Diets are a dime a dozen these days. You can find them in bookstores, on the internet, and every downtown seems to have a diet “center,” but which are the cream of the crop, with proven success, and that provide a healthy balance of food that allows you to drop the pounds you need?
U.S. News can tell you, as they checked the nutritional completeness and safety of 20 different weight-loss systems and came up with a ranking that can help you make an informed decision.
The popular news magazine assembled a panel of 22 experts in both nutrition and diet and developed seven categories of criteria to judge their overall health quotient. While we will give you the “skinny” on them here, you might want to head over and check out the detailed results of all twenty.
Each diet was given a healthiness score, with the top score being a 5. Additional emphasis was given to the safety of the diet, because, let’s face it folks, a diet of lemon, water and honey may allow you to take off the pounds quickly, but you will suffer for it in the long run.
The panel gave high marks to the DASH Diet, TLC, Mediterranean, Mayo Clinic, Volumetrics and Weight Watchers. On the other end of the spectrum, with scores lower than a 3, were the Paleo Diet, Raw Food Diet and the Atkins Diet, all due to the fact that they are very restrictive in nature and make it difficult to get an adequate amount of all daily required nutrients.
“The ones that get high scores in safety and in nutritional value - they’re very similar to each other,” says Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietitian who serves on U.S. News’s expert panel.
Below are the top 5 diets, as ranked by the panel of experts, along with brief information on each that was included in the report. For full details on all twenty, you can go here.
Topping the list in the #1 spot is the DASH Diet. Panelists applauded the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) plan for its nutritional completeness and safety-it racked up lots of 5s and 4s in both categories. Endorsed by the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services, the diet is packed with produce and light on saturated fat and salt.
In the #2 slot is the TLC Diet. Developed by the National Institutes of Health, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet nearly matches the DASH Diet for healthiness, panelists agreed. Doling out all 5s and 4s, Experts approved of the fiber and calcium it generously provides as well as the saturated fat it doesn’t.
Weighing in at #3 is the Mediterranean Diet. A Mediterranean buffet will showcase foods like whole-grain pita and hummus, salads, fresh fruits and veggies, salmon, and beneficial fats like olive oil. Dieters can drink to each others’ health-a glass or two a day of red wine is encouraged. The diet meets the government’s recommendations for healthy eating without compromising safety, panelists concluded.
The diet in the #4 position is the Mayo Clinic Diet. You’re in good hands with this diet developed by the high-profile medical center. The experts liked the plan’s unique eating pyramid, which promotes foods with low energy density (you can eat more but take in fewer calories) like fruits and veggies. It took home all 4s and 5s, save for one 3, in both safety and nutrition categories.
Rounding out the top 5-and tied for 4th place-is the Volumetrics Diet. A diet that’s also based on low-energy-dense foods, Volumetrics menu items are large in volume but low in calories. That’s thanks to a whole lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy, and lean meat. Volumetrics manages to meet or come close to recommendations for the majority of nutrients you need, making it a safe, healthy-eating approach.
It is interesting to note that readers differ wildly on the top 5 choices. U.S. News polled readers for each diet, using the query “Did this diet work for you?” For the DASH Diet, 256 said yes, while 856 said no. For TLC, it was 57 yes and 516 no. The Mediterranean Diet received 218 yes and 731 no. Mayo Clinic was 70-570, and Volumetrics was 53-581. You might think this is a trend, but there are a few deviations down the list of 20, most likely because the word has spread and hardcore followers of certain diets weighed in more heavily than the average dieter. For #6 diet Weight Watchers, readers responded favorably with 3692 yes votes and only 1384 no votes. The Vegetarian Diet stats were even more impressive with 17,556 yes and 1155 no votes, as was the Eco-Atkins with 10,627 vs 502. (Not the traditional Atkins Diet was ranked #20 – the bottom of the list, and received 1476 yes and 18,038 no votes.)
NOTE: The panel of experts is in the process of reviewing and ranking 5 additional diets-Biggest Loser Diet, Abs Diet, Flat Belly Diet, Dukan Diet, and the Macrobiotic Diet-the results of which will be available in January of 2012.
by Susan Brady