More than half of all Americans followed a diet in the past year, according to the International Food Information Council. Collectively, consumers in the U.S. spend 33 billion dollars annually on these ventures. Yet, only 20% of dieters will be able to keep their lost weight off for 12 months.
The truth is dieting is hard. Many fad diets don’t work. And some can even threaten your health. Digging through mounds of information about dieting and deciphering whether particular plans live up to the hype can be overwhelming.
Best Diets 2023 cuts through the diet chatter to get to the bones of which plans are most likely to help our readers reach their goals. Now in its 13th year, U.S. News Best Diets delivers in-depth profiles for 38 popular eating plans and ranks 24 based on various criteria, from their healthiness to the likelihood of their helping you lose weight.
To create the latest edition of the rankings, U.S. News editors and reporters spent months considering potential additions to our roster of diets. For 2023, the health team added two new diets to the list: Pritikin and Keyto. They then mined medical journals, government reports and other resources to create in-depth profiles for those that made the cut.
Each profile explains how the diet works, determines whether its marketing claims are realistic, scrutinizes it for possible health risks — and reveals what it’s like to live on the diet, not just read about it.
With the help of our nationally recognized experts, including medical doctors, registered dietary nutritionists, nutritional epidemiologists and weight-loss researchers who are leaders in their field, we developed an in-depth survey with over 40 questions centered around lifestyle and health goals. We asked the panelists the questions our readers most want answers to, including:
— Are all food groups included in the diet?
— Are nutrient-rich foods emphasized?
— Does the diet require vitamins, nutrient supplements, fiber drinks or hard-to-find specialized products?
— Does the diet encourage a healthy and realistic timeline for weight loss?
— Is a plan for maintaining weight loss included?
— Are the foods called for widely available and easy to procure?
— Can the diet be modified to meet cultural, religious or other personal preferences?
— How time-consuming is the planning, shopping and preparation of meals and snacks?
— Can the diet be easily adapted for the whole family?
— Is age, body type and activity level considered when recommendations are prescribed?
We also calculate the nutritional adequacy of the diet based on the nutrients Americans are most likely deficient in, such as calcium and vitamin D. Lastly, we consider how effectively the diet will promote weight loss and help to prevent or manage a number of health conditions, including:
— Bone and joint health.
— Cardiovascular health.
We then chose which questions should be asked for each of our 11 diet categories. For example, it doesn’t matter if someone can adhere to a diet for ten years if they are simply trying to drop 10 pounds for their beach vacation in two months. Maybe this individual would be happy to get into those shorts quickly and then focus on the plans we rated highest for best long-term weight loss once they return home.
[READ: Best Diets for Seniors.]
Best Diets Rankings
A panel of 33 nationally recognized experts in nutrition, obesity, food psychology and chronic disease management carefully scrutinized our profiles, added their input and rated each diet. We also asked the panelists to inform us about aspects of each diet they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in with tidbits of advice for those considering the plan.
After every diet received robust scrutiny, we converted the experts’ ratings to scores and stars from 5 (highest) to 1 (lowest). We then used those scores to construct 11 sets of Best Diets rankings, which are as follows:
— Best Diets Overall ranks 24 diets on several different parameters, including whether or not all food groups are included in the diet, the availability of the foods needed to be on the diet and the use of additional vitamins or supplements. We considered if the diet was evidence-based and adaptable to meet cultural, religious or other personal preferences. In addition, the criteria also included evaluation of the prep and planning time required for the diet and the effectiveness of the diet for someone who wants to get and stay healthy.
— Best Diet Programs ranks 13 structured diet programs that require a participation fee, promote branded food or nutritional products and have other types of support, such as apps or social groups. These diets encourage long-term weight loss, promote short-term weight loss and provide support to plan members.
— Rankings for Best Long-Term Weight-Loss and Maintenance Diets were generated by combining the safety of the rate of weight loss promoted and the likelihood of the plan to result in successful long-term weight loss and maintenance of weight loss.
— Best Short-Term Weight Loss Diets are scored on their effectiveness for someone who wants to lose weight in three months or less.
— Best Diabetes Diets are calculated equally from the effectiveness of the diet for someone who wants to lower risk factors for diabetes, the nutritional quality of the diet and research evidence-based support for the diet.
— Best Heart-Healthy Diets are calculated equally from the effectiveness of the diet for someone who wants to lower risk factors for hypertension, the nutritional quality of the diet and evidence-based support for the diet.
— Best Diets for Healthy Eating combines nutritional completeness and safety ratings. A healthy diet should provide sufficient calories and not fall seriously short on essential nutrients or entire food groups.
— Easiest Diets to Follow represents panelists’ averaged scores for the relevant lifestyle questions, including whether all food groups are included and if the recommended foods are readily available at the average supermarket.
— Best Plant-Based Diets uses the same approach as Best Diets Overall to rank eight plans emphasizing minimally processed foods from plants.
Two new categories were introduced this year:
— Best Diets for Bone and Joint Health are calculated equally based on the effectiveness of the diet for someone who wants to lower their risk factors for inflammation and improve bone and joint health, as well as the nutritional quality and research evidence-based support for the diet.
— Family-Friendly Diets are calculated equally on their adaptability for the whole family, including cultural, religious and personal preferences, the time required to plan and prep, nutritional value and access to food at any supermarket.
In all rankings, scores are rounded to one decimal place; diets with identical scores are ordered alphabetically.
In addition to our panelists, we added an extra layer of trustworthiness to our diet rankings by interviewing at least one nutrition expert for each story. Our reporters dug deep, asking them to expound upon their accolades and criticisms for each diet. These interviews add an extra layer of credibility to our diet rankings. Each diet profile is also reviewed by an independent RDN.
To ward off possible bias, each panelist is vetted to avoid evident or apparent conflicts of interest, like a paid consulting relationship with a company marketing a particular diet. For diet programs offering a range of tracks targeting specific groups, such as pregnant women or those with diabetes, U.S. News selected the most mainstream or popular version.
We could not assign scores to a plan’s cost. Even dieters buying prepackaged meals from diet programs must shop for at least some food. Individual shopping habits and preferences, not to mention dining out, will heavily determine any dieter’s total expense.
More from U.S. News
U.S. News Best Diets: How We Rated Eating Plans and Diets originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 01/03/23: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.