These days, fad diets pop up about as often as The Rock posts on Instagram: Though the former is not nearly as epic as the latter, both are hilariously frequent.
But here’s a pro tip: Constantly switching between new crash diets might just leave you feeling sick and frustrated. Eating is a habit like any other, so pick a nutrition plan for the right reason—namely, because it’s been backed by research and proven to work safely—and stick with it.
Fortunately, you don’t have to troll the Internet to find a personal plan that fits into your lifestyle and works for your goals. (Though we do recommend following Dwayne Johnson on Instagram. He’s cool.)
In a new analysis, U.S. News & World Report evaluated 38 of the most popular diets and singled out the most notable. Below, we’ve highlighted the top three in each category, as well as their aims, pros, and cons. Read through the list if your New Year’s resolution was to get your waistline (and health) in order, and check out the original report for the full rundown of the categories and top-ranking diets.
BEST FAST WEIGHT-LOSS DIETS
1. Weight Watchers Diet (tied for first with HMR)
The goal: Lose 2 pounds a week.
Pros: The meal plan’s flexible, you have access to a support group, and there aren’t hard limits on what you can and can’t eat. You’ll simply opt for the most nutritionally dense foods that keep you fuller longer. (i.e. your meals will be lower in calories, saturated fat, and sugar, and higher in protein.)
Cons: It can get a bit pricey, and tallying your meal points is a drag.
2. Health Management Resources (HMR)
The goal: Drop 1 to 2 pounds per week for an average of 23 pounds over the first 12 weeks; keeping the weight off is a main priority.
Pros: The crux of this diet is meal replacement, which is said to help people cut 3x as much weight compared to traditional diets. You’ll have low-calorie shakes, meals, nutrition bars, multigrain hot cereal, and fruits and vegetables in place of other meals and snacks. You’ll also receive food for the first 3 weeks to drop weight as quickly as possible; then, you’ll transition to the second phase where the diet is less structured and you’ll receive food monthly, as well as weekly telephone coaching sessions.
Cons: The first phase can be difficult to adhere to. It’s a tad expensive, especially if you’re not used to buying fruits and vegetables in bulk. The initial 3-week HMR starter kit costs $271 and the 2-week reorder kit costs $185.
3. Bigger Loser Diet
The goal: Lose weight and prevent or reverse disease.
Pros: The 6-week program can get you in the habit of eating regular meals loaded with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. You’ll focus portion control, food journaling, and instructed to work out to complement the diet.
Cons: Calorie restriction can be difficult to stick to in the long term. Don’t assume you’ll have as extreme a makeover as the TV contestants did; they had step-by-step guidance from experts… and a camera watching their every move (and bite).
BEST WEIGHT-LOSS DIETS
1. Weight Watchers Diet (tied for first with Volumetrics)
2. Volumetrics Diet
The goal: Drop 1-2 pounds per week.
Pros: Created by a Penn State University nutrition professor, Volumetrics is more of an approach to healthy eating than a regimented diet. You’ll learn to identify and prioritize low-density foods, which are low in calories but high in volume (think: carrots) to help you stay full. It’s also affordable, since you’re not purchasing a book, program, or special ingredients. You won’t feel hungry or starved either.
Cons: This might be easier to stray from because you have more freedom.
3. Jenny Craig Diet
The goal: Cut 2 pounds a week with the intention of keeping it all off.
Pros: The properly portioned pre-packaged meals take away the guesswork. They’re personalized to you, as is the exercise plan. You’ll also receive a personal consultant to help you stay motivated to meet your goals.
Cons: You’re dropping some cash on this plan: $99 to enroll, at least $20 a month for the “Jenny All Access” program, and $15-$23 per day on food.
BEST COMMERCIAL DIET PLANS
1. Weight Watchers Diet (tied for first with Mayo Clinic)
2. Mayo Clinic Diet
The goal: Incinerate 6 to 10 pounds in 2 weeks, then lose 1 to 2 pounds weekly until you hit your goal weight.
Pros: To adjust your eating habits, you’ll follow Mayo Clinic’s food pyramid and the Mayo Clinic Diet book, which clearly writes out what bad food habits to break and what to replace them with. You won’t count calories or eliminate food groups; plus, you can snack all you want on fruits and vegetables.
Cons: Many dieters find the “Lose it!” phase difficult, because it’s restrictive; but it only lasts 2 weeks.
3. Jenny Craig Diet
BEST DIETS FOR HEALTHY EATING + BEST DIETS OVERALL (top 3 are tied)
The goal: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan does what its name suggests: helps lower high blood pressure and encourages weight loss.
Pros: It’s straightforward. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy; eat less red meat, salt, and high calorie/sugar sweets. Plus, The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers free guides.
Cons: You might not lose as much weight as you would on other plans because it’s more catered to improving your health (not necessarily a bad thing).
The goal: Melt fat and avoid chronic diseases, like cancer and diabetes.
Pros: You can still enjoy poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation; eat sweets and red meat on special occasions; and have red wine with your fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and seafood. There’s a plethora of research backing up this diet.
Cons: You have to be accountable for figuring out calorie consumption to lose or maintain your weight, as well as your workouts.
The goal: Ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
Pros: This is a blend of DASH and Mediterranean diets, so you’re getting a plethora of health benefits, particularly for your noggin. You’ll eat foods optimal for brain health.
Cons: There isn’t a real blueprint to follow and finding recipes can be difficult.
BEST PLANT-BASED DIETS
1. Mediterranean Diet
2. The Flexitarian Diet
The goal: Cut fat and live longer with optimal health.
Pros: It’s said “flexitarians” (flexible vegetarians) weigh 15 percent less than meat-eaters, live nearly 4 years longer, and can dodge heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Cons: If you’re hell-bent on beef, this might be difficult to adhere to. You’ll also be cooking a lot of your own meals.
3. Ornish Diet
The goal: Lose weight, as well as reverse/prevent diabetes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and prevent/treat prostate or breast cancer
Pros: You’ll opt for foods in 5 spectrums from most (group 1) to least (group 5) healthful—erring more on the side of most nutritious. You choose how you want to fill up your grocery cart with these groups.
Cons: You’ll spend a bit more by opting for healthier choices; and it might be difficult to stick to if you’re trying to reverse something like heart disease.
EASIEST DIETS TO FOLLOW
1. Mediterranean Diet (tied with Weight Watchers Diet and MIND Diet)
2. Weight Watchers Diet
3. MIND Diet