"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
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.
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.
There’s a reason everyone harps on about protein: Not only does it help keep you full, but it’s also responsible for repairing the tiny tears caused by strength training in your muscles. This helps them grow bigger and stronger, nudging out body fat in the process. As a general rule of thumb, aim to get at least 70 grams of protein throughout the day, says Dr. Cheskin.
Rather than rely entirely on the information provided by the companies to determine weight management effectiveness, we spent weeks browsing through hundreds of unpaid customer testimonies (not endorsed by any company) to get a feeling on the accuracy of the claims they make. In fact, these testimonials provided us with a much more truthful and in-depth insight regarding how effective diet plans really are.
By allowing a daily intake of 1,200 to 1,600 calories, broken into a ratio of 50% carbs, 25% protein, and 25% fat (except for the low-carb plan), Diet-to-Go’s portions achieve a caloric middle ground that provides you with energy and the feeling of fullness while still being low enough to allow for slow-but-steady weight loss. In short, you’ll shed 1 to 3 pounds per week without feeling “hangry” all the time.
Incorporate a 12-hour fast. Don't panic — most of this fast occurs while you sleep. Restricting your eating to 12 hours a day may help you lose weight, according to one study. You should still eat your recommended daily calories, but limit yourself to only eating during a 12 hour period. So you might eat breakfast at 7am and cut yourself off from eating after 7pm. Though it is not fully understood, this 12-hour fasting period may cause your body to switch from burning food to burning fat.
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.
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.
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.
"One of the keys to long-term and sustainable weight loss is to cut total calorie intake, and there's no better way to do that than by eating just a little bit less of what you currently eat. Once you get into a habit of reducing portions—especially of sugary, fatty and other nutrient-poor foods—you can fine tune your diet to incorporate more nutrient-rich foods. But paring portions is still the best first step [in an effort to lose 10 pounds]." — Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, author of Younger Next Week
Contrary to other low-carb approaches, the South Beach Diet makes a clear distinction between “good” and “bad” fats (avocado oil is good, butter is bad), and only prohibits the consumption of certain, but not all, carbs. This means that, while the South Beach Diet has certain similarities with the keto approach, is not strictly ketogenic, but rather keto-friendly.
Variety: Nobody wants to eat the same thing day in and day out. That's why a variety of food items is essential for a diet plan to be sustainable. Also, variety as a criterion for determining the best diet plans refers not only to food items but also to groups of people. For example: Is the diet plan available to diabetics? Men? Women? People with allergies or special conditions?
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.