According to its fervent proponents, humans were not made to be eating constantly; rather, we were designed to eat for short periods of time followed by hours (and sometimes days) of fasting. Much like vegetarianism, intermittent fasting is practiced for two main reasons: health and religion/spirituality. There are no food or caloric restrictions, but rather a restriction on WHEN to eat. The most popular methods include the 16/8 (8 hours of eating followed by 16 hours of fasting), the “Eat-Stop-Eat” method (two 24-hour fasts per week on non-consecutive days); and the 5/2 method (only 500 calories for 2 non-consecutive days, and 5 days of normal eating per week). While it's generally considered a healthy approach to eating when done moderately, some studies suggest extreme fasting may lead to hair loss and anxiety.
Some diet plans, such as the MIND diet and the DASH diet, are meant to focus on certain areas of health — and weight loss may be a bonus. Others are created with weight loss as a primary goal. “It is important to remember that we are all very unique individuals,” says Kyle. “We all have different states of health and different lifestyles, which could affect what diet plan is best for us. That means that you should not be considering what is working for your friends or family members — and instead should pay attention to what works for you individually.”
After a free diet analysis based on your Body Mass Index and submitting your ideal weight, Nutrisystem will recommend a plan to help you reach your goal. This plan is designed by nutritionists and allows for six meals a day (4 of them delivered by Nutrisystem and 2 to be prepared by you, following Nutrisystem’s guidance and recipes). This way you won’t be hungry for long, making it easier to stick to the diet plan until its completion.
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.)
The power of emotional eating should never be underestimated, as it is a strong factor in determining whether or not you'll be successful on a diet. When you eat less than you should, you inevitably get hungry, after which you might feel angry, and once this happens the “hangry” stage sets in and you’ll feel more inclined to skip the diet altogether or go on a food binge. For this reason, most successful diet plans prioritize satiety or the feeling of “fullness.”
"If weight loss is the goal, I recommend learning how to properly deadlift. Deadlifting recruits more muscle fiber at once than any other exercise. More muscle working equates to more blood flow, an increased heart rate, more metabolic demand and output. It's compound, multi-joint and more bang for your buck, not to mention you'll develop an excellent posterior from them." — Victoria Viola, PN Certified Nutrition Coach, NSCA CPT, Co-Founder, Excelerate Wellness, LLC
"These diets are so restrictive that of course you're going to lose weight fast because you're not eating enough calories to sustain basic activities of your body, let alone any exercise. That's nothing that any person can sustain for the long term," Hogan said. "The weight's going to come back if you do lose any weight, and then it's going to be harder to lose weight in the future."
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.
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.
"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
The "all meat all the time" low-carb approach or strict veganism can be great options for people who thrive on clear diet rules (and those two are actually the most popular diets out there) but these extremes are not for everyone. If you prefer more of a moderate approach, the Flexitarian diet is the clear winner. The "flexible vegetarian" mindset allows you a healthy balance of plant-based foods, responsibly sourced meats, and quality fats. The best part? It's not super restrictive, so you have plenty of nutritious food options. (Start here: How to Adopt a Flexitarian Diet)
"Nuts are a superior weight loss food in my book. They offer plenty of protein, healthy fat, and fiber that can really take the edge off hunger at any meal or snack. Nuts are also so versatile and convenient. They can be mixed into overnight oatmeal or yogurt at breakfast, paired with fruit as a snack, or tossed into a hearty salad for a little satisfying crunch at lunch. — Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California
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.)
There’s a large spectrum of where people can fall on a vegetarian diet: For example, vegans consume no animal products, whereas ovo-lacto vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs. The eating style may help with weight loss, suggests a review published in August 2017 in Nutrients, but some vegans and vegetarians may become deficient in specific nutrients, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, according to an article published in December 2017 in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. (23,24)
By encouraging food tracking, calorie counting, and the consumption of mostly fruits, veggies, and lean protein (sugar and unhealthy fats are discouraged), you can theoretically lose as many pounds as you want with WW, as long as you do not deviate from your established plan. And, because WW does not prohibit any foods, it is one of the most sustainable diet plans out there. Once you get the hang of the points system, you can even do it by yourself for the rest of your life.
If the diet is a quick fix rather than one that promotes lasting lifestyle changes, this could pose a problem. In particular, extreme diets that promise big weight loss up front aren’t always sustainable — and you may end up overeating or even binge eating if you feel deprived. “Consider if the diet’s habits are ones you can continue throughout your lifetime, not just 21 or 30 days,” says Angie Asche, RD, a sports dietitian in Lincoln, Nebraska.
A 2015 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that for those who have a hard time following a strict diet, simplifying the weight loss approach by just increasing fiber intake can still lead to weight loss. Women should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day (based on a 2,000-calorie) diet, according to the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Start with our high-fiber diet plan.
"I tell all of my celebrity and professional-athlete clients to get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Everyone is overly focused on food, water and exercise, all of which are extremely imperative to weight loss and optimal health. However, without proper sleep, all of these the other factors are null and void. When you don't get enough sleep, levels of the hormone leptin drop, which increases appetite. This surge in appetite makes comfort food more appealing, which can derail weight loss efforts." — Jay Cardiello, celebrity fitness and nutrition expert
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.
