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If you’re looking to lose weight, these can actually help you see results.
Fun fact: As soon as January rolls around, women are bombarded on the TV or Internet with diet messages every three seconds. In January last year, the word “diet” was used nearly 870,000 times across social media channels, according to an audit performed by Lean Cuisine. That’s a lot.
Thirty-eight percent of people have health and weight loss goals in January and they’re ready to try something new — so long as it works. But there’s one key thing to remember: There is no one-diet-fits-all plan (though that would make things easy). You have to find one that fits your lifestyle so you actually stick to it. With that in mind, here are the top diet plans that actually get results. All you have to do is pick one…and grab a fork.
Whole30 is super popular, and if you’ve been having digestive issues, it’s an especially good one to try. Because you mostly only eat veggies and protein for 30 days — and cut out common problem foods like alcohol, sugar, dairy, and some nuts — you can figure out what you body likes (and doesn’t!) as you slowly introduce them back into your diet.
The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom, $22, amazon.com
The macrobiotic style of eating has roots in Japan, but it’s becoming popular around the world for a good reason: The primarily plant-based diet full of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and small amounts of fish could help ward off everything from heart disease and diabetes to cancer — mostly because you’re not eating sugar, processed food, or a ton of animal products.
The high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet isn’t just touted as a way to help you lose weight; research has also shown that it may be an effective tool for keeping your mental health in check. Laboratory rats fed ketogenic diets — which consist of lots of fish, natural fats, plenty of vegetables, and very few starchy, high-carbohydrate foods — showed improvements in their depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
The concept behind this diet is pretty simple: ditch all processed foods for bites that come just as nature made them. Proponents of the plan dig in to foods like wild salmon, fresh veggies, local eggs and, of course, chocolate (because what is life without chocolate?). Abel James is the creator of these nutrition guidelines, and he promises that if you avoid artificial ingredients you’ll be able to “feast all day, yet stay lean and healthy.”
Tacos all day every day? Yes please. The Taco Cleanse promises weight loss from eating one of your favorite foods exclusively, and you can actually get a decent amount of nutritional variety because, well, you can put anything in a taco. It’s only supposed to last for 30 days — though going at it for only a week is cool, too — and that’s why this diet can help you hit a reset button (you shouldn’t be using it as a full-time nutrition plan.) Plus, a lot of the recipes are actually vegan, so you’ll typically be reaching for healthy ingredients over processed ones.
This plan isn’t a new one: the Dissociated Diet was invented in 1911, but thanks to the popularity of “food science,” (aka really looking at how different foods play with others), it’s seen a resurgence. If you follow it, the main rule is not to combine acidic foods (think meats, fish, dairy) with alkaline ones (legumes, vegetables, nuts). Why? It’s said to be easier on your digestive system, which in turn helps boost weight loss results (though, to be honest, the science behind this is controversial). Of course, you’ll also load up on plenty of fruits and veggies, and since those are a part of any healthy diet, that certainly plays a role in any success you’ll see.
It’s a diet that’s been long heralded and has churned out many a success story. The focus is on SmartPoints—or points assigned to foods based on calories, saturated fat, protein, and sugar—which you add up to reach your daily allotment (fruits and veggies are free). And you know what: it works! One study analyzed the effectiveness of a variety of diets, and declared Weight Watchers to be such a great option for keeping weight off long-term that docs should prescribe it to their patients. And the U.S. News & World Report deemed it the best weight-loss diet. The secret sauce to their success? The support of Weight Watchers meetings and accountability at weigh-ins, keeping you motivated to reach your goals.
The French and Italians have something right: fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts, fish, and lots of olive oil is a tasty—and slimming—way of noshing. Oh, and wine. Did we forget to mention wine? In a meta-analysis on 16 studies, researchers realized the plan helped dieters lose an average of 8.5 pounds. But it’s not magic—you have to cut calories, exercise, and stick with it for more than six months for the best results, the research found. So if you’re going to go for it, put away the entire bottle of vino and pour yourself a sensible glass instead.
“Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” emphasizes fruits and veggies and slashes sodium, fat, and saturated fat. Cutting sodium can help minimize bloat, and eating more low-calorie, high-fiber foods is a bright idea for any woman who needs to fit into her skinny jeans. More than that, it’s a heart-healthy way of eating that can keep blood pressure in check. So you’ll feel good, too.
Take two high-powered diets—Mediterranean and DASH—and combine them for brain-boosting power. That’s the idea behind MIND, a plan designed to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by focusing on foods like green leafy vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and (hooray!) wine. That’s why U.S. News & World Report just ranked MIND as the second best diet overall (tied with the TLC diet). They note that early research found MIND reduced Alzheimer’s risk by as much as 53 percent.
