasting for a number of hours each day up to an entire 24-hour fasting period one or two times a week. “If you're trying to kick a habit like eating late into the night, then stopping eating earlier in the evening and fasting overnight could be beneficial for you,” says Hultin. “There are many types of intermittent fasting, so ensuring you pick one that works for you and your lifestyle is important.”
Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. Plus, it'll help you relax post-meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories.

"Stepping on the scale frequently makes you aware of small changes and helps you quickly react to those changes. The National Weight Control Registry, a large group of people who have successfully lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for 5 years, found that successful 'losers' weigh themselves often and make adjustments accordingly. When you begin to understand that sodium, carb intake, hormones and alcohol intake can impact weight and that it isn't possible to gain 2 pounds of fat overnight, you will begin to better understand your body. The key is to pay attention to overall trends; don't obsess over day-to-day numbers! — Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, food and nutrition expert

Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. Plus, it'll help you relax post-meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories.


"Stop focusing on calories and start focusing on the quality of the foods you eat. High-quality diet options are natural, whole, minimally processed foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts or seeds that offer a lot more nutritional value in the form of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. These foods help tame hunger naturally and nourish our cells at the deepest level so that we aren't left with constant cravings. — Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California
HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta after implantation, and doctors sometimes prescribe it for fertility issues. But this hormone has also gained popularity as a weight-loss supplement — and using it as such can be dangerous. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against purchasing over-the-counter hCG, as these supplement products are illegal. (34)
“Intermittent fasting can be really challenging if you have an ever-changing schedule,” adds Hultin. “If you're traveling and crossing time zones, it could be very difficult to follow. It might be best for people with more stability in their lives.” Intermittent fasting isn’t safe for people with type 2 diabetes, children, pregnant or lactating women, or anyone with a history of an eating disorder.
"What I don't like about any commercial diet is that the focus is not on your actual food choices," Hogan said. "It's about calories or points or numbers, and that really takes away from your ability to be in tune with your hunger cues and your fullness cues and what you're really craving. If we become more in tune with those things, we naturally consume how much the body needs. Paying too much attention to numbers takes away from that."
If you like eating meat and want to lose weight, you might be tempted to try this recent extreme diet fad that proponents have made some pretty outrageous claims about. One: that eating nothing but meat can cure you of autoimmune diseases. The problem is that there’s no good research to support that notion, or any other health claim, for that matter. Indeed, omitting foods known to be good for you — fruits and veggies among them — can lead to a bunch of unwanted side effects, including constipation and potentially dangerous nutrient deficiencies. Still, since you’re cutting out so many food groups, there’s a decent chance you’ll lose weight, experts say. Regardless of any possible benefits you might see, this restrictive approach is definitely one you’ll want to ask your doc about before you even consider diving in.
Flexitarian: A mix between the words “flexible” and “vegetarian”, the Flexitarian diet can be described as a vegetarian going on a short carnivore vacation. It is a mostly vegetarian diet that sometimes incorporates meat, fish, and poultry, and it is ideal for people who want to benefit from vegetarianism but cannot resist the temptation of animal products.  Also, a recent study suggests that, by going meatless from time to time, you may actually help in the fight against climate change. 

Weight loss ultimately comes back to the concept of calories in, calories out: Eat less than you burn and you’ll lose weight. And while it’s possible to lose water weight quickly on a low-carb diet, I certainly wouldn’t advocate for it. The diet itself can trick you into thinking that this eating style is working — when really, you might gain back what you lost as soon as you eat carbs again. That can feel incredibly dispiriting if you want results that last longer than a week.

At a recent reality show Aap Ki Adalat, a lady in the audience asked Salman Khan the secret of his six pack abs, so that she could get her husband to lose weight. Salman said, “Get him in a job which requires him to take off his shirt in public.” In other words, Salman was referring to the need of his job as a movie star to have the perfect body. That’s his motivation. That’s his need. What’s your motivation? Do you have a need to have lean body and flat belly? Find a strong need to lose weight. 

