The best low-cal diet plan isn't a diet so much as it is a method. CICO stands for "calories in, calories out" and is based on the mathematically sensible principle that as long as you're burning more calories than you're eating, you'll lose weight. All you need to get started is a way to track your calories—there are plenty of apps on the market although a pen and paper works great too—and a food scale to keep you honest about your portion sizes. (Also read this guide on how to safely cut calories to lose weight.) People love the simplicity and straightforwardness of the plan. And while it may not be the fastest way to lose weight, you're guaranteed to have success long term. (Just know that some weight-loss experts actually don't recommend calorie counting.)
Protein is also important for preserving muscle mass as you lose weight. If you cut back dramatically on calories and drop weight too fast, your muscles can suffer. Your body starts pulling from lean tissue like muscles and organs to fuel itself, and your metabolism slows to conserve energy. That’s why super restrictive diets that have you dropping weight fast aren’t healthy over the long run.
"There are many foods that aid weight loss, but one that I often recommend to my clients and eat myself is grapefruit. Researchers at Scripps Clinic in San Diego found that when obese people ate half a grapefruit before each meal, they dropped an average of 3.5 pounds over 12 weeks. Apparently, the tangy fruit can lower insulin, a fat-storage hormone, and that can lead to weight loss. Plus, since it's at least 90% water, it can fill you up so you eat less. However, if you are on certain medications you should not have grapefruit or grapefruit juice, so check the label on all your prescriptions, or ask your pharmacist or doctor." — Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, author of Eat Right When Time is Tight.
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.
"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
The most unique aspect of Noom is that it lets you communicate with your personal coach via text message as many times as you want, so you can work hand in hand towards your goal without missing a step. Sometimes, a simple word of advice or support can make all the difference, especially during the stressful moments that inevitably happen during a strict diet. Also, in case you forget to log in your foods, the app will send you reminders via pop up messages.
“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.
Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
Ketosis is the metabolic basis for all “keto” or “ketogenic” diets. On a normal diet that includes carbohydrates (sugar and starchy foods), the body transforms these carbs into glucose, which is used as the body’s main source of energy. But, when we consume a minimum amount of carbs, the body will look elsewhere for that much-needed energy, and that “elsewhere” is fat. In short, when the body goes into ketosis, it is burning fat instead of carbs.
Similar to the CICO diet, the Body Reset has gained popularity via social media, and there isn’t any definitive research that suggests the approach is safe and effective. Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak created the plan, which is essentially a three-phase liquid diet comprised of smoothies and moderate exercise. While U.S. News notes you may lose weight on the diet, it may be tough to stick with, and isn’t safe for people with diabetes and heart disease. (38)
Why couldn’t we review for taste? Due to freshness and food safety concerns, the three meal-delivery companies that made our cut (South Beach Diet, Diet-to-Go, and Nutrisystem) only ship inside the continental US, meaning delivery is not available to Alaska, Hawaii, and other US territories. ConsumersAdvocate is headquartered in Dorado, Puerto Rico, which made it virtually impossible for our team to actually try the food prepared by the diet companies being reviewed. To make up for this obstacle, we read hundreds of customer and expert reviews regarding the taste of the food prepared by the companies that made our “best” list. We will continue trying to get the food delivered to our offices; if and when that happens, we will review the meals for taste and upgrade this article accordingly.
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).
"Don't buy low-fat dairy products. They're usually loaded with sugar. Besides, an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that the more high-fat dairy products a person ate, they lower their risk of diabetes; the more low-fat dairy products, the higher their risk. — Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer and author of Eat This, Not That! for Abs
It’s important to do full-body strength training if you want to lose belly fat—especially if you’re trying to keep it off for the long haul. “Strength training should be a part of just about everybody’s exercise plan,” says Dr. Cheskin. That’s because strength training helps you build muscle, which will replace body fat. And because muscle is metabolically active, you'll continue to burn calories after working out, thereby, reducing overall body fat. Bonus: When your metabolic rate becomes faster due to muscle growth, you’ll have a little more wiggle room in your diet if that’s something you struggle with, says Dr. Cheskin.
However, the most unique aspect of Diet-to-Go is its freshness, as all meals are prepared in-house and flash-frozen so preservatives never have to be added. This freezing process allows for fresher foods that last longer and taste more natural. What’s more, Diet-to-Go’s kitchens adhere to several guidelines for food safety and handling, including the HACCP, USDA, and FDA.
The researchers hypothesize that participants who abstained from animal products dropped significantly more pounds since plant-based foods include loads of filling fiber and slow-to-digest complex carbs. Though more research is needed to confirm these results, the study authors write, "Vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarian diets."
"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