This diet has some big guys behind it: The National Institutes of Health recommends TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) for lowering your cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease—especially if you have risk factors like being a woman who is 55 or older, have a family history, or have high blood pressure. Following the diet—low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and focused on fiber—can lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol by 20 to 30 percent and allow you to take a smaller dose of cholesterol-lowering medication, the NIH reports.
If you could hunt and gather it, you can eat it. That means yes to meats, fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts, seeds, oils like olive and coconut, and seafood. But cereal grains, legumes, dairy, and potatoes are all big no-nos. While research isn’t conclusive, small studies say go for it. One found that after three weeks, people dropped five pounds. Another found that after 10 days, blood pressure and cholesterol improved. So it can slim down your tush and healthy up your heart, but the restriction (sure, cake is out, but so are beans) can drive you cray-cray—not to mention make going out to eat more difficult. Still not sure? Check out these seven things no one is telling you about going Paleo.
Life without bacon and cheese sounds harsh, but your hips will thank you. Vegan diets beat out semi-vegetarian, pescatarian (fish), and omnivorous (meat and plant foods) diets, according to recent research. In fact, after six months, dieters lost more than twice the weight compared to the other groups. But you can’t nix all animal products and call it a day—quality matters. “I see it a lot: two vegans, one is really healthy and the other is really unhealthy,” says Pamela Salzman, an LA-based cooking instructor and holistic health counselor. “You can eat potato chips all day and that’s a vegan diet,” she says. If you’re going vegan, focus on those complex carbs, produce, healthy fats, and whole soy foods; skip processed junk, even if it’s vegan.
Whether your reason for going vegetarian is ethical, environmental, or for health, one thing’s for sure: weight loss can be a nice bonus. In fact, in that same study that evaluated vegan, vegetarian, and omnivorous diets, vegetarian diets were almost as effective as vegan—helping people lose 6.3 percent of their body weight compared to 7.5 percent in the vegan group in a half year. Bonus: perfection isn’t necessary. Even if you fall off the wagon and break your diet (hey, it happens!) another study found that dieting vegetarians still lost more weight than dieting meat eaters.
If it can get Jennifer Aniston her amazing abs, arms, butt, well then, we’re going to take it into consideration. On the low carb plan, you eat low-fat protein, non-starchy vegetables, small amounts of fruit, and a bit of healthy fat (like olive oil). In a 2014 meta-analysis that pitted The Zone diet against Weight Watchers, Atkins, and South Beach, researchers found The Zone is good for modest, long-term weight loss. After a year, dieters dropped 3.5 to 7 pounds. Not bad, but it may be disappointing if you have more to lose.
The goal? Reverse (or prevent) heart disease. Nutrition of course plays a huge role in a healthy ticker, and Dr. Ornish’s plan keeps you focused on eating the super healthy stuff: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy, nonfat dairy, egg whites, and omega 3s. The challenge is no meat, poultry, or fish or caffeine (so it can be hard to follow), but you can eat unlimited calories if you’re doing it for health rather than weight loss. Not only is it ranked a top plant-based and heart-healthy diet by U.S. News & World Report, but research shows people on the diet had healthier cholesterol levels and they lost about seven pounds after a year.
If you’ve got baby making on the mind, this may be the diet for you. Its basis comes from a 2009 book by Harvard docs, in which they make their recommendations from the Nurses’ Health Study that concluded that what you eat impacts egg quality, ovulation, and your chances of getting pregnant. So you’ll skip Standard American Diet stuff—red meat, processed foods with trans fats—and eat more veggie protein, nuts, and whole fat dairy. U.S. News & World Report gave The Fertility Diet one of the top overall diet honors thanks to the balanced approach; plus, it comes with the added perks of helping protect your heart and prevent diabetes.
Spokesperson Marie Osmond says she lost 50 pounds, but could you get the same results on the high protein, high fiber, and low fat meal replacement plan? Possibly. A recent study compared commercial diet plans and found that Nutrisystem was one of the more successful diets, helping people lose 3.8 percent more weight compared to control groups. (Though researchers say more long term studies are needed.) The study also found it costs about $280 a month, making it cheaper than similar plans like Jenny Craig.
First you’ll meet with a consultant, then pick out your own menu of Jenny Craig food. (Meals are designed to be lower cal versions of what you love, like chocolate shakes, pancakes, and burgers.) The combo of social support plus portion control is a fat-busting duo, helping dieters lose nearly 5 percent more weight after a year versus dieters in a control group, according to the same study that evaluated Nutrisystem. It’s so promising that researchers think docs should recommend Jenny Craig to their overweight patients. Besides: no cooking. Score!
