We’ve all seen ads with weight loss claims that are seemingly too good to be true. “Lose 20 pounds in three weeks!” or “Lose 5 pounds by the weekend.” There are hundreds, if not thousands, of diets out there. And U.S. News & World evaluated 38 of the most popular diets.
We know you don’t have to go on a diet to lose weight. But if it’s the right route for you, these are the diets you’ll want to try, according to experts. Keep reading to find out the top diets, which diet plan you should follow to lose weight most quickly and keep it off (page 6), and the pros and cons of the top diet (page 10).
How each diet is scored
Diets are ranked on a scale of 1-5 in four categories: weight loss (short term), weight loss (long term), ease, and healthiness. A panel of experts in varying fields scored each diet.
Next: The diets, ranked
5. Flexitarian diet
Did you know vegetarians weigh roughly 15% less than their meat-eating counterparts? The Flexitarian Diet, which took fifth, aims to take advantage of this fact, offering meals that don’t require complete elimination of meat. Most meals do, offering a variety of inexpensive but tasty vegetarian options.
This diet focuses on adding vegetables, whole grains, and fruits to your diet, while reducing the fatty meats you eat, and general calorie consumption.
Next: How much are you willing to cut?
4. Vegan diet
Tied for third, the vegan diet is all about removing everything animal-based. It does eliminate more fats than the flexitarian diet, but most people who go vegan do it for animal rights purposes. The vegan diet will see you increasing your intake of healthy fats and grains, as well as veggies and fruit. Proteins will come from a variety of sources, especially legumes and nuts.
Like flexitarians, vegans on average weigh less and have a healthier BMI than their carnivorous fellows. That being said, going vegan can be a little more expensive than flexitarianism, and it requires a lot of careful planning.
Next: This diet is all about control
3. Jenny Craig
Ties with the vegan diet, the Jenny Craig diet claims you can drop up to 2 pounds a week with its system. Jenny Craig’s prepacked meals help reduce calorie intake and control portion size, while also reinforcing positive behavior and exercise. You’ll receive meals and exercise plans, as well as contact with a consultant to help you along the diet process.
Next: This flexible diet took second place.
2. Volumetrics diet
While called a diet, volumetrics is more like an overhaul to how you approach eating. The main idea behind volumetrics is energy. Some food is calorically dense, which means it provides more fuel for the same portion than other foods. Volumetrics aims to replace these dense foods with lower calorie choices that will leave you full but result in burning off more weight and calories. This diet will see you eating more nonstarchy fruits and vegetables, as well as grains and cereals.
Next: This diet took the top spot.
1. Weight Watchers
U.S. News ranked Weight Watchers No. 1 in the weight-loss category. The diet’s scorecard is as follows: 4.3/5 in weight loss (short term), 3.7/5 in weight loss (long term), 3.7/5 in ease, 4.4/5 in health. The Weight Watchers diet also came in second place in the Best Fast Weight-loss category and tied for first place in the Easy to Follow category.
According to U.S. News, experts said, “You’ll get enough to eat, you don’t have to eliminate any favorites and there’s a strong emphasis on emotional support, which tends to lead to higher compliance.”
Next: How does the Weight Watchers diet work?
How the diet works
Weight Watchers launched its Beyond the Scale program in 2015, which is designed to get participants to move more, eat healthier, and change their mindset. SmartPoints are assigned to every food and drink. Participants are encouraged to choose nutrient-dense foods because they’re worth fewer points. Support from other members is a major component of the plan. Members can talk on the phone, attend meetings, and chat online with one another.
Next: You have some control over the price.
How much does it cost?
Participants can choose from four categories: OnlinePlus, Meetings, Coaching, and Total Access. OnlinePlus costs $19.95/month and includes chat services and tools. Meetings, the middle of the road category, costs $44.95/month and includes unlimited in-person meetings and access to OnlinePlus tools. Coaching costs $54.95/month and includes one-on-one time with a coach and access to OnlinePlus tools. Total Access costs $69.95/month and includes coaching, OnlinePlus tools, and meetings.
Food isn’t included in any plan, and prices fluctuate throughout the year.
Next: What you can do right now
What you can do right now
Weight Watchers’ unwritten golden rule is “everything in moderation.” The program is all about balance and making smart choices. If you have a cupcake at your grandson’s birthday party, it’s not the end of the world. Make healthy choices the rest of the day and move on. For a more direct approach, buy a Weight Watchers cookbook.
Next: The pros and cons of Weight Watchers
The pros and cons of Weight Watchers
U.S. News compiled a list of pros and cons to Weight Watchers’ programs.
- Eat what you want
- Nothing is off limits
- Create your own diet within their guidelines
- Deemed worth depending on the program chosen
Next: What does the research say?
What research says
The journal Obesity conducted a study in 2013 and found those who participated in Weight Watchers longer were more likely to lose weight than with a weight loss clinic. The expert panel gathered by U.S. News said Weight Watchers “promotes healthy, balanced eating,” and is “in line with the government’s recommendations for fat, protein and carb consumption.”
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Additional reporting by John Wolfe.