What Is the Best Diet?

What is the Best Diet? Here's the breakdown, according to US News and World Report, who ranked 38 diet plans for effectiveness of weight loss, safety, soundness of nutrition, and more!

Every year, U.S. News and World Report evaluates and ranks the most popular diet plans, and even as someone immersed in the world of health and weight loss, I’m always shocked to discover that a plan I’ve never heard of has landed pretty high on the list (this year’s discovery: the HMR Program).

This year’s list has just emerged, after reviewing 38 popular plans. If you’re curious: A panel of health experts reviews them all and they’re evaluated based on safety, nutrition, effectiveness for weight loss, and the protection it provides against diabetes and heart disease.

So…what is the best diet plan?

Best Overall
#1 DASH Diet
#2 Tie: MIND Diet, TLC Diet
#4 Tie: The Fertility Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Weight Watchers

Best Weight Loss
#1 Weight Watchers
#2 HMR Program
#3 Tie: The Biggest Loser Diet, Jenny Craig, Raw Food Diet

Best for Healthy Eating
#1 DASH Diet
#2 TLC Diet
#3 Tie: Mediterranean Diet, MIND Diet

Easiest to Follow
3-way tie: Fertility Diet, MIND Diet, Weight Watchers

See the rest of the list, including Best for Diabetes, Best Plant-Based, etc…

Best Overall

The DASH diet, or “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension,” was created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health, and it’s primary goal wasn’t weight loss; it was lowering and protecting against high blood pressure (hypertension). Still, since it’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and it limits sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, red meat, and added fats, the people who follow DASH do end up dropping some pounds, too. The experts reviewing DASH for US News and World Report found the diet balanced, nutritionally sound, and heart healthy.  

Best for Weight Loss

Weight Watchers ranked #4 in best overall, but #1 in best diets specifically for weight loss, which is interesting. The pros, according to the experts, were that you can eat what you want (no food is off-limits) and the flexibility to shape your own plan. Con? “Tedious point tallying.”

The second highest ranked for losing weight is the HMR programone I’d never heard of before this year. “Health Management Resources” (HMR) is a company that sells diet programs based on “meal replacements–low-calorie shakes, meals, nutrition bars, and multigrain hot cereal–which are eaten in place of other meals and snacks.” Despite not ranking very highly in healthy eating—it’s #22 on the list of Best Diets for Healthy Eating—because of its lack of balance and some unfavorable ingredients in the shakes, like partially hydrogenated soybean oil, HMR was considered very effective for weight loss.

Whole30 was ranked last in overall diets, and second to last for weight loss. Interesting, right? The experts felt that it excluded too many foods and was very difficult to follow. And no independent research currently exists that proves its effectiveness for weight loss.

The Takeaway

At the start of their review, US News and World Report stated, “Our analysis puts hard numbers on the common-sense belief that no diet is ideal for everybody,” and that’s the only real takeaway here. Almost all weight loss programs work, if you do. How do they work? Mostly by reducing calories. Whether by cutting out carbs, limiting fat, replacing meals with shakes, or assigning point values to foods, it all boils down to lowering your caloric intake.

There are a number of diets on this list that I wouldn’t follow, and some that leave me questioning how anyone could, but my preferences have nothing to do with someone else’s. All of these diets work for someone, whether short-term or long-term, and I understand that at certain points in our lives, we’re looking for different things. The key to choosing a diet, or lifestyle, is knowing yourself. The best diet fits into your life without constant struggle; it doesn’t wake you up every morning wondering, How many more days do I have to do this?…and it doesn’t sacrifice your happiness for your health.  
What are your thoughts on the rankings? Have you tried any of these diets? Let me know!

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16 thoughts on “What Is the Best Diet?

  1. the gold digger

    After living in Chile for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, where I worked with indigenous women to whom thinness was a sign of illness, I think the best diet for me would be to move to South America.

    Reply
  2. Kitty

    I follow Weight Watchers, currently at goal weight (having gotten to goal years ago on their exchange program, then after marriage and motherhood went back and lost 62 pounds). I liked the Points Plus plan (the plan for the last 5 years) and got back to goal on it. But, I absolutely love the new Beyond the Scale Plan, using SmartPoints that can into effect in December. What I like about it is that while there are no forbidden foods, the formula to determine the points in a food isn’t neutral either. Yes, calories matter a lot to how many points are in a food. But, calories aren’t the whole thing. Sugar and saturated fat up the SmartPoints value while lean protein decreases it. The result is that food that was all sugar and sat. fat could be 10 SmartPoints while a food that was high in protein (but same calories) could be 1 SmartPoint. A food that didn’t have any of that and was the same calories would be about 5 SmartPoints. The result is that while I can get food that is high in sugar and sat. fat, I may think twice when I see how much it would “cost” me in SmartPoints. I love how this program combines together flexibility in having no forbidden foods, but encourages a healthier eating style.

