The Dietary Guidelines is a joint report created by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). It’s designed with the purpose of setting a general basis for what constitutes a healthy diet. The most recent Guideline was published in 2015 and will be updated in 2020. They include five key recommendations:
Contrary to other low-carb approaches, the South Beach Diet makes a clear distinction between “good” and “bad” fats (avocado oil is good, butter is bad), and only prohibits the consumption of certain, but not all, carbs. This means that, while the South Beach Diet has certain similarities with the keto approach, is not strictly ketogenic, but rather keto-friendly.
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.
Everyone’s body is different when it comes to digesting some gas-forming foods, but there are a few you should be wary of: It’s best to avoid beans and cruciferous veggies (think cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli) for a couple of days if you want to look slimmer. Choose lean proteins like chicken and fish or, if you’re vegetarian, go for small amounts of nuts and seeds for protein. Pair with non-gassy vegetables like asparagus, spinach, and cucumber to help prevent bloat.
This may explain why the fat-burning effects of eating more protein were confirmed in a study published in the American Journal of Physiology. One group was fed a high-protein diet (just over 1 gram per pound of body weight per day) while the second group consumed an amount closer to the lower recommendation of the RDA (recommended dietary allowance). The group eating the higher-protein diet burned the most fat.
In practice, this means salt is substituted with herbs and spices. There are two models: the Standard Model, which recommends less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, and the Low Sodium Model, which recommends less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Studies suggest DASH is also good for preventing osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
And then there are WW’s “freebies.” The company recently incorporated the Zero-Point Foods concept to its dietary approach, a list of over 200 foods that do not have to be “tracked” or counted because they’re unlikely to be overeaten. (For example, one is more likely to binge on French fries than on chicken breasts). Examples of Zero-Point foods include skinless turkey breast, fish, shellfish, beans, tofu, lentils, corn, peas, fruits, vegetables, and non-fat unsweetened yogurt.
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.”
Protein is also important for preserving muscle mass as you lose weight. If you cut back dramatically on calories and drop weight too fast, your muscles can suffer. Your body starts pulling from lean tissue like muscles and organs to fuel itself, and your metabolism slows to conserve energy. That’s why super restrictive diets that have you dropping weight fast aren’t healthy over the long run.
"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
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.
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.”
Okay, you get the point: belly fat = bad. How do you lose it? You have to think beyond crunches and planks and adopt a well-rounded approach. “It’s got to be more losing fat as a whole,” agrees Chris Gagliardi, a certified personal trainer at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Without further ado, here are the best ways to lose belly fat once and for all.
"Even though a smart diet is key, exercise can help boost your body's metabolism to shed fat. Through health care providers often recommend brisk walking or jogging, these exercises may not help you see the results you want. Instead, try interval training," shares Dr. Sean M. Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS Owner and PT, Naples Personal Training, LLC
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.
It's a one-time investment you'll never regret. Here's why: Strength training builds lean muscle tissue, which burns more calories — at work or at rest — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The more lean muscle you have, the faster you'll slim down. How do you start strength training? Try some push-ups or a few squats or lunges. Use your free weights to perform simple bicep curls or tricep pulls right in your home or office. Do these exercises three to four times per week, and you'll soon see a rapid improvement.
"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
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)
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)
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.
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.
"There are many foods that aid weight loss, but one that I often recommend to my clients and eat myself is grapefruit. Researchers at Scripps Clinic in San Diego found that when obese people ate half a grapefruit before each meal, they dropped an average of 3.5 pounds over 12 weeks. Apparently, the tangy fruit can lower insulin, a fat-storage hormone, and that can lead to weight loss. Plus, since it's at least 90% water, it can fill you up so you eat less. However, if you are on certain medications you should not have grapefruit or grapefruit juice, so check the label on all your prescriptions, or ask your pharmacist or doctor." — Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, author of Eat Right When Time is Tight.
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)
Avoiding salt doesn’t mean your food has to be bland. Experiment with using different herbs and spices. Try adding fresh cilantro and cumin to grilled fish, lemon and rosemary to chicken, or ginger and Chinese five spice to tempeh or beef. Pick up some spice blends from your local market to help add more spice to your life… just read the ingredients and make sure there’s no salt added. It’s hard to ditch salt, but these weight-loss motivation mantras will help you through the salt-less desert and into weight loss.
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.
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?