Ladies and gents, awards season is upon us, but if you're not Emma Stone or Ryan Gosling, what may be more important to you is the dreaded diet season (AKA that start-of-the-year phase when many of us resolve to finally lose a few pesky pounds). Lucky for you, US News & World Report recently ranked 38 major diet plans and gave out its own "awards" to the best of them. A panel of diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease experts vetted them all, combining their own research with studies and government reports to determine which ones would take top honors.
Here are the ones awarded the top five spots, though — spoiler! — there were quite a few ties.
1. Weight Watchers
Proving that classics are classic for a reason, Weight Watchers took home the most coveted spot. Weight Watchers newest program, Beyond the Scale, is designed to help people eat better and exercise more, thus helping followers create a healthier lifestyle that will have a lasting effect. The program doesn't count calories, but rather assigns foods SmartPoints based on their nutritional value (higher points = less healthy), so that healthier food "costs" less and becomes more attractive.
With the point system, people tend to eat food that is lower in calories, saturated fat, and sugar but higher in protein, making it easy to lose about 2 pounds per week (or so they claim).
Pros: No food off-limits, flexible diet plan
Cons: Can be expensive, depending on the program you choose
2. Jenny Craig (tie)
Another oldie but a goodie, Jenny Craig, also scored high. The theory behind this diet is that in order to lose weight you have to restrict fat and calories and eat smaller portions — with the help of a specified meal plan and counselor. Dieters on this plan have to follow a personalized meal plan made up of Jenny Craig pre-packaged foods and recipes, as well as fresh fruits, veggies, and dairy.
The diet is also big on giving its followers support through weekly counseling with a Jenny Craig consultant (FYI, these consultants are not nutritionists, but generally people who have gone through the program.) Like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig claims you can lose 2 pounds per week.
Pros: Packaged meals are delivered to you
Cons: Home-cooked meals and restaurant food will be a thing of the past; it also gets pretty pricey
2. Volumetrics Diet (tie)
Tied with Jenny Craig is the ingenue, the Volumetrics Diet, which as its name might suggest, has a lot to do with, well, volume. This diet functions by making you eat fewer calories without having to eat less food. How, exactly, does that work? By eating low-density foods. In other words, foods that are low in calories but high-volume, such as fruits and veggies. Low-density foods are filling but low in calories, so you'll feel fuller longer without overdoing it (or snack-binging later).
The diet is not a structured program, like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, but rather an approach to eating that divides food into four categories:
- Category 1: very low-density (things like non starchy fruits and veggies, and nonfat milk)
- Category 2: low-density (grains, breakfast cereal, low fat meats)
- Category 3:medium-density (pizza and ice cream)
- Category 4:high-density (chips, chocolates and cookies)
If you stick to Categories 1 and 2 and steer clear of the higher/ more delicious categories, you should lose about 1 or 2 pounds per week.
Pros: Nothing is off-limits; you rarely feel hungry
Cons: Lots of meal prep — and lots of eating soup
4. HMR Program
The HMR program, or Health Management Resource program, revolves around the idea that weight loss is achieved by reducing calories through meal replacements with added fruits and vegetables. Followers of the diet replace their regular meals with shakes, meals, nutrition bars, and multigrain hot cereals, as well as lots of fresh fruits and veggies, to stay full and eliminate high-calorie foods.
The program is also big on exercise and encourages followers to work out at least 10 to 20 minutes per day. Automatic meal deliveries make it easy to follow and make it possible to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, according to reports.
Pros: Meals are delivered right to you; fast initial weight loss
Cons: Shakes could get boring; eating out will be hard
5. Biggest Loser Diet (a five-way tie!)
If you're a big fan of the show, maybe it's time you try the diet yourself. The Biggest Loser Diet is based on six weeks of eating healthier (i.e. less calories) and exercising, much like contestants do on TV. Also like on the show, this diet is a choose-your own-adventure type of plan in that there is no one way to follow the diet but rather, it depends on what book from the franchise you choose to follow (they're all based on the same core principles though).
No matter what book you choose to follow, you'll learn all about the Biggest Loser Diet pyramid, which suggests 4 servings per day of fruits and veggies, 3 of proteins, 2 of whole grains, and no more than 200 calories of extra — oh, and you'll definitely work up a sweat with all the working out you'll be doing.
Pros: No food is off limits
Cons: Lots of sweating involved; kind of expensive
5. The Flexitarian Diet
No, Flexitarian is not a Dr.Seussian creation, it's an actual diet — we promise. The word comes from the merging of "flexible" and "vegetarian" and alludes to the way the diet works — by being mostly vegetarian but flexible enough to allow for a delicious steak every now and then.
Rather than taking food away, the diet works by adding 5 food groups: "new meats" such as tofu, beans, and lentils; fruits and veggies, whole grains, dairy, and sugar and spices. The diet also has a 5-week meal plan that follows a 3-4-5 model, 300 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch and 500 for dinner (you can also have 2 snacks per day at 150 calories each). According to the diet, by eating meals that revolve around plant proteins, followers weigh 15 percent less than more carnivorous dieters, so if you've ever considered going vegetarian but just couldn't think of a life without BBQ and burgers, maybe this diet will convince you to live that tofu life.
Pros: Flexible (it is in the name after all), lot's of recipes
Cons: Emphasis on home cooking; veggie lovers only
5. Raw Food Diet
The raw food diet is basically the diet gods' gift to people who hate getting in the kitchen, because it calls for you to only eat raw fruits and veggies, berries, and nuts. That means you never have to preheat an oven, although you can cook foods up to 115 degrees if you just can't handle the thought of raw broccoli.
The diet is pretty clear on what you can and can't eat: Fruits, veggies, nuts, and grains are ok (even sashimi makes the cut), but pasteurized or processed foods, refined sugars and flours, table salt, and *gasp* caffeine are completely off-limits. Though prepping all those veggies might be a pain in the *ss, followers of the diet typically consume half the calories of those on a cooked diet, so the extra chopping and blending might actually be worth it.
Pros: Nearly guaranteed weight loss
Cons: Lots of prep and rules to follow
5. Slim-Fast Diet
Remember back in the day when everyone you knew was downing those Slim-Fast shakes to lose some extra inches? Well, Slim-Fast hasn't disappeared, and it's apparently still a good diet. Like most diets, the philosophy behind Slim-Fast is that portion control and calorie reduction leads to weight loss, and the way to do that on this diet is through meal replacements (like those famous shakes) to get you the right amount of nutrients.
On the diet you'll get 1,200 calories from three snacks of your choice, two Slim-Fast meal replacements, and one self-prepared 500-calorie meal per day to escape the monotony of prepared meals (but let's be real, at 500 calories, you won't even be able to get close to that burger you want). Slim-Fast claims that you'll lose 1 to 2 pounds per week and is best for people who need to lose more than 20 pounds, so if you've got a lot to lose it might be right for you but if you value solid foods, maybe try losing the weight a different way.
Pros: Grab and go, so it's pretty convenient
Cons: So. Many. Shakes.
5. Vegan Diet
Ah vegans, you probably know at least one person who's vegan and won't shut up about it because, well, they just have to let you know. Whether the vegan in your life is cool or a total obsessive bragger, they might be on to something with that no-animal product diet. If you're not familiar with a vegan diet, it basically is extreme vegetarianism in that it cuts out all animal products, including crowd favorites such as cheese, eggs, and even yogurt.
However, by cutting down on animal products, vegans typically eat more grains, fruits, and veggies, and coincidentally eat fewer calories.
Pros: Filling meals; good for the environment