- The 10 Most Famous Fad Diets of All Time
- Nutrition for Weight Loss: What You Need to Know About Fad Diets
- The 8 Worst Weight Loss Diets in History
- The Nazi Diet
- The Cabbage Soup Diet
- The Tapeworm Diet
- The Cigarette Diet
- The Flecherizing Diet
- The Cookie Diet
- The Baby Food Diet
- The Breatharian Diet
- The Best and Worst Diets for Sustained Weight Loss, According to Dietitians
- The 4 Best Fad Weight Loss Diets in 2019
- 1 Diet That Lands in the Middle: Intermittent Fasting, or IF
- The 5 Worst Diets for Weight Loss in 2019
- The Best Diets of 2019—and Why the Keto Diet Ranked So Low
The 10 Most Famous Fad Diets of All Time
Many Americans claim to watch what they eat and even try to improve their eating habits. Many tell of starting (or restarting) a diet, hoping their intentions do not fail again. In honor of all those good intentions, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most popular diets out there — weight loss plans and fad diets that have stood the test of time and helped countless people lose weight successfully.
When it comes to fad diets, it’s not hard to find popular diets on the internet. Just google the words “diet” or “fad diet” and the weight loss choices are overwhelming. Low-carb, high-protein, or liquid diet? There are so many. That’s why it’s important to choose one that’s just right for you, according to the Mayo Clinic. Start by talking to your doctor.
Your primary care physician can review any health conditions you have and medications you are taking, and then give personal guidance for a diet that might work for you. Whether you want to try the keto, paleo, Atkins or macrobiotic diets, your doctor can help you determine which one is best — and worst — for your body.
The Mayo Clinic suggests considering your personal needs before you start a new fad diet or popular diet. Here are some key factors to think about:
- Have you ever dieted before?
- Can you follow a strict diet?
- Which diet worked for you in the past?
- How did you feel on the diet — mentally, physically, and emotionally?
- Do you like to diet alone?
- Do you need diet support from a group?
- Do you like to have online support?
- Do you like to go to diet support group meetings?
- Does your budget allow for special diet supplements?
- Do you prefer using weight loss clinics?
- Can you afford special diet food or beverages?
- Are you limited by any health conditions?
Most importantly, before jumping into a fad diet it’s essential to know that rapid weight loss is not sustainable. Quick weight loss diets are not healthy, and the weight is likely to rebound when you begin eating normally again. Diets that claim you don’t have to exercise are not the best for your overall health. And if you cannot stay on a fad diet or popular diet the rest of your life, it’s better not to start.
If you’re still shopping around for the best diet plan for your needs and lifestyle, one of these top 10 just might be the right pick for you.
Nutrition for Weight Loss: What You Need to Know About Fad Diets
|High Carbohydrate/Low Fat||
|Controlled Portion Sizes||
|Diet Pills/Herbal Remedies||
Path to well being
As a general rule, steer clear of diets or diet products that do any of the following:
- Claim to help you lose weight very quickly (more than 1 or 2 pounds per week). It takes time to lose weight and allow your body to adjust.
- Promise that you will lose weight and keep it off without exercise. If a diet plan or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Limit your food choices or don’t offer balanced nutrition.
- Focus on food combinations. Research doesn’t prove that eating certain foods together speeds weight loss.
- Base claims on before-and-after photos.
- Offer endorsements from clients or experts in weight loss, science, or nutrition. These people probably get paid to advertise.
- Require you to spend a lot of money, especially in advance. This includes pills, prepackaged meals, or seminars required for the plan to work.
- Draw simple conclusions from complex medical research.
Talk to your doctor if you want to lose weight. Your doctor can help you create a weight loss plan that is safe and effective. Some tips that apply to any healthy weight loss plan include:
- Eat breakfast every day and don’t skip meals.
- Eat a variety of foods to ensure that you get all of your daily nutrients.
- Watch what types of fat you consume. Do not eat any trans fats. Trans fats come from partially hydrogenated oils and are found in many fried and baked goods. Read nutrition labels as you grocery shop. Limit your daily intake of saturated fat and sodium. Try to eat healthy fats instead of opting for a strict low-fat diet. The latter typically is higher in carbs.
