For example, when researching the advantages or disadvantages of animal fat, we found two opposing views: one that treats it as a “cure for all” (keto enthusiasts) and another that swears it off completely (vegans). Both claim to hold the truth, but an objective analysis of data does not support either claim completely. This is why, when it comes to researching the different diet plans, all claims made by diet providers should be taken with a grain of salt.
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.
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.
Created in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, this low-carb diet features three phases. The first phase is the most restrictive, limiting carbs such as potatoes and rice. Each subsequent phase becomes more lenient, and the diet emphasizes lean protein, unsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbs such as nonstarchy vegetables. South Beach promotes lasting lifestyle changes, according to the Mayo Clinic. (21)
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.
"Alcohol not only contributes extra calories, but often keeps company with juice/tonic, slows metabolism, triggers hunger, and can lead to poor food judgement (drunk people order cheese fries, not salads). 'A glass of wine' (or two) 5x a week definitely adds up. It may behoove you to go cold turkey on booze temporarily and see if it makes a different. Plus, alcohol can be rather bloating." — Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition
Consequently, researchers have widely discredited the hCG diet, which involves using hCG injections, pellets, sprays, or drops, and consuming as few as 500 calories daily. The diet is problematic not only because there’s a lack of research on hCG supplements, but also because the calorie requirement is dangerously low, potentially leading to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, hormone imbalances, blood clots, and other issues. Thus, most experts agree the hCG diet is not safe for anyone, the Mayo Clinic notes. (35)
The MIND diet, or Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a sort of hybrid between the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. It features foods meant to slow the progression or development of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia and an incurable neurodegenerative condition that more than 5 million Americans are living with, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. (12) Some research backs up this notion, including a study published in September 2016 in Alzheimer’s Dementia that found a link between following the MIND Diet and a reduced risk of the disease. (13)
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.
Processed, packaged foods are often loaded with more salt, sugar, and refined carbs than you’d put in the foods you cook for yourself. When you’re looking to drop weight fast, avoid foods that come in packages and stick to whole, unprocessed foods. Build your plates with non-starchy veggies, unprocessed whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and season with spices, not salt.
"A study published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate foods high in monounsaturated fats for lunch (in this case, half an avocado) reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterward. Monounsaturated fats from sources like olive oil, nuts and avocados can reduce cholesterol, promote weight loss, even boost memory." — David Zinczenko, author of the Zero Belly Cookbook
If you’re only getting a minimal amount of sleep each night, that leaves more time for you to snack and make otherwise unhealthy decisions that could affect your weight loss. Although it will vary from person to person on how much sleep you actually need to be most effective (and therefore make progress toward your weight loss goals), the ideal number is typically 7 or 8 hours, says Dr. Cheskin.
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."
"Eat vegetables before or with meals. Whether you are hungry on your way home or right when you walk in the door, snacking on veggies can help you keep your portions in check once you sit down to a meal. I also recommend starting your dinner with a vegetable salad or vegetable soup to fill you up and prevent overeating. — Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN, author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel?
For years, the Smart Points system has been the backbone of WW’s dieting strategy. It assigns value (points) to foods based on calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. The higher the number, the less you should be eating that specific food. After enrolling in one of WW’s plans, you’ll be given your personalized diet program, with a certain number of Smart Points (called your “budget”) to allocate however you want during the day. Daily points allow for three meals per day, two daily snacks, and a certain amount of free points. If you don't eat all the points, there are rules regarding “rollover” points.
"Eating directly out of a box or bag (almost always leads to overeating. Serve your food on a plate or in a bowl to keep portion sizes in check and to get used to what one serving looks like. Also, when we take the time to sit down during meals versus standing or driving, we tend to feel more satisfied with our meal. In fact, research shows that you will eat up to 30% more food at the next meal if you ate standing up! Serve yourself, sit down, and enjoy!" — Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, food and nutrition expert
"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