"To lose weight you should primarily eat whole foods, but don't eliminate your favorites. Consistently eating nutrient-dense food on a day-to-day basis will improve the chances of upregulating metabolism and of eliminating nutritional deficiencies. That may mean tracking what you eat in some way at first, but it doesn't mean ruling out entire food groups or foods you love. Consistent quality nutrition while learning to enjoy treats in moderation will set you up for long-term sustainable success. — Victoria Viola, PN Certified Nutrition Coach, NSCA CPT, Co-Founder, Excelerate Wellness, LLC
With this eating style, you’re looking at a lot of menu planning and preparation. A review published in August 2017 in Nutrients suggests the diet could lead to weight loss, but the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns the plan could also cause certain nutrient deficiencies, such as in calcium and vitamin D. (3,4) And, therefore, according to an article published in the January–February 2016 issue of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, anyone at risk for osteoporosis should avoid it. (5)
"In order to increase your resting metabolic rate, it is the consistency of exercise that is crucial and not the intensity or duration. Focus on consistent, quality movement (walk, bike, climb, paddle board, etc.) every day, rather than embracing the weekend warrior mentality." — Timothy Lyman, ACE certified personal trainer and Director of Training Programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh
Very few diet plans outlive temporary fads and trends, and WW is definitely one of them. The diet company formerly known as Weight Watchers has kept up with the times by reinventing and rebranding itself as WW, which stands for “Weight Loss & Wellness.” While the company’s diet approach is still based on the Smart Points food-tracking system, it has recently incorporated meditations, audio workouts, food logging, Zero-Point foods, a redesigned app, and online support for a more holistic approach to dieting.
"It's no big surprise, but my go-to weight loss tip is to eat more vegetables. They are the most low-calorie food you can consume, and they're filled with health-boosting, satiating nutrients. From smoothies and eggs to soups, main and side dishes, they can fit in anywhere and boost volume and nutrition. If you want to eat more while still losing weight, veggies are your answer. —Laura Burak, RD, CDN
While the jury is still out on carbs and saturated fats, one thing is clear: added sugars are no good. They contain what are called “empty calories,” and their overuse has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart problems, and tooth decay. In fact, the USDA says no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugars.
After subscribing and placing your order, you’ll receive your weekly meal plan at home in a recyclable package. And, if you live in certain areas, you could also get your food at one of the company’s 200 local pick-up locations. One curious aspect of these locations is that most of them are located in fitness centers, so you can get your sweat on while picking your food.
Because of its focus on frequent meals, portion control, mindful eating, proper hydration, and exercise, the company claims (and some studies show) you’ll lose between 8 to 13 pounds in the first phase, and an average of 1 to 2 pounds per week. After reading client testimonies posted on the web, we feel these numbers to be fairly accurate of South Beach Diet’s effectiveness.
“There are many diet plans on the market today that promote good health,” says Emily Kyle, RDN, who is in private practice in Rochester, New York. “The key is finding one that does not cause you stress or agony.” Ask yourself questions such as: Would the diet guidelines make you happy? Anxious? Stressed? Are you able to follow them long term? “Factors such as enjoyment, flexibility, and longevity should be strongly considered,” adds Kyle.
“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.
The TLC approach, contained in the 80-page manual “Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC,” recommends less than 7% of daily calories from saturated fat, less than 200mg of cholesterol, 30 minutes of daily exercise, and drug treatment when necessary. However, critics of the low-fat plan point to its shunning of healthy high-fat plants and its ignoring of the fact that it's calories, and not fat, what determines whether or not a person loses weight.
With its pre-packaged meals, portion-controlled menus, and strict caloric restrictions, the Nutrisystem meal delivery plan is ideal for people looking to lose weight fast without having to do any complicated meal planning. The company claims its 28-day program can help you lose up to 13 pounds by eating healthier versions of the foods you already love.
The most basic approach to weight loss is burning more calories than you consume. For instance, since 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat, a weight loss app—or even just a pen and paper—can help you decide how many calories you need to cut from your diet or burn at the gym in order to meet your goals. “If you were to burn 500 more calories per day 7 days a week, that would lead to 3,500 calories in a week and 1 pound of weight loss,” says Gagliardi.
After thoroughly researching the most popular and expert-recommended diet plans, we determined that all the diet plans to be included in our "Best of" list should meet the criteria stated below. However, there is one very important factor that, though essential to a person’s decision on whether or not to begin a diet, we could not review first hand: that factor is taste.
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.
On average, the daily caloric intake on Nutrisystem is 1,500 calories for men and 1,200 for women (low enough to lose weight but high enough to prevent “hangryness”). The daily menus are high in fiber to help you feel full, and are divided as follows: 50% carbs, 25% fat, 25% protein. According to a 2015 study by the American College of Physicians, people on Nutrisystem lose 3.8% more bodyweight than dieters who only receive guidance and counseling. Plus, thousands of positive customer reviews attest to Nutrisystem’s effectiveness, as long as you follow the program faithfully.
"A study by David Jenkins, MD, PhD—the University of Toronto pioneer in low-glycemic eating — demonstrates that eating small portions at frequent intervals is good for your health in a number of remarkable ways. Within the study, they found that people who ate every three hours reduced their blood cholesterol by over 15% and their blood insulin by almost 28%. That's key, because in addition to regulating your blood sugar level, insulin plays a pivotal role in fat metabolism, inflammation and the progression to metabolic syndrome. When your body produces less insulin, you're much less likely to convert dietary calories into body fat.