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.
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.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
"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
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.)
This approach is very user-friendly, mainly because it does not prohibit any foods and, as long as you keep your daily caloric intake below your individual threshold, you’ll lose weight. Noom claims 84% of its customers completed the plan, most of them losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. After reading hundreds of customer reviews, we believe this claim to be pretty accurate.
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.
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?
Based on the concept of caloric density, which states that some foods have few calories in proportion to their size (say, a lettuce), while others have lots of calories packed in small portions (a regular chocolate chip cookie comes to mind), Volumetrics divides foods into 4 categories based on their calorie/volume ratio, and is perfect for people looking to binge on some foods while still shedding pounds. However, as with the calorie counting approach, Volumetrics does not take into account the quality of the calories, prioritizing quantity instead. The app Noom and Weight Watchers (both reviewed above) share similarities with this diet theory.
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.
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.
A relatively new offering, the Nutritarian diet is based on maximizing the amount of healthy vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients in your food, balancing your hormones, and avoiding toxins. The plan—created by Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of The End of Dieting—is nutrient-dense, plant-rich, and includes anti-cancer superfoods to help you not just lose weight but live a long, disease-free life. (P.S. Follow these guidelines to make sure you're absorbing all the nutrients from your food.)
The plan promotes long-lasting, sustainable changes, and undoubtedly a bounty of research backs this up. In fact, one December 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine shows that people following Weight Watchers were close to nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their body weight, compared to people following a self-help diet plan. (20)
It seems counterintuitive to drink lots of water when you’re looking to lose weight fast—especially water weight—but staying hydrated is one of the most important steps you can take to lose weight. People often mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated allows you to be more in touch with the times when you are actually hungry, rather than just thirsty. Plus, a lot of good things happen to your body when you drink enough fluids.
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting — ranging from fasting for a number of hours each day up to an entire 24-hour fasting period one or two times a week. “If you're trying to kick a habit like eating late into the night, then stopping eating earlier in the evening and fasting overnight could be beneficial for you,” says Hultin. “There are many types of intermittent fasting, so ensuring you pick one that works for you and your lifestyle is important.”
"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.