- Limit the amount of sugar in your diet. High-sugar foods often are high in calories and low in nutrients. They also can lead to inflammation in your body.
- Limit liquid calories by avoiding soda and alcohol. Choose whole fruits instead of juice. Drink plenty of water every day.
- Watch the size of your portions. Use the nutrition label to determine the correct serving size.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Pick an activity that you enjoy. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes, 4 to 6 times per week.
- Be more physically active in your daily life. Park further away from the door and take the stairs when you can. Get a pedometer or step counter and work toward a goal of 10,000 steps per day.
Things to consider
People often will try anything that promises to help them lose weight. They may want to look or feel better, or may worry about certain health conditions. Companies that promote fad diets take advantage of this fact. They appeal to people by promising weight loss that is quick and easy. Many people prefer to try the quick fix of a fad diet instead of making the effort to lose weight through long-term changes in their eating and exercise habits.
Fad diets also are popular because they work for a short amount of time. In most cases, this is because you eat fewer calories than normal. With a fad diet, you also pay more attention to what you eat. However, it’s likely that most of the weight you lose is from water and lean muscle, not body fat. It also is hard to keep up with the demands of a strict diet. Fad diets often limit your food choices or require you to eat the same foods over and over again. After a fad diet, you could end up gaining back the weight you first lost.
Questions to ask your doctor
- How do I know if a fad diet is safe or right for me?
- If fad diets are bad, what kind of diet can I do to lose weight?
- Are diets meant to be short-term or long-term?
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The 8 Worst Weight Loss Diets in History
Russia recently made headlines for coming up with the worst diet in history-literally-after a diet guru encouraged people to try eating as if they were under attack by the Nazis in order to lose weight. C’mon! People must know better than that, right? But it seems like our appetite for quick weight loss schemes is insatiable. Most of us know, deep down, that there is no shortcut to losing weight, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to find a quick fix. But these “magical” diets are at best a waste of your time and willpower, and at worst, can actually put your health at risk, we’ve rounded up the eight worst diets in history. Trust us-these are good only for a laugh, not actual weight loss advice. (How do you know when it’s a fad diet or the real thing? For starters, it’ll have these 4 Things All Good Diets Have in Common.)
The Nazi Diet
The diet: When German troops besieged the city of Leningrad for 900 days during World War II, over 670,000 Russians died of starvation. But while most people remember it for the horrific devastation and loss, Alex Siry says they’re not seeing the bright side: All those people lost lots of weight! (You know, before they died.) To “honor” the victims and start off 2015 with looser pants, the diet guru is telling Russians to eat 400 grams of bread and 100 grams of vodka per day, the same rations the Russian soldiers were given. Bonus points if you make your own “blockade bread” out of wood shavings, ashes and offal. Bleeeegh.
Why it’s the worst: Historians and health experts (and Russians) were offended by Siry’s recommendation as it’s lacking as much nutrition as it is sensitivity. Not to mention, starvation is not chic, it’s deadly.
The Cabbage Soup Diet
The diet: Vegetable soups can be a great staple of any healthy eating plan, but when they’re all you eat, you risk nutritional deficiencies (not to mention serious boredom). Yet, for years, people have tried to drop pounds fast by eating only broth made from cabbage. While some versions of the diet allow for some extra foods, most use it as a strict liquid detox.
Why it’s the worst: Cabbage is high in fiber but lacking in many vital nutrients, protein and fat. Sure, you lose weight very quickly, but once you start eating more types of foods, you gain the weight right back. Experts say it’s not a good long-term solution for good health.
(These 10 Satisfying Soups for Weight Loss on the otherhand…)
The Tapeworm Diet
The diet: Swallowing capsules containing the head of or eggs from a Taenia saginata, a beef tapeworm, is one of the first recorded diet fads. Women hoping to fit into tiny corsets were promised rapid weight loss in ads dating back to the 1800′. But it’s not just swooning Victorians who were tempted by the hook-mouthed worm-an Iowa woman ended up in the hospital just last year after trying to lose weight with capsules she bought off the internet. Instead of a slim body, she ended up with a 30-foot parasite (shudder) and excruciating pain.
Why it’s the worst: Because the tapeworm lives in your intestine and eats your food before it can be absorbed into your body, you lose vital nutrients along with the calories. In addition to severe malnutrition, people with tapeworms can have terrible stomach pain and even risk dying. And it comes with a seriously gross side effect: The worm, or pieces of it, can randomly come out of your anus. Just no.