You’d think that a weight loss competition show would push some sort of crazy gimmicky plan that leaves you starving. But this one goes heavy on the fruits, veggies, and lean protein—and exercise. Sounds like it makes sense, right? Exactly—and that’s why it works. The U.S. News and World Report rated The Biggest Loser Diet as one of the best for weight loss (particularly when you need to slim down fast). The verdict: go for it, then flaunt your bad self when you’re done.
When it came onto the scene, it was revolutionary and totally rule-breaking. Eat all the meaty goodness you want—as long as you drastically cut carbs. And in a study on young, overweight and obese women, Atkins beat out higher-carb plans, when dieters shed over 10 pounds in a year compared to less than five in other diets And, nope, Atkins didn’t clog their arteries either. Of course, while it’s effective for weight loss, low carb diets can be unbalanced if you eat too much meat and too few veggies. Think about if it fits your lifestyle—and don’t give up on the other components of a healthy diet—before hopping on the carb-cutting bandwagon.
A love for the drive thru can get you in trouble: being overweight is one risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can happen when fat builds up in the liver and those fatty foods make the organ work overtime. Luckily, though, cleaning up your eats can help reverse some damage to liver cells. The American Liver Foundation recommends keeping them low-cal and loading up on fiber (raspberries, lentils, and oatmeal are good choices). But keep in mind this isn’t a fad diet—it’s more a medical necessity for those at risk. So while it’s generally healthy, there’s no reason to go on it specifically unless advised by your doctor.
Talk about heart ache: high blood pressure stresses arteries, and can make you more susceptible to heart disease. To eat to lower your blood pressure, you just need to focus on heart-healthy bites. The American Heart Association recommends loading up on fruits, veggies, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, beans, lean meats, and fish. Bonus: no one’s ever gotten fat eating more kale and beans.
Diet alone can’t cure arthritis—but it can help ease joint pain. The key is loading up on foods that lower inflammation, according to the Arthritis Foundation. So go for more fish, nuts, fruits and veggies, whole grains, and olive oil; limit alcohol, saturated fat, processed junk, and sugar. One big perk: the plan will help you lose weight, making everyday activities easier on your joints. Ah, sweet relief.
Who could argue with a diet that emphasizes foods like beans, berries, whole grains, greens, nuts, seeds, and potatoes? Those foods are all good fiber-filled picks. The hunger-taming nutrient is a super star for filing you up, so you naturally eat less throughout the day. Not to mention that, when researchers asked people to make just one change to their diet—add more fiber—they were almost four pounds skinnier after a year compared to those following the American Heart Association dietary guidelines. Aim for at least 30 grams a day and you’ll be on the right track.
First things first: there’s no reason to go on this diet unless you suffer from symptoms of acid reflux (heartburn, upper abdominal pain). If you do, experts say that what you eat can make a huge difference in finding relief, especially if you don’t want to rely on meds. So you’ll eat fewer fatty, greasy foods—goodbye fast food—and avoid alcohol. Both changes can lead to one nice (but unintentional) side effect: weight loss.
Pretty self-explanatory: eat 1,200 calories a day. If you’re doing it for quick weight loss or to jumpstart a diet, it can get the job done, says Salzman. But you’ve got to make those calories count. “You can have a balanced and satisfying 1,200 calorie day full of good protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs—or you can have one full of junk that spikes your blood sugar and makes you feel lightheaded and awful,” she says. Just remember: if you’re a tall woman or athletic, you may need to eat more calories even when trying to lose weight to make sure your body is getting the sustenance it needs.
Choose the 1,200-calorie plan if going down a dress size is your goal. (You could also do a 2,000-calorie plan if you’re in weight maintenance mode.) The company sends you low-cal, low-fat already prepared and perfectly portioned meals of fresh food, making this ideal if you don’t like to cook or don’t have time to do it. “It helps you make smart choices and is good for people with diabetes or heart disease,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, owner of Betterthandieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It.
When you’re diabetic, it’s crucial to eat well to keep blood sugar stable. The American Diabetes Association says you can use visual cues on your plate to do it right: fill one-quarter with starchy foods (whole grains, legumes), one-quarter with high-protein foods (fish, egg whites, chicken), and then half with non-starchy veggies (spinach, peppers). Even better: these smart choices can help you lose weight. If you’re one of the 86 million adults in the US who have pre-diabetes, losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can prevent the disease from developing, according to research.
