From Our 2012 Archives
Report Looks at Best Diets, Easiest to Follow
Experts Examine 25 Diet Plans, Rate Them Seven Different Ways
By Kathleen Doheny
Reviewed by Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC
Jan. 4, 2012 -- Who isn't looking for a diet this month? Whether you're resolving to lose weight, eat healthier, or manage or prevent health problems, here's help.
Just out today: the U.S. News & World Report's Best Diets 2012, a rating of 25 different diet plans.
And the winner is?
The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), a plan to prevent high blood pressure, took the top spot in the best diets overall category.
A panel of 22 experts also rated the plans six other ways, such as best diabetes diet, best commercial plan, and easiest diets to follow.
The entire list is here.
Best Diets: How to Use the Lists
"The diets near the top of the lists are sensible," says David Katz, MD, MPH, founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, and a panel member.
Those on the bottom? "Frankly, we are saying we wouldn't recommend you choose one of those," Katz says.
Diets on the bottom of the overall list include the Dukan Diet, a high-protein, low-fat, low-carbohydrate plan, and the Paleo Diet, which encourages eating like ancient hunter-gatherers, with fruits, vegetables, and animal proteins. Those diets tied for last place.
Still, if a patient asked him how to pick from the lists, Katz would say: "You're the boss. You're in the driver's seat. You can go shopping. I like the idea of empowerment."
Before choosing, think of your priority, says panel member Andrea Giancoli, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Do you want most to eat better? Lose weight? Prevent or manage diabetes?
"We're so fixated on that New Year's resolution of losing weight, we lose sight of the big picture -- to be at a healthy weight and maintain the healthy weight and get the nutrition your body needs," says Giancoli, a Los Angeles dietitian.
Best Diets: Other Categories
The experts rated the diets in six other ways.
Easiest to follow:
For best weight-loss diets:
For best diets, commercial plans:
For best diabetes diets:
For best diets that are heart-healthy:
Best diets for healthy eating:
Best Diets? More Advice
Before picking a plan, think about whether it will fit your lifestyle, Giancoli says. If the diet calls for you to prepare food, think about whether you like or hate spending time in the kitchen. If you don't like it, or don't have the time, a plan that doesn't require extensive food preparation may be better.
Get more information on the diet before plunging into it, says Marion Franz, MS, RD, a Minneapolis dietitian and another panel member. A couple of key questions: How successful were people who followed the diet? And, if it's a weight loss plan, how long did they keep off the weight?
"Most people will be successful for the first six months [on a diet]," she says. "The real question is what happens after six months."
If a plan can show you long-term results past that time, that's ideal, Franz tells WebMD.
Think very long term, says panel member Sachiko St. Jeor, PhD, RD, professor of clinical medicine at the University of Nevada. The long haul, she says, often means making permanent diet changes, not changing your eating just for a few months.
No diet is perfect, she says: "All have good, bad, and limitations."
SOURCES: U.S. News & World Report's Best Diets Rankings, 2012.Marion Franz, MS, RD, nutrition consultant, Minneapolis, Minn.Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, Los Angeles registered dietitian and spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.Sachiko St. Jeor, PhD, RD, professor of clinical medicine, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno.David Katz, MD, MPH, founding director, Yale University Prevention Research Center.