The Cigarette Diet
The diet: In 1925, cigarette maker Lucky Strike launched their ad campaign encouraging women to use smokes for weight loss. Their ad campaign: “For a Slender Figure-Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet.” The appetite-suppressing powers of nicotine soon became widely known, and one of the biggest reasons that women took up smoking. Even today it’s not uncommon to see Hollywood starlets pictured with a cigarette in one hand a cup of coffee in the other, filling up on nicotine and caffeine instead of food.
Why it’s the worst: You lose weight but you can also lose your lungs, your jaw, your teeth, and even your life. Over half a century of research shows that any weight loss isn’t worth the health consequences that come with smoking tobacco. (Try these 10 Small Changes for a Healthier Life instead.)
The Flecherizing Diet
The diet: Chewing your food thoroughly has always been good advice, but, in the 1800s ,Horace Fletcher took your mom’s wisdom to the next level by claiming that, in order to properly digest your food and lose weight, one had to chew all food (including liquids) at least 100 times before swallowing. He also advised people to not eat when upset and to only eat certain types of foods. “Fletcherizing” soon swept the nation as people emulated “The Great Masticator” by chewing so much that meals could take hours. He even claimed that, done properly, his diet done would make your poop “inoffensive” (meaning: not stinky).
Why it’s the worst: The science that Fletcher based his theories on has since been mostly debunked. While it’s still a good idea to chew your food well, there’s no benefit gained by going to that extreme. Also, everyone’s poop stinks, no matter how good their diet is. (Find out The Number 1 Reason to Check Your Number 2.)
The Cookie Diet
The diet: Cookies and weight loss usually don’t go hand-in-hand. But, in the 1970’s, Florida physician Sanford Siegal came up with a proprietary blend of amino acids that he thought would help people lose weight-to get his patients to take them, he baked them into cookies and told them to eat six of them per day, in addition to a 300-calorie dinner. The diet became a huge success and spawned other variations of diets where you eat only specially formulated cookies.
Why it’s the worst: In Siegal’s diet, people ate only 800 calories a day-so, while they did lose weight, it was probably due to the severe calorie restriction and not the special cookies. Experts recommend not dropping below 1200 calories per day for safe and healthy weight loss. Although we dare say there is room in any healthy diet for a tasty cookie now and then (like these 10 Healthy Cookie Recipes for Fall), it shouldn’t be all you eat.
The Baby Food Diet
The diet: Babies are adorable! Who wouldn’t want to look like a tiny, smooth-skinned cherub? So perhaps it makes sense that Tracy Anderson, noted workout guru to Gwyneth Paltrow, would come up with the idea of copying the way babies eat. Anderson recommended replacing two meals a day with jarred baby food (yes, the stuff in the baby aisle that you feed to infants with no teeth), saying it would make you lose weight and “detox.”
Why it’s the worst: While an 18-pound baby may be able to live on 600 calories a day (the amount recommended in the diet), that’s dangerously low for adults. Plus, one of the best things about being a grown-up is having enough teeth to chew delicious food. So why settle for vegetable mush when you could enjoy one of these 12 Sensational Vegetable Recipes?
The Breatharian Diet
The diet: We’re all for spending more time outdoors (try these 10 New Outdoor Workout Ideas!). But people who follow Breatharianism believe that one only needs air and sunlight to survive-meaning, they believe that food and water are unnecessary. Instead of eating, they focus on being one with nature. Some people use the diet as a lifestyle, while others follow it as type of the Hindu religion.
Why it’s the worst: Surviving solely on air sounds so absurd that it might be funny-except people have actually been hospitalized and even died from the resulting starvation and dehydration. Hindu scholars and research scientists have dismissed the claims as fraudulent.
- By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) –– Who won the 2020 battle of the diets? For the third year in a row, the well-researched Mediterranean diet KO’d the competition to win gold in US News and World Report’s 2020 ranking of best diets. The report, released Thursday, is now in its 10th year.
