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:
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.
When you drink liquid carbs, like the sugar in soda, your body doesn't register them the same way as, say, a piece of bread, according to a review of studies published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. That means, even though you're taking in calories, your fullness cues aren't likely to signal that you're satisfied once you finish off a can. And that can lead to consuming more overall.
"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.
In what is perhaps the biggest buzzkill of all time, sex doesn’t quite count as cardio or burn a significant amount of calories: Women burn about 3.6 per minute. "It’s still a good idea," Dr. Seltzer says, citing the activity’s other benefits, like increasing the output of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which naturally reduce food cravings.
Though not always followed for weight loss per se, an anti-inflammatory diet is rich in whole foods (including fresh fruits and veggies), and low in packaged, processed ones (like french fries and pastries), so there is a chance you will still shed pounds with this approach. But usually, folks follow this diet to help prevent or treat chronic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. And that’s smart, considering there’s a bounty of research to support this notion. Adopting this diet is relatively simple. It isn’t focused on counting calories or carbs, or following any sort of specific protocol. Instead of constantly thinking about the quantity of food you are eating, an anti-inflammatory is all about prioritizing the quality of what is on your plate.
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)
"While losing weight for effective long-term benefits takes time, there are a few quick ways to help shed 10 lbs in a month or so. It requires getting into a routine you know you'll stick with, making small nutritional changes so that you can stick with a plan, and having a bit of patience before you notice changes. It takes 4 weeks for you to see changes in your own body, and sometimes up to 8 weeks for others to notice!" — Nicole Houvig, AFPA Certified Personal Trainer with the Rockay expert team
Take cauliflower gnocchi to the next level with these hearty, plant-based meal-prep bowls. Here we double up our Roasted Butternut Squash & Root Vegetables recipe (see Associated Recipes) and combine it with white beans, pesto and store-bought cauliflower gnocchi to make a week of healthy meal-prep lunches. You'll have leftover roasted veggies, so plan to use them as easy side dishes for dinner throughout the week or incorporate them into another recipe, like Creamy Roasted Vegetable Soup with Chicken or the Piled-High Greek Vegetable Pitas (see Associated Recipes).
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.
If you're not up for crunching numbers every day, you can take a more generalized approach. “For some people, it’s knowing, ‘Typically I eat a whole sandwich,’” says Gagliardi. “Now, I’m going to eat half a sandwich at lunch and save the other half for my dinner and cut my calories in half." To get started, consider these 25 ways to cut 500 calories a day.
We just don't feel full by liquid calories in quite the same way as we do real food. Drinking a juice or caramel coffee drink just isn't as satisfying as eating a bowl of veggie- and protein-packed stir-fry. So monitor your intake of juice, soda, sweetened coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages. If you consume each of those beverages during the day, you'll have taken in at least 800 extra calories by nighttime — and you'll still be hungry. (Incidentally, alcohol may suppress the metabolism of fat, making it tougher for you to burn those calories.)
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.
"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
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.
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 other words? "Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t," Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. "If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this," he says. "Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference."
The idea is that the fasting induces mild stress to the cells in your body, helping them become better at coping with such stress and possibly helping your body grow stronger. The verdict is still out regarding the diet’s long-term effectiveness with weight loss, according to a review of preliminary animal research published in January 2017 in Behavioral Sciences. (17)
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.
Popularized by the documentary Forks Over Knives, the Ornish diet is a low-fat, plant-based diet plan based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. It's based on a lacto-ovo style of vegetarianism, allowing only egg whites and nonfat dairy products. It's packed with vitamins, fiber, and lots of filling plants to keep you satiated. Some studies have shown it can reverse heart disease and have beneficial effects on other chronic health conditions. (BTW, there is a difference between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet.)