The problem with resolving to eat healthy is that it leads to an even bigger problem: figuring out what “eating healthy” even means.
To the rescue is U.S. News & World Report‘s annual diet rankings. Each year, they recruit a panel of expert critics to scrutinize the most popular diet programs and assign superlatives based on a number of categories: ability to trigger short-term weight loss; effectiveness for long-term weight loss; protection against diabetes; protection against heart disease; ease of compliance; nutritional completeness; and general health risks.
The whole thing is very mathematical and therefore, quite scientifically sound. But because numbers remind you of calorie counting (BLEH), here’s the list distilled to the barest of bones.
The Best Diet to Lose Weight: Weight Watchers
How Weight Watchers works: This program has undergone quite a few makeovers since it was introduced in the early ’60s, but the same founding principles remain. Every food is assigned a point value based on its ability to fill you up with the fewest number of calories. The idea is that the more filling food you eat, the less you’ll want to eat overall, and the more weight you’ll lose. With that in mind, you can eat whatever you want so long as you don’t surpass your point allotment. Learn more here.
The Best Diet to Lose Weight ASAP: HMR or The Biggest Loser Diet
How HMR works: Short for Health Management Resources, the HMR diet involves subbing out regular meals and snacks for low-calorie diet foods like shakes, controlled meals, bars, and hot cereals. You’ll also eat fruits and veggies to fill up. Learn more here.
How The Biggest Loser diet works: You increase exercise and reduce calories during a concentrated period that typically lasts six weeks. In terms of fuel, you’ll load up on higher-quality calories from produce, lean proteins, and whole grains — all carefully portioned by you — and ease up on saturated fats and added sugars. Learn more here.
The Best Diet for Lazies: Weight Watchers, Fertility, or MIND Diet
How the Fertility diet works: You’ll eat like the women who struggled least with infertility during a landmark study that followed nearly 20,000 female nurses. That means limiting sugar from carbs and trans fats, eating plant-based proteins, loading up on fiber and iron, popping multivitamins, and giving into your cravings for high-fat dairy foods like
milk — OK, fine, ice cream. Learn more here.
How the MIND diet works: Short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, this diet is a mash-up of the DASH and Mediterranean diets designed to keep your mind in tact ~forever~ (or for as long as humanly possible) according to statistically significant research. The diet distinguishes itself by pinpointing 10 brain-food groups (green leafy veggies, other veggies, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive, and wine). You have to consume a certain number of servings per good food group per day or week while avoiding five unhealthy food groups: red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, sweets, and fried or fast foods. (But because wine is a bona fide food group, the rest of those rules are NBD.) Learn more here.
The Best Diet for Vegetarians: Mediterranean
How the Mediterranean diet works: Lay off red meat, sugar, and saturated fat, and replace it with all the produce, plus fish, olive oil, whole grains, dairy (in moderation), and the occasional red wine (that’d be a glass, not a bottle). Learn more here.
The Best Diet if You Just Want to Be Healthy, Dammit: DASH Diet
How the DASH diet works: Initially designed to lower high blood pressure and fend off all the health issues that accompany it, this diet consists of rules you probably already know. Load up on fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. Go easy on sweets, salty stuff, and red meat. Learn more here.