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.)


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)

After a free diet analysis based on your Body Mass Index and submitting your ideal weight, Nutrisystem will recommend a plan to help you reach your goal. This plan is designed by nutritionists and allows for six meals a day (4 of them delivered by Nutrisystem and 2 to be prepared by you, following Nutrisystem’s guidance and recipes). This way you won’t be hungry for long, making it easier to stick to the diet plan until its completion.


"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
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.
Created in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, this low-carb diet features three phases. The first phase is the most restrictive, limiting carbs such as potatoes and rice. Each subsequent phase becomes more lenient, and the diet emphasizes lean protein, unsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbs such as nonstarchy vegetables. South Beach promotes lasting lifestyle changes, according to the Mayo Clinic. (21)

We're taking advantage of all the healthy items you can find at Trader Joe's to create these healthy meal-prep lunches. To add extra protein (while minimizing prep time), we're using Trader Joe's fully cooked quinoa and cooked shrimp, both of which you can find in the freezer section. With a few more simple items, including bottled salad dressing, you'll have all the ingredients you need to make these high protein lunch bowls in under 20 minutes.
The "all meat all the time" low-carb approach or strict veganism can be great options for people who thrive on clear diet rules (and those two are actually the most popular diets out there) but these extremes are not for everyone. If you prefer more of a moderate approach, the Flexitarian diet is the clear winner. The "flexible vegetarian" mindset allows you a healthy balance of plant-based foods, responsibly sourced meats, and quality fats. The best part? It's not super restrictive, so you have plenty of nutritious food options. (Start here: How to Adopt a Flexitarian Diet)

"The best thing you can do for your belly is to give up processed foods. A study in the journal Food & Nutrition Research found that our bodies burn only 50 percent as many calories digesting processed foods as they do real foods. So it's like eating twice as much, even if the calories are the same!" — Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer, CEO and Founder of Body By Mark 

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.
Going long periods of time without food does double-duty harm on our healthy eating efforts by both slowing down your metabolism, and priming you for another binge later in the day. (Think: You've skipped breakfast and lunch, so you're ready to takedown a whole turkey by dinner!) Make it your mission to eat three meals and two snacks every day, and don't wait longer than three to four hours without eating. Set a "snack alarm" on your phone if needed.
This approach is very user-friendly, mainly because it does not prohibit any foods and, as long as you keep your daily caloric intake below your individual threshold, you’ll lose weight. Noom claims 84% of its customers completed the plan, most of them losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. After reading hundreds of customer reviews, we believe this claim to be pretty accurate.

Getting enough protein every day, whether you’re in a quick-fix or long-term mindset is important for keeping your muscles and metabolism healthy throughout weight loss. Make sure you’re having some chicken breast, lean ground turkey, fish, seafood or tempeh that’s the size of a deck of cards at every meal. When snacking, have 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of nuts, or 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to meet your protein needs and stay full and feel slim.
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.)
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.
Face it, if you want to lose weight over the long haul, your best bet is to make sustainable, long-term lifestyle changes.But sometimes life comes at you fast and you need a fast solution. One smart lifestyle change is to eat plenty of veggies—especially for someone looking to lose weight. Vegetables are nutrient-packed and provide plenty of filling fiber with hardly any calories. Plus, non-starchy veggies have a high water content, so they hydrate you while filling you up—the perfect combination for weight loss. Shedding those pounds means shedding old habits, check out the nine simple changes this woman made to lose 45 pounds and keep them off.
The number of calories you need to maintain or lose weight depends on a number of factors, including your age, sex, height, and level of physical activity, according to the FDA. To maintain a healthy body weight, the FDA recommends that you balance the number of calories you consume with the number of calories you burn through physical activity and your body’s metabolic processes. As a rule of thumb, the FDA recommends a standard 2,000 calorie diet for the average adult.
Each one of us has a different preference for food. Some like chocolate, some like french fries and so on. But the desire to have junk is common to all of us. What’s your preference for junk food? Is it chocolate? Is it sweets? Find your poison and make sure you don’t have easy access to it. Don’t stuff your fridge with junk food. ‘Watch what you eat and don’t binge!’, says Neha Dhupia.

There’s a reason everyone harps on about protein: Not only does it help keep you full, but it’s also responsible for repairing the tiny tears caused by strength training in your muscles. This helps them grow bigger and stronger, nudging out body fat in the process. As a general rule of thumb, aim to get at least 70 grams of protein throughout the day, says Dr. Cheskin.

Going long periods of time without food does double-duty harm on our healthy eating efforts by both slowing down your metabolism, and priming you for another binge later in the day. (Think: You've skipped breakfast and lunch, so you're ready to takedown a whole turkey by dinner!) Make it your mission to eat three meals and two snacks every day, and don't wait longer than three to four hours without eating. Set a "snack alarm" on your phone if needed.


At any given time, there are dozens of weight-loss hypes in the marketplace that claim to take off 10 pounds in 10 days, or whatever. Desperation can tempt us to try anything — from "clean eating" to cutting out food groups entirely. Keep in mind: Just because an avocado-kale-salad dripping in coconut oil is deemed "clean" by a so-called "expert" on your Instagram feed does not make it an unlimited food. Moral of the story? Avoid fads, eat real food, watch some Netflix, and unwind (perhaps with a glass of wine in hand). Now that's my kind of detox.
"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.
Another healthy change that will help you look better is to cut back on salt. Sodium causes your body to hold onto excess water, so eating a high-salt diet means you’re likely storing more water weight than necessary. If you’re in a rush to lose weight fast, cut out added salt as much as possible. That means keep ditching the salt shaker and avoiding processed and packaged foods, where added salt is pretty much inevitable.

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.)
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