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.)
If you want to lose weight fast, your best bet is the HMR Program, according to the health experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. While these diets enable quick weight loss for those with a short-term goal – there's a strong chance you'll drop significant weight within the first 12 months – keep in mind that this is markedly different from long-term weight loss, which is more important for your health.
"Don't buy low-fat dairy products. They're usually loaded with sugar. Besides, an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that the more high-fat dairy products a person ate, they lower their risk of diabetes; the more low-fat dairy products, the higher their risk. — Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer and author of Eat This, Not That! for Abs
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.
Ultimately, long-term weight loss requires some short-term behavior change and healthier habit formation. That's why we created our Good Housekeeping Nutritionist Approved Emblem, which exists to help turn smart food choices into healthier eating habits. All GHNA foods and drinks make it easier to find — and eat — good-for-you foods without additional time, effort, and cost. We target the lifestyle-related factors that make healthier eating hard, and find simple but creative solutions that actually work! Look for the emblem on labels wherever you shop for food.
"Alcohol not only contributes extra calories, but often keeps company with juice/tonic, slows metabolism, triggers hunger, and can lead to poor food judgement (drunk people order cheese fries, not salads). 'A glass of wine' (or two) 5x a week definitely adds up. It may behoove you to go cold turkey on booze temporarily and see if it makes a different. Plus, alcohol can be rather bloating." — Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition
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.
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.
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?
Research demonstrates that eating later can actually lead to slower weight loss, while eating a larger meal at breakfast and smaller meals throughout the day can help you lose more weight! And while we’re not going to tell you to restrict yourself to no food after 6 p.m, it’s important to consider what time of day you struggle most with temptation.
"Use a VersaClimber or take a VersaClimber class. These machines are still not that common, but in my opinion they are far more effective for weight loss than other forms of cardio. They require you to use a large portion of your muscles and it's functionally better for you than other forms of cardio like spinning. Everyone is talking about Rise Nation in LA at the moment as they are the first dedicated VersaClimbing studio. There's no harder cardio workout I have tried. To lose fat you have to put in the work. — Dan Roberts, celebrity trainer and creator of Methodology X
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.)
When it comes to the "best" diet for most people, this one consistently ranks at the top of every list. If you can't afford a cruise to the Mediterranean (yet!), at least you can eat like the beautiful, long-living, and famously healthy people from the region. The Mediterranean diet teaches you to eat like a Sardinian, one of the "blue zones" identified by researchers as having a high number of people living past 100—by eating more fish, olive oil, healthy fats, and fresh vegetables. The point is to have not just a longer life but also a healthier and happier one, whether you're trying to lose weight or not. (Really—research shows that you can reap the benefits of the Mediterranean diet without cutting calories.)
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.