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?
#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…
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 program–one 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.
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!