When we began our research on Nutrisystem, the first thing that stood out to us was the variety of plans they offer. In total, there are nine different options, including plans for diabetics, vegetarians, and even special diets for men (a rarity in the diet industry). Also, most of their plans are highly customizable, so if you don’t like their recommendations you can customize your meal plan from chef-created menu items including staples like chicken masala, cheesesteak pizza, muffins, burgers, popcorn, and lots more.
"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."
The easier it is to seamlessly fit a diet plan into your life without major lifestyle changes, the better. After all, by focusing on holistic long-term results rather than trendy short-term solutions, sustainability becomes the number one enemy of the feared “yo-yo” effect. During our investigative process, we asked ourselves: What makes a diet plan sustainable? After long hours of research, we decided that the following factors can determine a plan’s sustainability, and thus its odds of success:
"When clients come to me, many of them have been through the diet wringer. They've tried every fad and gimmick and, of course, they've failed to maintain long-term success. The key to losing 10 pounds and weight loss, in general, is to never feel like you're on a diet, because diets don't work. If you feel deprived, you will never make it past a few weeks. The only way to achieve long-term weight loss is to learn to appreciate food as fuel and slowly replaced processed food that cannot properly energize the body with real food that can. After a while this will become second nature and won't feel like a daily struggle." — Laura Burak, MS, RD, CDN
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.
The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. Volumetrics came in second, and the Flexitarian Diet, Jenny Craig and the vegan diet were third on this overall weight loss ranking list, which takes into account short-term and long-term weight loss scores. Some other diets performed as well or better in our rankings for enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.
"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
If you want to lose fat, you have to eat fat...the right kind, that is. Adding healthy fats, in the form of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can help you feel more satisfied with your meals. Yasi Ansari, MS, RD, CSSD, national medial spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says, "Fat sources that I recommend boosting in the diet come from unsaturated fatty acids found in foods like olive oil, nuts, avocados, fatty fish, and eggs, as they can help increase satiety while providing a variety of health benefits when consumed in moderation." You can increase your intake of healthy fats by adding some chopped avocado into your salads, enjoying wild salmon twice a week, and having a little peanut butter with your post-workout snack or smoothie. Just remember to enjoy them in moderation as they're still very calorie-dense, Ansari says.
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.
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.
If you don’t have an established exercise routine, “walking is a pretty good entry point for people,” says Gagliardi. One small study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50-70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks significantly slashed their visceral fat compared to a sedentary control group.
Potassium, magnesium, and calcium can help to serve as a counter-balance for sodium. Foods that are rich in potassium include leafy greens, most "orange" foods (oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, melon), bananas, tomatoes, and cruciferous veggies — especially cauliflower. Low-fat dairy, plus nuts, and seeds can also help give you a bloat-busting boost. They've also been linked to a whole host of additional health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, and reducing risk of chronic disease overall.
Even though theoretically anyone can benefit from a healthy diet, it’s recommended that you consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet plan. Also, there are people for whom certain plans may not be ideal, including people with diabetes, pregnant women, people allergic to certain foods, people with hypertension, and people with a history of eating disorders.
Still, it’s a worthy goal to lose belly fat because it’s “unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it circulates throughout the bloodstream more regularly and is therefore likelier to raise the amount of fat in your blood, increasing your blood sugar levels and putting you at a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
All bodies are not created equal, and this is why there is no one “magical” diet solution for all. What’s more, even when two people with similar body compositions try the same diet plan, the difference in results can be overwhelming. “Bodies react differently depending on their genetic makeup and metabolism rates,” said Barcelona-based and Certified Nutritionist Carla de la Torre, and added, “this is why, for example, some people can get abs on a bread and cookies diet, while others cannot get the desired 'six pack' even after undergoing rigorous eating and exercise regimes.”
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.
In practice, this means salt is substituted with herbs and spices. There are two models: the Standard Model, which recommends less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, and the Low Sodium Model, which recommends less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Studies suggest DASH is also good for preventing osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.