    Of course, this program isn’t for everyone (no program is), but I think it is the best WW has had.

    Reply
  3. Jennifer L

    Great post!! I really appreciate your sentiments and reality in your final paragraph. So excited to check out the skinny taste and feel excited for you for your engagement to Daniel! Congratulations to the moon and back again.

    Reply
  4. Brandi

    So interesting! Many of these I had never heard of. What I have heard of, and have felt comfortable following since May of last year, is Whole30. I was so surprised to read how low they fell in the list! My favorite aspect of it is that it has really become a lifestyle for me. Not a diet to follow. I just simply feel better and that’s slowly but surely becoming more important to me than satisfying a craving. I’ve battled emotional eating for a very long time and Whole30 has actually helped me face the reasons vs being a diet. I so appreciate that everyone is different and has their own successes, and this is mine :) down 40+ pounds too and counting! Or not counting if I’m on a round of serious whole30 lol ;) thanks for sharing this info and congratulations on your beautiful engagement!!!

    Reply
  5. Darcy

    The Whole30 isn’t a ‘diet’ so it’s not surprising that it ranks super low… it’s 30 days of elimination of inflammatory foods that you then reintroduce after 30 days to see how they react with your particular body. It’s not meant to be extremely restrictive for longer than 30 days. It’s also not marketed or touted as a weightloss diet… sure, people lose weight on it because for a lot of people they come from a Standard American Diet of processed food and soda, so removing those will more often than not, result in weight loss but it’s not a ‘diet’ for weightloss.

    Reply
  6. Rainy

    After trying them all almost, I believe Weight Watchers is one of the easiest to follow and probably the most healthiest. Unfortunately I’m 51 and have gone up and down and up, up, up after many fails and now have caused myself some real health problems. Everyone needs to find what works for them. I still haven’t found what is right for me, but I did finish your book yesterday and I think I’ll read it again because you hit home on so many things for me. Now that I have to watch my sodium it is a whole new challenge.

    Reply
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  8. Tim Wright

    I have always had the best results with well balanced diets that keep my blood sugar and insulin levels low and even. Typically they all incorporate adequate protein, complex (unprocessed) carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

    Thanks Andie for this forum that keeps us talking and thinking about our number on resource – health!

    Reply
  9. Alex

    Great review! It’s not very often that you can see all the options in one place like this. I’ve found that I’ve been most successful formulating a plan to keep up with calorie intake and record it with apps like My fitness pal. It’s also a great place to look up very specific foods for nutritional facts. This coupled with starting to run and cycle has really made a difference for me.

    Reply
  10. Charlie

    It’s difficult to stick to any of these diets when we live such busy lives. Dining-out is an integral part of our day-to-day lives, whether fast-food or sit-down restaurants, and that’s where we tend to sabatoge ourselves. We may eat a healthy breakfast at home, but then we go out for lunch with co-workers, or grab something quickly on the way home from a drive-thru and blow our diet. To be successful, you have to plan ahead and arm yourself with the knowledge of which dine-out foods have the lowest calories, carbs, fats, etc. Since I’ve been studying this topic, it’s quite amazing to discover that the sandwiches or entrees that appear to be low-cal or low-carb are often really quite bad for you.

    Reply
  11. Jessica (The Failed Dieter)

    We follow The Dash Diet on The Failed Dieter, but it’s less of a diet and more of a healthy lifestyle. It is a wonderful way to lose weight the healthy and happy way! A lot of my friends have had success with Weight Watchers as well. You have a great blog!

    Reply
  12. Jordan

    I was unfamiliar with some of these diets and found this post really informative. I enjoy learning about the different diet fads and how each one of them work. It was also interesting seeing the different rankings each one of these diets had in different subjects. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  13. William Madison

    Hi Andie! Good post! There are no magic foods. Some foods may help you suppress your appetite a little. Some other foods may slightly increase your metabolic rate. Unfortunately, the effect is miniscule. The only way to really lose fat is to consume fewer calories than you burn. This way your body will tap into the fat stores to get the energy it needs.

    Reply
  14. Mary Wilson

    Hello Andie, I love to read about the new way of weightloss diet plans, I am searching it and finally i found the satisfactory result from your blog, and i am happy for that. Thanks for it. :)

    Reply
  15. Patricia Lynn

    The Paleo Diet offers delicious recipes, entrees, side dishes, deserts, and snacks that satisfy your hunger and make weight loss a breeze. look and feel your best with the right diet and fitness program

    Reply

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