If you’re considering going on a diet, you’ve probably been thinking about doing some research to help you decide what program is best for you. There are a ton of options out there, and not every option works for every individual. Every program has its pros and cons.
Here’s a quick rundown of ten of the most popular diet programs out there right now, their strengths and weaknesses.
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet
The Skinny: Developed as a way to combat high blood pressure and related maladies, DASH focuses on how many calories you should eat and where those calories should come from. Several guides, developed by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, are available, and provide the info the program is based on.
Pros: Heart healthy, Nutritionally sound
Cons: Can be pricey, you have to do a lot of the work yourself
TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) Diet
The Skinny: Aiming to cut high cholesterol, TLC emphasizes cutting way back on fat intake. The program advises patients to pick a daily calorie count target and then restrict fat intake to 7% of that number.
Pros: Heart healthy, government-endorsed
Cons: Not intended to promote weight loss (although low-fat diets do promote weight loss), you’re on your own
Mayo Clinic Diet
The Skinny: Following guidelines set out in the Mayo Clinic Diet book, you work through a two-part process. Part 1, “Lose It!”, focuses on your eating habits: which habits to keep, which habits to add, and which habits to get rid of. During “Lose It!” you don’t count calories and you can snack on all the fruits and vegetables you want. Part 2, “Live It!”, deals more with educating yourself about calories and where they should come from. The goal is the formation of new eating patterns.
Pros: Good potential for long-term weight loss, you set the diet
Cons: Lots of work for dieter, can be pricey
The Skinny: It’s no secret that folks living in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea live longer lives, suffering less disease. The Mediterranean program adopts the eating and lifestyle choices of these folks, focusing on eating more fresh produce, consuming much less red meat and sweets, and getting physically active.
Pros: Tasty, flavorful food choices, good nutritional foundation
Cons: Can be pricey, you do a lot of the research work
The Skinny: A popular commercial diet plan, Weight Watchers’ system revolves around the idea that if you make smarter food choices, you can consume fewer calories without eating less. Foods are given a point value, with healthy, filling foods receiving the lowest point total. Dieters can eat whatever they want, as long as they adhere to their daily points target.
Pros: Easy to follow, eat whatever you want
Cons: Pricey, lots of boring point counting
The Skinny: A fusion of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian”, the Flexitarian plan encourages dieters to follow a vegetarian diet most of the time, but still leaves room for the occasional cheeseburger. The program re-organizes the food groups and break them down into a 3–4-5 regimen: 300 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch, and 500 for dinner, with a pair of 150-calorie snacks thrown in.
Pros: Flexible, lots of recipes available
Cons: Fruit and veggie-heavy, emphasis on home cooking
The Skinny: Volumetrics runs on the idea that if you fill your plate with less energy-dense foods, you’ll consume fewer calories without eating less food. Foods are divvied up into four categories based on their energy density. Dieters are advised to eat more foods that falls in the lower categories, while eating from other categories in moderation or sparingly.
Pros: Filling, everything is fair game
Cons: Lots of meal set-up, not for those who aren’t fans of fruits, veggies, and soup
The Skinny: Dieters lose weight by adhering to a personalized diet and exercise plan, with the help of a weekly counseling session with a Jenny Craig consultant. Dieters learn what they should be eating, what balanced meals are comprised of, and how to use that knowledge.
Pros: Clear guidelines, pre-packaged meals
Cons: Expensive, no room for home-cooking or eating out
The Biggest Loser Diet
The Skinny: After choosing a Biggest Loser book to follow, dieters learn to prepare meals based on a special food pyramid and get suggestions for exercise regimens, all while being buoyed by success stories from past Biggest Loser contestants.
Pros: Good nutritional foundation, no off-limits foods
Cons: Lots of reading involved, can be pricey
The Skinny: Based on his book The Spectrum, professor Dean Ornish sets out guidelines for nutrition, activity, stress management, and emotional support options. Foods are broken into five groups from least (group 1) to most (group 5) healthy. The goal is to educate dieters about the relative nutritional values of different foods and help them make better decisions when filling their shopping carts.
Pros: Very heart healthy, nutritionally stout
Cons: Could be hard to follow, not cheap