"Whether you have ten pounds to lose or 100, the first thing you should do is create an environment for success." That requires removing all temptation from your kitchen and reorganizing your pantry for weight loss. "Collect all of the processed, sugary and fatty foods from your house, and bring them to a local food bank for donation. Then restock your kitchen with healthy groceries—real, natural, whole foods—like fresh fruits and vegetables, almonds and lean proteins like turkey, chicken, fish and eggs." — Chris Powell, the trainer who has helped hundreds of overweight people lose up to half their body weight on ABC's reality series Extreme Weight Loss
"Oolong, or 'black dragon,' is a kind of Chinese tea that's packed with catechins, nutrients that help promote weight loss by boosting your body's ability to metabolize fat. A study in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine found that participants who regularly sipped oolong tea lost a pound a week, without doing anything else to change their diet or exercise habits." — Kelly Choi, author of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting — ranging from fasting for a number of hours each day up to an entire 24-hour fasting period one or two times a week. “If you're trying to kick a habit like eating late into the night, then stopping eating earlier in the evening and fasting overnight could be beneficial for you,” says Hultin. “There are many types of intermittent fasting, so ensuring you pick one that works for you and your lifestyle is important.”

Even if you do meet your goal, it's nearly impossible to keep off the weight over the long term: "The amount of restriction required [to maintain that number] will make you so hungry that you’ll eat everything in sight—it’s survival instinct," Dr. Seltzer says. And since calorie restriction gradually slows your metabolism, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you binge on, he adds. That could mean gaining more pounds than you lost in the first place.
Starchy veggies (like potatoes) and processed whole grains (like whole-wheat bread) are foods I’d normally recommend eating in moderation, since they provide plenty of nutrients, fiber, and healthy carbs. However, high-carb foods aren’t your best friend when you’re looking to drop water weight. Essentially, when your body stores excess carbs, it stores them with water. So replacing carb-heavy foods with non-starchy veggies that still provide filling fiber without as much water retention is the way to go. For a week before your event, you can swap out the starchy carbs for more non-starchy vegetables to lose some water weight.
Ultimately, long-term weight loss requires some short-term behavior change and healthier habit formation. That's why we created our Good Housekeeping Nutritionist Approved Emblem, which exists to help turn smart food choices into healthier eating habits. All GHNA foods and drinks make it easier to find — and eat — good-for-you foods without additional time, effort, and cost. We target the lifestyle-related factors that make healthier eating hard, and find simple but creative solutions that actually work! Look for the emblem on labels wherever you shop for food.
If you have more than a week to lose 10 pounds, Dr. Huether recommends trying intermittent fasting. "For longer-term weight loss and maintenance, I like to use intermittent fasting where I choose an 8-hour window to eat (for me its 1 pm to 9 pm). By doing this your body learns to use fat as fuel (instead of glucose), so it becomes easier and sustainable over time."
Eat like the Italians and the Greeks! This is the dietician’s darling, named #1 non-commercial diet by many experts in the health and weight management industries. It's not a fixed diet with a fixed menu, but rather a general guideline based on fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, healthy grains, fish, olive oil, red wine (yes, red wine), and small amounts of meat and dairy. It is one of the most flexible diet plans out there, as it is highly customizable to fit anyone’s tastes and needs. It does not require calorie counting, mainly because most of the foods in this diet are filled with fiber and healthy fats, which makes you digest them slower, so you feel fuller longer.
Phase 2: During this phase some carbs are back, so you have to watch out for any weight gain. (Following the strictness of Phase 1, you might be inclined to overeat your favorite carb-filled foods). You’ll get to eat no more than 50 grams of “good carbs” per day, including whole grains, beans, and fruits. Still, the bulk of your diet will consist of lean proteins, good fats, and vegetables.
While there are many vegetarian factions, all of them share the same basic dicta: no fish, meat, or poultry. But that’s where the similarities end for this eating plan/lifestyle practiced by 18% of the world population. Studies suggest that a vegetarian diet is good for reducing cancer risks, stabilizing blood sugar, and promoting heart health, while others raise a flag regarding nutritional deficiencies including Omega 3, vitamin B, calcium, and iron. Plans range from the most flexible to the most restrictive. Here are two of the most popular examples of each extreme:
"If a client has come to me looking to lose 10 pounds, I would tell them to simply move. Move more, and more often. Walk or bike ride to class or work, even park further away from your location in the parking lot. Take the stairs or take a walk during lunch. You don't have to spend hours every day in the gym sweating, but you do have to make a conscious effort to move more, and sit less. This works great because it doesn't feel like work and you're burning more and more calories throughout the day." — Ajia Cherry, personal trainer and Founder at Functional Innovative Training
“The alkaline diet often has a focus on eating lots of fresh produce and unprocessed foods, which could be a good thing,” says Hultin. “However, keep in mind that this is not an evidence-based therapeutic diet. When people take it too far — for instance, drinking baking soda — or become too restrictive or obsessive over food choices, it can definitely turn negative.”
Safety: The history of dieting is filled with dangerous and downright life-threatening practices, from the fad of ingesting cotton balls to the infamous tapeworm diet. That's why, when looking for the best diet plan, nutritional balance and reduced caloric intake (usually 1,200 for women and 1,500 for men) are a must. After all, a diet is supposed to make you healthier, not make you sick.