“The hallmarks of a ‘best’ diet include balance, maintainability, palatability, family-friendliness, sustainability, along with healthfulness. The Mediterranean diet gets checkmarks in all of those boxes,” said Yale University Prevention Research Center founding director Dr. David Katz, who was one of 25 judges on the U.S. News and World Report panel.
“It’s no surprise that the Mediterranean diet remains the No. 1 best diet overall,” said nutritionist Lisa Drayer, a CNN contributor. “It’s easy to follow and offers a healthy eating lifestyle. ”
The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes simple, plant-based cooking, also captured first place in best diet for healthy eating, easiest diet to follow, best plant-based diet and best diet for diabetes.
Meals from the sunny Mediterranean have been linked to stronger bones, a healthier heart, a lower risk of dementia and breast cancer, and longer life, along with a reduced risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.
The diet focuses on eating less red meat, sugar and saturated fat and more Omega-3-rich fish and olive oil. Red wine can be enjoyed in moderation and socializing with friends and family during meals is part of the prescription.
Following closely behind the Mediterranean diet were the respected DASH, Flexitarian, WW (the rebranded name popularly known as Weight Watchers) and MIND diets. Their high rankings are a trend in the report’s results each year.
“We’re interested in diets that have proven staying value — not fad diets that are here today, gone tomorrow,” said Angela Haupt, managing editor of health at U.S. News & World Report. “The diets that perform well are safe, sensible and backed by sound science. That’s going to be consistent from year to year.”
The DASH diet is often recommended to lower blood pressure. Its premise is simple: Eat more veggies, fruits and low-fat dairy foods while cutting way back on any food high in saturated fat, and limit your intake of salt.
Studies have shown following this diet can reduce blood pressure in a matter of weeks.
The flexitarian diet tied with the DASH diet for second place because of its emphasis on whole grains, fruits, veggies and plant-based proteins. It’s basically a vegetarian diet that allows the occasional piece of meat or fish, thus making it “flexible.”
The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets that some may find a bit easier to follow, as it requires less fish and fruit. Both MIND, which stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay,” and the Mediterranean diet have been shown to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in studies.
WW came in fourth on the best diet list but took first place in the report’s ranking of best weight loss and commercial weight loss programs. Not only is the diet healthy, the panel said, but it wins top points for stressing the importance of support for dieters.
Despite winning the respect of nutritionists, WW has been losing market share this year; the company’s CEO told analysts the loss was due to the growing popularity of the keto diet, which makes carbs taboo.
Speaking of the keto craze …
Down for the count
Sure to upset its legions of fans, the trendy keto diet came in next to last in the ranking of 35 diets, just behind the obscure Dukan diet.
Both diets aim for “ketosis,” a metabolic state that burns the body’s stores of fat instead of carbohydrates, the body’s natural source of energy. To do that, the diets restrict carb intake to levels nutritionists feel are highly unhealthy as well as completely unsustainable.
In the keto diet, Drayer said, “carbs are limited to about 20 grams per day,” the equivalent of one small banana or apple. Due to the drastic cut in carbs, the diet can cause “headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue, particularly in the beginning,” she said, adding that “long-term studies on its effectiveness are lacking.”
In place of carbs, the keto diet emphasizes high levels of protein, fats and dairy, typically full of saturated fat that can contribute to cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.
“I am not a fan of the keto diet, though it may be helpful as a ‘jump start’ to weight loss and can help you quickly rid your diet of processed carbs and sugars,” Drayer said.
Which may be why the keto diet tied for third place in the race for best “fast” weight loss diet.
‘Fast’ weight loss?
First place in the get-rid-of-fat-quick category went to HMR, the Health Management Resources program. It involves purchasing meal replacements from HMR, such as shakes, nutrition bars and multigrain cereals, and adding vegetables and fruits to round out the meals.
Second place went to Optavia, which used to be called Medifast. It, too, wants you to buy and eat many of the company’s pre-packaged products, supplemented by some foods at home.
Both diets could be difficult to follow, Haupt said, “because prepackaged meals tend to get old fast.”
The highly ranked WW tied for third, along with Jenny Craig, which ranked 12th in the best overall diet list.
But the low/no-carb diet Atkins and the keto diet also tied for third place, despite ranking in the deep bottom of other diet categories, such as best diet, most healthy diet and best diets for heart health and diabetes. Ironically, HMR and Optavia joined them toward the bottom of the other categories.
