Because the diet isn’t as restrictive as a traditional vegan or vegetarian diet, it may be simpler to stick with — hence its No. 2 ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s Easiest Diets to Follow category. Because you’ll be eating meat some of the time, you may also be at a lower risk of the aforementioned nutrient deficiencies that vegetarians and vegans may face.
The easier it is to seamlessly fit a diet plan into your life without major lifestyle changes, the better. After all, by focusing on holistic long-term results rather than trendy short-term solutions, sustainability becomes the number one enemy of the feared “yo-yo” effect. During our investigative process, we asked ourselves: What makes a diet plan sustainable? After long hours of research, we decided that the following factors can determine a plan’s sustainability, and thus its odds of success:
“Don't like eating meat?” asks Ginger Hultin, RDN, a dietitian in private practice in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Then don't be paleo! Travel a lot and rely on eating out? The DASH diet may end in frustration for you.” The bottom line: The diet you choose needs to be safe and effective, while taking into account your lifestyle.
"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
While 1,200 may be the right number for some people, it can be super restrictive for others, says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. That’s why we’re using 1,200 as our base, and encourage you to build upon these meal and snack ideas by doubling (or tripling, quadrupling …you get the point!) up on veggies at any opportunity — and adding more fruit at snack time, too. You can also add 1-5 ounces of protein at all meals if at any point you’re feeling like it’s just not enough food to keep you satisfied. The combo of fiber from produce and lean protein makes this an adaptable strategy that’ll help you lose weight safely — one meal (and snack) at a time!
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.
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)
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.
When you drink liquid carbs, like the sugar in soda, your body doesn't register them the same way as, say, a piece of bread, according to a review of studies published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. That means, even though you're taking in calories, your fullness cues aren't likely to signal that you're satisfied once you finish off a can. And that can lead to consuming more overall.
Ansari says alcohol can prevent weight-loss in several ways, including the fact that heavy alcohol intake can stimulate food intake. "Binge drinking can overload the liver. The liver then prioritizes processing alcohol over other nutrients and then stores the protein, carbs, and fat as fat in the body," Ansari explains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as having five or more drinks for men, and four or more drinks for women in two hours. "Also, alcoholic beverages are often mixed with sugar-rich beverages. Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can cause calories to add up quickly."
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.
"To lose weight you should primarily eat whole foods, but don't eliminate your favorites. Consistently eating nutrient-dense food on a day-to-day basis will improve the chances of upregulating metabolism and of eliminating nutritional deficiencies. That may mean tracking what you eat in some way at first, but it doesn't mean ruling out entire food groups or foods you love. Consistent quality nutrition while learning to enjoy treats in moderation will set you up for long-term sustainable success. — Victoria Viola, PN Certified Nutrition Coach, NSCA CPT, Co-Founder, Excelerate Wellness, LLC
Christy is a spokesperson, nutrition and food writer and blogger for Huffington Post and others, a recipe developer and YouTube video producer. She is regularly interviewed by CTV National News, CBC, The Globe and Mail and many more on nutrition and health. She has her finger on the pulse of the latest nutrition and food science and trends, and synthesizes and prioritizes it just for you.
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.”
"If I had to pick one food for weight loss, I would choose oatmeal. It's a whole grain, high-fiber carbohydrate that sticks to your ribs, so it keeps you full and satisfied. Eating it also leads to a slow rise in blood sugar, which has been shown to keep insulin levels from spiking, leading to less fat storage. The key with oatmeal is how to make it so it's not a calorie bomb. I recommend making it with nonfat milk in place of water, stirring in chopped raw nuts or natural nut butter, and topping with fresh or frozen fruits. If you need some added sweetness, a drizzle of maple syrup should do it. — Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, culinary-nutrition consultant and founder of Nutritioulicious
The researchers hypothesize that participants who abstained from animal products dropped significantly more pounds since plant-based foods include loads of filling fiber and slow-to-digest complex carbs. Though more research is needed to confirm these results, the study authors write, "Vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarian diets."
It seems counterintuitive to drink lots of water when you’re looking to lose weight fast—especially water weight—but staying hydrated is one of the most important steps you can take to lose weight. People often mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated allows you to be more in touch with the times when you are actually hungry, rather than just thirsty. Plus, a lot of good things happen to your body when you drink enough fluids.
"Nuts are a superior weight loss food in my book. They offer plenty of protein, healthy fat, and fiber that can really take the edge off hunger at any meal or snack. Nuts are also so versatile and convenient. They can be mixed into overnight oatmeal or yogurt at breakfast, paired with fruit as a snack, or tossed into a hearty salad for a little satisfying crunch at lunch. — Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California
In other words? "Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t," Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. "If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this," he says. "Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference."
A 2015 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that for those who have a hard time following a strict diet, simplifying the weight loss approach by just increasing fiber intake can still lead to weight loss. Women should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day (based on a 2,000-calorie) diet, according to the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Start with our high-fiber diet plan.