Safety: The history of dieting is filled with dangerous and downright life-threatening practices, from the fad of ingesting cotton balls to the infamous tapeworm diet. That's why, when looking for the best diet plan, nutritional balance and reduced caloric intake (usually 1,200 for women and 1,500 for men) are a must. After all, a diet is supposed to make you healthier, not make you sick.
"Stepping on the scale frequently makes you aware of small changes and helps you quickly react to those changes. The National Weight Control Registry, a large group of people who have successfully lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for 5 years, found that successful 'losers' weigh themselves often and make adjustments accordingly. When you begin to understand that sodium, carb intake, hormones and alcohol intake can impact weight and that it isn't possible to gain 2 pounds of fat overnight, you will begin to better understand your body. The key is to pay attention to overall trends; don't obsess over day-to-day numbers! — Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, food and nutrition expert
"Research continues to support the role of a high-protein diet and weight loss, however, we don't want to reach those protein needs exclusively with animal proteins. Plant proteins found in beans not only help us feel full and stabilize blood sugar but beans are associated with longevity. Who cares about being skinny if you die young?" —Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, food and nutrition expert
Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
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.
Spending more time in the kitchen can help you shed belly fat, as long as you’re cooking with the right foods, according to one 2017 study. After analyzing data from more than 11,000 men and women, UK researchers found that people who ate more than five homemade meals per week were 28 percent less likely to have a high body mass index, and 24 percent less likely to carry too much body fat than those whole only downed three meals at home.
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.