Why would diets that are considered good at helping drop weight quickly be ranked so badly overall?
“The ‘best’ way to lose weight fast is to do something very silly, unsustainable and arguably irresponsible. It’s not truly best — just fast,” said Katz, who is the president of the True Health Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to health promotion and disease prevention
“Many things that are truly bad for health can cause short-term weight loss,” Katz said. “The most effective diets for ‘fast’ weight loss impose severe restrictions that cannot be maintained and would not be compatible with health if they were.”
That’s because quick weight loss diets usually emphasize some drastic cut in nutrients or the elimination of an entire food group that can’t be maintained over time. When the diet stops, the weight comes back, often at higher levels than at the start of the diet. It’s the body’s response to “yo-yo” dieting, studies show.
“Spending your life weight-obsessed, and going on and off diets, is no way to live,” Katz said. “One of the things we hope to convey to the American public is that it’s time to grow up about diet and give it more respect.
“Grown-ups don’t generally expect to ‘get rich fast;’ they understand the need to work, over time,” Katz continued. “But everyone thinks there is some magic formula they haven’t tried yet for rapid weight loss. The consensus of the U.S. News judges is a resounding rebuke of that silly idea.”
The Best and Worst Diets for Sustained Weight Loss, According to Dietitians
Losing weight or “eating better” on your mind these days? There’s no shortage of weight loss diets grappling for your attention. And the reality is that most diets — the good and bad — will help you shed pounds in the short term. But the difference is in keeping it off, and that relies on having a doable plan that you can stick with for life. Usually, that means that diets that cut out entire food groups (sorry, keto) or impose strict rules for eating (looking at you, Whole30) are out, unless medically advised by your healthcare team.
We chatted with a few registered dietitians to learn more about the diets they want to see stay — and those they’d be happy to see go.
The 4 Best Fad Weight Loss Diets in 2019
1. Mediterranean Diet
U.S. News & World Report ranked this mostly plant-based eating approach its No. 1 overall diet in 2019, and registered dietitians such as Amy Gorin, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in New York City, stand by that choice. Gorin applauds the Mediterranean diet — which is rich in whole vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, legumes, and some red wine and dairy — because it’s a balanced way of eating. The Mediterranean diet’s focus on choosing whole, plant-based foods over those you might find in a vending machine may make you more likely to stick with it.
Beyond weight loss, there are the health benefits associated with eating like Italians, Greeks, and other people who live on the Mediterranean Sea (the diet’s namesake). This approach, Gorin says, alsosupports heart and brain health. For example, a review published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders suggested that a Mediterranean diet, especially when combined with exercise and followed for longer than six months, was associated with reduced weight gain. The review involved 16 randomized controlled trials, which represented 1,848 people following a Mediterranean diet and 1,588 people who acted as the controls.
Weight loss and a healthier body? Win-win!
RELATED: Mediterranean Diet Linked to 25 Percent Lower Risk of Heart Disease
2. WW (Formerly Weight Watchers)
You know this popular weight loss plan by its previous name: Weight Watchers. But in 2018, the company rebranded to make the program more about wellness than just losing weight, per an explainer on the WW website. “This program is one of the most effective weight loss programs out there, promoting long-lasting, sustainable changes with many studies to back this up,” says Gorin, who writes a nutrition blog, called The Eat List, for WW. The newest version of WW, Gorin says, offers tangible rewards, like fitness class passes and travel shoe bags, when members reach their goals, delivering more incentive to lose. Also, “This year U.S. News ranked WW as the best diet for weight loss,” she says.
RELATED: U.S. News & World Report’s Best and Worst Diets of 2019
3. Vegetarian Diet
It’s difficult to call a vegetarian diet — one where you don’t eat meat — a “fad,” as there are so many reasons for going vegetarian, including environmental and ethical considerations.
Weight loss, though, is a potential benefit of opting to eat plants instead of meat, according to a review of 12 randomized, controlled trials representing about 1,150 people, published in January 2016 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Indeed, the Mayo Clinic notes that when you pay attention to portion size, a vegetarian diet can help with weight loss because the foods you’ll eat (including fruits, veggies, whole grains, and plant-based protein) contain fewer calories and fat but are more filling than foods found in a standard American diet.