If you’ve been noticing excess facial hair, period irregularities, acne, and you’re obese, your doc may consider Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that’s associated with insulin resistance and can make it incredibly hard to lose weight. The recommendation combines standard diet advice—eat less, move more—plus a low carb diet (ditch the refined carbs, eat high-fiber complex ones) to help control insulin. It’s not a specialized, revolutionary diet by any means, but sticking to it can pay off. Research shows losing 5 percent of your body weight can make a huge difference in regaining fertility, clearing your skin, getting rid of unwanted hair, and balancing hormones.
Okay, this one’s not for weight loss per se, but if you’ve got high cholesterol or are at risk for heart disease, your doc might suggest switching up your diet to get your numbers in check. According to the American Heart Association, that means all the basic tenants of eating healthy—the (almost boring) things you’ve heard before—eat more fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat and non-fat dairy, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. But it’s what you’re eating less of that really counts. Fewer high-cal foods like sweets, fatty and processed meats, full fat dairy, trans fat, and fried foods is a sure-fire way to not only lower cholesterol, but also cut calories to lose weight. Win-win.
It’s like Michael Pollan famously said: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. A plant-based diet encourages produce, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, and whole soy like tofu, while still allowing a bit of high-quality meat, fish, and dairy. In a new study titled “Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health?” researchers set out to do just that. The winner? “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants” they wrote. Not bad for the best diet ever.
There’s no one set anti-inflammation diet, but for some experts that means eating mostly plant-based and for others it’s focusing on whole foods. For Mark Mincolla, Ph.D., author of The Whole Health Diet, that means eating foods that keep insulin in check. Insulin is an inflammatory hormone that encourages the body to store calories rather than burn them, and can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. He suggests following a diet of lean protein, low-starch veggies (like broccoli) and healthy monounsaturated fats (like avocado) to limit the amount you’ve got hanging around.
It’s hard to argue with the American Heart Association. Luckily, the same foods that the AHA recommends—fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, chicken and fish, nuts, legumes—are the same ones that are recommended time and time again for weight loss. You’re also told to limit foods high in sat fat, trans fat, and sodium, which can both help you cut calories and reduce bloating. Sounds good to us.
You hear the term glycemic index thrown around, but what does it really mean? Whether a food ranks high or low on the scale depends on how it affects your blood sugar. High GI foods (muffins, crackers, cookies) spike your blood sugar and can bring on cravings and hunger. Low GI foods (non-starchy veggies, meats) keep blood sugar stable. In a new study, scientists discovered that eating higher GI foods was associated with weight gain over a 16-year span. That doesn’t mean carbs are out, though—just choose lower-GI ones like beans, lentils, and brown rice more often than not.
Souping is the new juice cleanse, and for good reason: “Soup is a fabulous food. It’s hydrating and fills up your stomach, so eating it before a meal can curb your appetite,” says Taub-Dix. In fact, research shows that a soup appetizer can reduce the number of calories you eat at a meal by 20 percent. That said, there’s no reason to consume only soup. (You’re not going to eat only soup for the rest of your life, right?) Instead, make it an addition to your diet and you’ll reap the benefits. This recipe may even help you live to 100.
If you hate the whole three-meals-a-day structure, how about trying a diet where you eat every three hours instead? The 3-Hour Diet is an easy-to-follow plan created by fitness trainer and health expert Jorge Cruise, and it involves eating a small portion of food every few hours during the day to keep your metabolism high. With six small meals on your schedule (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack), you’re constantly fueling our body and helping burn fat during the day. The only thing to keep in mind is that you can’t go crazy with your meal sizes — if you’re eating six huge dishes, you’ll most likely gain weight instead of lose it.
If you want to spend less time cooking and more time eating, the raw food diet could be your solution. The plan — which is mostly vegan — consists of eating foods that are raw or heated below 115 degrees. The diet also means saying goodbye to all processed and pasteurized foods, sugar and flour, caffeine, and salt. It might sound extreme, but because it consists of mostly fruits, veggies, seeds and nuts with no meat or dairy, you’re bound to lose weight: Studies have shown a mostly raw diet leads to a decreased amount of body fat, and you don’t even have to go full-out to see results.
Not so sure about becoming a vegetarian or vegan? That’s where the flexitarian diet comes in. You’re basically adding new foods into your diet, focusing on plant-based proteins like tofu, beans, nut or soy milk, and eating less meat — but not cutting it out completely. Since vegetarian and vegan diets typically lead to weight loss, you’ll see results from being a flexitarian, too: Studies show those who are mostly vegetarian or vegan have a lower BMI than full-on meat-eaters.
Now that you know which diet plans can work wonders for your waistline, make sure you know which ones, well, don’t. You can check out the trendy diet plans that are totally BS here, and then save this article for later by pinning this image and following Redbook on Pinterest for more ideas.
Best Diet Plans That Work – Weight Loss Plans to Help You Lose Weight Fast – Redbook
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