U.S. News evaluated and ranked the 41 diets below with input from a panel of health experts. To be top-rated, a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease. The Mediterranean diet took the top spot, while the government-endorsed DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, came in second.
All bodies are not created equal, and this is why there is no one “magical” diet solution for all. What’s more, even when two people with similar body compositions try the same diet plan, the difference in results can be overwhelming. “Bodies react differently depending on their genetic makeup and metabolism rates,” said Barcelona-based and Certified Nutritionist Carla de la Torre, and added, “this is why, for example, some people can get abs on a bread and cookies diet, while others cannot get the desired 'six pack' even after undergoing rigorous eating and exercise regimes.”
"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
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.
"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
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.”
The researchers explain that people who cook their own meals may simply have other good-for-you habits, like exercising more. However, they also concluded that home cooks ate more fruits and vegetables (along with a wider variety of foods), have healthier methods of prepping their food, and splurge less on foods high in calories and sugar. Consider any of the healthy eating books below to get started.
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.
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 fad military diet consists of low-calorie, odd food pairings such as bun-less hot dogs with banana, carrots, and broccoli. “Any diet like the military diet that severely limits the amount of calories you consume or eliminates one or more entire food groups puts any individual at risk for nutrient deficiencies,” says Kyle. “This can be more harmful than holding onto those 10 extra lb you’re trying to lose.” (32)
"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)
Consequently, researchers have widely discredited the hCG diet, which involves using hCG injections, pellets, sprays, or drops, and consuming as few as 500 calories daily. The diet is problematic not only because there’s a lack of research on hCG supplements, but also because the calorie requirement is dangerously low, potentially leading to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, hormone imbalances, blood clots, and other issues. Thus, most experts agree the hCG diet is not safe for anyone, the Mayo Clinic notes. (35)
On average, the daily caloric intake on Nutrisystem is 1,500 calories for men and 1,200 for women (low enough to lose weight but high enough to prevent “hangryness”). The daily menus are high in fiber to help you feel full, and are divided as follows: 50% carbs, 25% fat, 25% protein. According to a 2015 study by the American College of Physicians, people on Nutrisystem lose 3.8% more bodyweight than dieters who only receive guidance and counseling. Plus, thousands of positive customer reviews attest to Nutrisystem’s effectiveness, as long as you follow the program faithfully.
With its pre-packaged meals, portion-controlled menus, and strict caloric restrictions, the Nutrisystem meal delivery plan is ideal for people looking to lose weight fast without having to do any complicated meal planning. The company claims its 28-day program can help you lose up to 13 pounds by eating healthier versions of the foods you already love.
Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Why? Ever notice how you start to crave donuts and drive-thru breakfasts when you’re exhausted? When you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones are thrown out of balance. Running on no sleep can actually drive up the hormones that make you want to eat, while pushing down the hormones that signal for fullness—and that’s a recipe for weight gain. When you’re well-rested, it’s much easier to make healthy decisions and stay on track.
"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
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.
Potassium, magnesium, and calcium can help to serve as a counter-balance for sodium. Foods that are rich in potassium include leafy greens, most "orange" foods (oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, melon), bananas, tomatoes, and cruciferous veggies — especially cauliflower. Low-fat dairy, plus nuts, and seeds can also help give you a bloat-busting boost. They've also been linked to a whole host of additional health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, and reducing risk of chronic disease overall.
Once you subscribe and place your order, each week you’ll receive fully prepared breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, (and also snacks or protein shakes, depending on the plan you choose). The items will come in a box that keeps food frozen for 6 to 8 hours, and each food packet is individually labeled and complete with its nutritional information. Also, all the 4-week plans allow for free shipping.
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)
With this eating style, you’re looking at a lot of menu planning and preparation. A review published in August 2017 in Nutrients suggests the diet could lead to weight loss, but the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns the plan could also cause certain nutrient deficiencies, such as in calcium and vitamin D. (3,4) And, therefore, according to an article published in the January–February 2016 issue of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, anyone at risk for osteoporosis should avoid it. (5)