Make sure that the diet has been studied extensively for safety — and discuss any changes with your physician or registered dietitian before beginning a new diet. (If you don’t have a dietitian, find one in your area at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.) And do a self-check to ensure the diet fits with your own values and preferences.


If you're not up for crunching numbers every day, you can take a more generalized approach. “For some people, it’s knowing, ‘Typically I eat a whole sandwich,’” says Gagliardi. “Now, I’m going to eat half a sandwich at lunch and save the other half for my dinner and cut my calories in half." To get started, consider these 25 ways to cut 500 calories a day.
Based on my experience in nutrition counseling, most of us tend to snack on foods that aren’t nutrient-dense, but are high in calories. For example, skipping sugary beverages is often the easiest way to lose weight faster. You don’t feel full from drinks — even the ones that do contain calories — so swapping those out for sparkling water or unsweetened tea and coffee is the best place to start. Other major culprits often come in refined grains like cereals, chips, crackers, and cookies.

Avoiding salt doesn’t mean your food has to be bland. Experiment with using different herbs and spices. Try adding fresh cilantro and cumin to grilled fish, lemon and rosemary to chicken, or ginger and Chinese five spice to tempeh or beef. Pick up some spice blends from your local market to help add more spice to your life… just read the ingredients and make sure there’s no salt added. It’s hard to ditch salt, but these weight-loss motivation mantras will help you through the salt-less desert and into weight loss.
“Don't like eating meat?” asks Ginger Hultin, RDN, a dietitian in private practice in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Then don't be paleo! Travel a lot and rely on eating out? The DASH diet may end in frustration for you.” The bottom line: The diet you choose needs to be safe and effective, while taking into account your lifestyle.
“A lot of people think the foundation of a paleo diet is high-fat meat, but I suggest that it’s vegetables,” says Hultin. The concept is to eat only foods — including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables — that would have been available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar, and salt are all no-no’s.
"Research continues to support the role of a high-protein diet and weight loss, however, we don't want to reach those protein needs exclusively with animal proteins. Plant proteins found in beans not only help us feel full and stabilize blood sugar but beans are associated with longevity. Who cares about being skinny if you die young?" —Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, food and nutrition expert

In what is perhaps the biggest buzzkill of all time, sex doesn’t quite count as cardio or burn a significant amount of calories: Women burn about 3.6 per minute. "It’s still a good idea," Dr. Seltzer says, citing the activity’s other benefits, like increasing the output of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which naturally reduce food cravings.
When it comes to the "best" diet for most people, this one consistently ranks at the top of every list. If you can't afford a cruise to the Mediterranean (yet!), at least you can eat like the beautiful, long-living, and famously healthy people from the region. The Mediterranean diet teaches you to eat like a Sardinian, one of the "blue zones" identified by researchers as having a high number of people living past 100—by eating more fish, olive oil, healthy fats, and fresh vegetables. The point is to have not just a longer life but also a healthier and happier one, whether you're trying to lose weight or not. (Really—research shows that you can reap the benefits of the Mediterranean diet without cutting calories.)
"Your body begins to work differently. This study proves that small amounts of nourishment throughout the day are better than the same amount of food concentrated in three big sittings. If we feed the body at regular intervals we send a signal to the body that it doesn't have to store calories. Conversely, when we skip meals we send just the opposite signal for the body to store calories, creating a negative effect on the metabolism." — Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, co-founder and Medical Director at Take Shape For Life
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