Boosting your health may be another reason to adopt a vegetarian diet, and there’s science behind this choice. When carefully planned, “a vegetarian diet is a wonderful diet,” as it is rich in plant foods and low in saturated fat, says Jeanne Tiberio, RD, a tutor with Varsity Tutors based in Salem, Massachusetts. In a meta-analysis published in November 2017 in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, a vegetarian diet was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease and 8 percent reduced odds of cancer.
A word of caution: If you have a personal history of eating disorders, you may want to sidestep this approach. An study published in August 2012 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics noted that some people use a vegetarian diet to legitimize food restriction to aid with weight loss. There can be many perks to going veg — but play it safe and ask yourself where your motivations lie before making this choice.
RELATED: 10 Foods That May Play a Role in Cancer Prevention
4. Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian Diet
Whereas vegetarian eschews meat, a flexitarian diet allows you to add small amounts of animal products, like meat, poultry, or fish, for additional protein and satisfaction. If you’re a meat lover looking to burn calories in a balanced way, this flexible approach may be a good match for you. “Diets don’t have to be all-or-nothing,” says Tiberio.
Reducing, but not necessarily eliminating, how much meat you eat is generally a positive. For instance, one review of 25 studies published in December 2016 in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition found that semi-vegetarian diets were associated not only with weight loss, but also with health benefits such as lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. The authors concluded that although it’s a popular eating approach with women, men, too, may benefit — especially because guys generally consume more meat.
RELATED: 5 Ways to Use Mushrooms for Delicious Meatless Meals
1 Diet That Lands in the Middle: Intermittent Fasting, or IF
Intermittent fasting (IF) has become an increasingly popular way to lose weight fast. The approach involves extended periods of not eating, and there are several ways to tackle it.
For instance, some people fast for two days out of the week (called 5:2, which involves eating very little on fast days), while others set a specific eating window (like 16 hours fasting, 8 hours feeding).
While this is a growing approach and there is some evidence that it can help people lose weight at least in the short term, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, it’s not right for everyone, and that’s why it lands somewhere in the middle.
You really have to understand your needs and your schedule to know if it will work for you. “The eating style has a very restrictive nature and could lead to overeating or binge eating, so it’s not a good fit for a person with a history of disordered eating,” says Gorin. Also, if you have type 2 diabetes or are pregnant or lactating, IF is also not safe, she says.
RELATED: How to Build a Healthy Diet to Manage Type 2 Diabetes
The 5 Worst Diets for Weight Loss in 2019
1. Carnivore Diet
The increasingly popular carnivore diet requires eating mostly meat (along with some eggs and fat, like cheese). There’s also a popular version that involves eating only beef. Although you can find carnivore dieters’ success stories online, don’t even think about it, says Gorin: “This is not a healthy or sustainable diet, and there are healthier ways to lose weight.”
“Not only is the carnivore diet extremely high in saturated fat, which can put you at risk for increased cholesterol levels, it also leaves out a lot of foods that are really good for you,” Gorin says. That includes fruits and veggies, which are known to promote weight loss and help fight disease.
Bottom line: Avoid this diet — or if you’re determined to try it, be sure to run the idea by your healthcare team and get their take first.
There’s nothing wrong with the foods that Whole30 asks you to eat, like fresh fruit and veggies. In fact, proponents of the plan say that focusing on whole foods instead of packaged, processed ones may result in weight loss and other health perks, too, like higher energy and improved sleep.
But the Whole30 plan prohibits eating many dietary staples — not just unhealthy foods like added sugar and alcohol, but also legumes, dairy, and grains. And while your body doesn’t need those healthy foods to function, Whole30’s restrictions can make the program difficult to stick with.
Furthermore, those rules can create a cycle of guilt around food, says Anne Mauney, a registered dietitian in Washington, DC. Even if you follow through on the entire 30-day program, at the end you’re likely still going to feel down on yourself for eating what was once deemed “bad.”
Plus, when you go back to eating these foods, “you may likely end up eating more of it than you need or want, because there’s that sort of ‘screw it’ mentality where you’ve already started eating something you ‘shouldn’t’ have, so you might as well keep going. This can often turn into a sort of ongoing restrict-binge cycle over time, where you limit certain foods and then end up overdoing it on those foods later, before going right back to restricting and trying to be ‘good,’” she says. That’s no way to live.
