Good diet advice really hasn’t changed as much as proponents of fad diets seem to believe. Good diet advice is steady: focus on lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Avoid saturated fats and added sugar. Easy, right? Just eat healthy food in moderation and we’ll all link arms and go skipping down the lane in our favorite skinny jeans!
Sure. We’ll get right on that.
The truth is that it’s hard to eat healthy, even on a good day. On a bad day, well, all bets are off. Having a plan can help, but many diet plans aren’t sustainable, and some aren’t even healthy. And with diet fads changing and advertising going hard after dieter dollars, it’s hard to differentiate between a good diet and a good way to waste money.
But U.S. News & World Report reviewed 40 different diets and ranked them according to these factors:
- How easy the plan is to follow
- Nutrition quality
- Effectiveness for weight loss
- Effectiveness for protecting against diabetes and heart disease
Below are their top 10 picks, in descending order, along with some basic information about each. Two eating plans tied for the number one spot, and three tied for fifth place. Check out the list and see what plans ranked the healthiest!
10. The Fertility Diet
The fertility diet claims to boost ovulation and help women get pregnant faster. Men can benefit from the diet, but it does not address male fertility issues.
The plan focuses on 10 steps, which can be tackled all at once or slowly added in as someone is ready. Here’s an overview of the steps:
- Avoid trans fats. (Trans fats are found in things like refrigerated cakes, pie crusts, frozen pizza, and ready-to-use frosting.)
- Consume more unsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive and canola oil.
- Eat more vegetable proteins and fewer animal proteins.
- Get your carbohydrates from foods like whole grains, beans, and vegetables. Avoid simple carbs like white bread, pasta, candy, and cookies.
- Add some whole-fat dairy—yes, seriously. The study this plan is based on found that one to two daily servings of whole-fat dairy can improve fertility.
- Include folic acid and B vitamins. This is especially important for women who are trying to conceive.
- Increase iron intake by eating more fruits, veggies, and beans. Avoid getting most of your iron from red meat.
- Aim for eight glasses of water a day (eight ounces each), and more if you’re exercising. Ditch the soft drinks and consider ditching alcohol. While alcohol intake wasn’t clearly associated with decreased fertility, some of the original study participants preferred to abstain rather than risk a decrease in fertility.
- Aim to get your body weight within the “fertility zone.” The fertility zone refers to a Body Mass Index score between 20 and 24. While this is considered a healthy range in general, it can also boost ovulation and menstruation.
- Incorporate activity throughout your day with short walks, yard work, dancing… whatever gets you moving!
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9. The Ornish Diet
The Ornish Diet is flexible in that it can be tailored for weight loss, disease prevention, blood pressure control, or to help prevent breast or prostate cancer. The diet claims it can help you “feel better, live longer, lose weight and gain health.”
The best and worst thing about the Ornish Diet is its flexibility. It puts food into five categories from most to least healthy and emphasizes foods from groups one through three. If you want to lose more weight or reverse heart disease, you’ll have to operate at the strict end of the plan’s spectrum. If you just want to be a little healthier, you can be more relaxed. The plan focuses on changes that you’ll learn to stick with for life. It also encourages exercising, reducing stress, and spending time with loved ones to improve physical and mental health.
8. The Mayo Clinic Diet
This one is for those who want their jeans to be a little looser! On the Mayo Clinic Diet, you’ll lose six to ten pounds in the first two weeks and continue losing one to two pounds each week until you hit your goal. The plan helps you trade bad habits for good habits by using the Mayo clinic’s food pyramid. The bottom of the pyramid, where the bulk of a person’s diet should come from, focuses on foods with low energy density, which means fewer calories per bite. Energy density goes up as the pyramid rises—sweets are at the very top.
Plan participants will add in good habits like eating breakfast, eating more fruits and vegetables, and getting exercise. They’ll also ditch bad habits like eating while watching TV, snacking, eating out too much, and consuming too much meat and full-fat dairy. The Mayo Clinic published a diet specifically for those with diabetes in 2013, which focuses more on keeping blood sugar levels stable.