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.)
Make sure that the diet has been studied extensively for safety — and discuss any changes with your physician or registered dietitian before beginning a new diet. (If you don’t have a dietitian, find one in your area at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.) And do a self-check to ensure the diet fits with your own values and preferences.
In a nutshell, a “fad” is a diet trend that is most likely temporary, boosted by marketing dollars, and not scientifically-tested for safety and/or effectiveness (and sometimes outright dangerous). Before committing to any diet plan, make sure to do some research regarding your chosen plan’s claims, so you can be certain it is not only nutritionally sound, but also the perfect one for you.
"The best thing you can do for your belly is to give up processed foods. A study in the journal Food & Nutrition Research found that our bodies burn only 50 percent as many calories digesting processed foods as they do real foods. So it's like eating twice as much, even if the calories are the same!" — Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer, CEO and Founder of Body By Mark
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.
"If I had to pick one food for weight loss, I would choose oatmeal. It's a whole grain, high-fiber carbohydrate that sticks to your ribs, so it keeps you full and satisfied. Eating it also leads to a slow rise in blood sugar, which has been shown to keep insulin levels from spiking, leading to less fat storage. The key with oatmeal is how to make it so it's not a calorie bomb. I recommend making it with nonfat milk in place of water, stirring in chopped raw nuts or natural nut butter, and topping with fresh or frozen fruits. If you need some added sweetness, a drizzle of maple syrup should do it. — Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, culinary-nutrition consultant and founder of Nutritioulicious
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?
Weight loss ultimately comes back to the concept of calories in, calories out: Eat less than you burn and you’ll lose weight. And while it’s possible to lose water weight quickly on a low-carb diet, I certainly wouldn’t advocate for it. The diet itself can trick you into thinking that this eating style is working — when really, you might gain back what you lost as soon as you eat carbs again. That can feel incredibly dispiriting if you want results that last longer than a week.
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.”
"When you're anxious, your body feels like it's under a tremendous amount of stress all the time. This is why anxiety is a powerful trigger for weight gain. Two of the most proven cures for anxiety are exercise and spending time in nature. Combine both with an outdoor run or bike ride and race away from the anxiousness. Making this habit part of your lifestyle can help you stay lean for life." — David Zinczenko, author of the Zero Belly Cookbook
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.
Right now, this is the trendiest of all diet theories. It prioritizes the consumption of foods high in protein and fat while limiting the number of carbs per day to less than 20%. This means abstaining from grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits, and filling up on protein and fat. The most famous of all low-carb plans is the Keto Diet, an approach based on the metabolic process of ketosis, which happens when you restrict your carb intake to less than 0.7 grams per day and your body starts using fat, and not carbs, as its main fuel.
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.
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. "You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit," says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. "Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived," he says.
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.
"Don't skip breakfast—it really is the most important meal of the day. Eat breakfast within 90 minutes of waking, and then have something healthy to eat every three to four hours after that. When we skip breakfast or wait too long to eat in the morning, our bodies start to conserve energy and our metabolism slows down. Skipping breakfast also leads to overeating throughout the day." — Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN, author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel?
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.
The number of calories you need to maintain or lose weight depends on a number of factors, including your age, sex, height, and level of physical activity, according to the FDA. To maintain a healthy body weight, the FDA recommends that you balance the number of calories you consume with the number of calories you burn through physical activity and your body’s metabolic processes. As a rule of thumb, the FDA recommends a standard 2,000 calorie diet for the average adult.