RELATED: The 10 Most Famous Fad Diets of All Time
3. Keto Diet
If you want to lose weight quickly, this diet, which researchers designed to help control epilepsy in children, has become a popular way to do so.
But there’s a lack of definitive research proving that keto is safe and effective for the long haul. What we do know is this high-fat, moderate-protein, and very-low-carb diet has a reputation for being challenging, especially if you’re doing it without medical supervision. When you go off the plan, you might gain back all the weight you lost.
What’s more, for all the buzz about the health benefits of keto (for type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more), long-term randomized, controlled trials in humans are lacking, Harvard notes. “Keto restricts foods that help fight cancer and heart disease, like whole grains and legumes,” says Tiberio.
What’s more, there are so many ways to approach keto, and not all of them are healthful. “Though you should be eating a lot of spinach and kale on keto, people generally eat bacon and eggs,” says Tiberio, which leaves out important disease-fighting nutrients, including fiber.
RELATED: What to Eat and Avoid on the Ketogenic Diet: A Complete Food List and 7-Day Sample Menu
Of course, the Atkins diet was the original low-carb diet, made popular decades ago. Now that keto is on the scene and there’s a general carb phobia, you may be thinking again about going on a low-carb diet like Atkins. (Atkins and keto differ in that Atkins allows for more protein, whereas keto limits protein.)
“Like many diets, you lose weight quickly on Atkins. But it does not work long term,” says Tiberio. On the U.S. News rankings of best diets, Atkins falls near the bottom because of worries about safety and negative impact on heart health.
RELATED: 10 Popular Low-Carb Diets, and Their Pros and Cons
5. Paleo-Vegan (“Pegan”)
Fusing the popular paleo diet and taking some vegan principles, the “pegan” diet focuses on eating loads of fruits and vegetables, along with nuts and seeds, oils, no dairy or gluten, and limiting beans and grains. It’s not traditionally “vegan,” which previous research has linked to weight loss, and where you eat no animal products of any kind, as it allows for a small amount of meat.
While the pegan diet hasn’t been researched for weight loss or other benefits, it’s likely that it will help you reduce your blood sugar and triglycerides, says Tiberio.
Still, the fact remains that it’s still a restrictive diet with many rules. Translation: You might lose some weight and potentially boost your health temporarily, but chances are you won’t be able to follow this unbalanced way of eating forever. The fact of the matter is that many people struggle to maintain diets that contain a long list of off-limits foods. Those hurdles put this diet mashup on the “avoid” list for weight loss, per RDs.
The Best Diets of 2019—and Why the Keto Diet Ranked So Low
Many Americans start off the new year with a resolution to eat healthier, lose weight, and get in shape. But with so many diets out there, it can be difficult to know which plans deliver real results.
That’s where U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings come in handy. Every January, the organization ranks the best overall diets along with the best diets for specific goals or criteria. This year, the Mediterranean Diet continues its reign at the top of the rankings, followed by the DASH Diet and the Flexitarian Diet.
The 2019 rankings include 41 of today’s most popular diets. New to the list this year is the Nordic Diet, a plant-heavy eating plan that incorporates Scandinavian traditions and ranked 9th best overall. Here’s how the rest of the rankings shook out this year, and what experts have to say about the good, the bad, and the trendy. (Here’s a hint: They’re still not crazy about keto.)
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Best overall diets
For the last eight years, the DASH Diet (which stands for Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension) has been ranked the best overall diet by U.S. News. Last year it tied for first with the Mediterranean Diet, and this year it’s been bumped to No. 2 for the first time.
U.S. News’s panel of experts noted that the Mediterranean Diet earned this year’s top spot because research suggests it can help improve longevity and ward off chronic disease. The Mediterranean Diet was also ranked No. 1 in several other categories: Easiest Diet to Follow, Best Diet for Healthy Living, and Best Diet for Diabetes. It also tied with the Ornish Diet for Best Diet for Heart Health.
“The Mediterranean Diet has been studied extensively, so that’s a big part of it,” says panelist David Katz, MD, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. But the diet—which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein—also gets top billing because it’s practical, he adds.
“This is a traditional diet of a large region of the world where people happily go to enjoy the food,” Dr. Katz tells Health. “This is very manageable; it’s not suffering, it’s not excluding things—it’s something that people and families really can do.”
The DASH Diet, now in second place, is also an excellent choice for health-conscious Americans, says Dr. Katz. Although it was designed to help lower blood pressure, the diet has also been shown to help people lower their cholesterol and lose weight, among other health benefits.
Coming in third this year is the Flexitarian Diet, which involves following a mostly vegetarian regimen and incorporating more non-meat proteins like beans, peas, and eggs. Weight Watchers—the highest ranked commercial diet—takes the fourth spot, tied with the MIND Diet, a Mediterranean-DASH hybrid plan that aims to stave off cognitive decline.
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New kid on the block: What is the Nordic Diet?
U.S. News’s expert panel decided to include the Nordic Diet (also known as the New Nordic Diet) in this year’s rankings after it received considerable attention in the last year. There’s no one official Nordic Diet, but the 2017 book The Nordic Way is a good example of the diet’s basic guidelines.
Essentially, the Nordic Diet is based on 10 core concepts: eating more fruits and vegetables every day; eating more whole grains; eating more seafood; choosing high-quality meat, but less meat overall; seeking out food from wild landscapes; using organic produce whenever possible; avoiding food additives; basing more meals on seasonal produce; consuming more home-cooked food; and producing less waste.
In other words, the Nordic Diet focuses on locally sourced ingredients, avoids processed foods, and embraces “a return to relaxed meals with friends and family,” according to U.S. News’s description. These are similarities it shares with the Mediterranean Diet, Dr. Katz points out.
“In all of these places around the world where people derive the greatest benefit from their diets, people aren’t waiting around for anyone to tell them what to eat on January 1,” he says. “Even though we have new diets to evaluate every year, the ones that rank the highest are generally the oldest, most traditional ones.”
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Where does the ketogenic diet rank?
One of the buzziest trends in the weight-loss world has been the ketogenic diet, a low-carb, high-fat regimen that promises fast results. People on the “keto” diet cut back on bread and sugar so that their body enters ketosis, a state in which it burns fat rather than carbohydrates.
But health experts are wary about the keto diet, and U.S. News’s rankings reflect that skepticism. For the second year, keto is at the bottom of the best diet rankings (tied with the Whole30 Diet at No. 38 out of 41), with an overall score of just 2.1 out of 5 and a “healthy” score of just 1.8 out of 5.
“We have basically no evidence that this diet is consistent with human health over time,” says Dr. Katz. (Its heavy emphasis on animal protein isn’t ecologically sustainable, either, he adds.) “All of the evidence we have points toward a plant-predominant diet with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds—all of the very things that the ketogenic diet avoids.”
The keto diet did jump considerably in one specific category, however: This year it tied with several other diets for No. 2 in Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets (after the HMR Diet, a commercial plan that replaces most meals with pre-packaged nutrition bars and shakes), up from No. 13 last year. “Yes, you can do this for quick weight loss,” says Dr. Katz, “but I wouldn’t recommend it.”
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How the rankings are calculated
U.S. News’s Best Diets rankings are put together by a panel of nutritionists, dietary consultants, and doctors specializing in diabetes, heart health, and weight loss. Each member of the panel scored all 41 diets in seven different areas, including how easy they are to follow, how well they protect against chronic disease, and how likely it is that followers will actually lose weight and keep it off.
The rankings rely heavily on peer-reviewed clinical trials, a practice that provides both strengths and weaknesses, says Dr. Katz. On one hand, it’s good to have evidence-based data, he says—but it also means that lesser-known, non-commercialized diets may not get the attention they deserve.
For example, Weight Watchers has consistently ranked toward the top of the U.S. News list. “That may be well deserved,” says Dr. Katz, “but they have also been around longer and have more money to afford more studies, which gives them an advantage.”
Despite their limitations, these rankings are important, says Dr. Katz—especially because more than 45 million Americans embark on diets every year, and many of them are overwhelmed by constantly changing messages in the media.
“There is a range of diets here, which should be an invitation for people to go shopping among these diets, which are approved by experts, and find one that works well for themselves and their families,” he says. “The idea that there are so many variations on healthy eating is a really good thing.”
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