It’s not fair to expect children to switch from cookies to kale without telling them why it’s important.
Best Commercial Diet Plans
If you’re considering a diet, brand-name programs like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and Slim-Fast might come to mind, but there are others. Experts who rated the 13 diet plans below for U.S. News found wide differences in effectiveness. Among the qualities considered by the experts were each diet’s ability to deliver weight loss, provide good nutrition and safety, and be relatively easy to follow.
Weight Watchers is the top commercial diet, earning relatively high marks in all areas of assessment. Experts said it is safe, nutritious, and easy to follow. “In terms of commercial weight-loss plans, this is as good as it gets,” one said.
Jenny Craig did almost as well. It garnered particularly good ratings from experts for enabling rapid weight loss and being easy to follow. Some experts criticized what they felt was overreliance on packaged meals, high cost, and challenges faced by followers in restaurants and other social dining situations.
Experts were impressed by the diet’s ability to deliver short-term weight loss and by its safety, nutritional soundness, and value as a diabetes or heart diet. They would have liked more information about effectiveness. “It’s hard to judge this diet based on very limited data,” said one expert.
Slim-Fast ranked well against other commercial diets. “If you’re looking for quick, short-term weight loss, this is the perfect diet,” one expert said. “It takes all the ‘thought’ out of weight loss. You just have to drink the shakes.” That’s also a potential downside, since some panelists thought the diet can become monotonous and felt that dieters don’t learn how to eat for long-term weight maintenance.
The Spark Solution, with its detailed playbook of meal plans and daily guidance, struck one panelist as “somewhat gimmicky.” However, the principals of the plan – nutritious eating and exercise – are tried-and-true methods for healthy eating and weight loss. So while a few experts agreed the plan is “nothing novel,” they still doled out scores that were higher than those of most other commercial diets.
The diet pulled in strong scores in nutrition, and safety. Experts rated it slightly above average for how easy it is to follow and slightly below average for ability to prevent or manage diabetes and heart disease. One expert said the plan’s focus on eating a certain amount of monounsaturated fatty acids with each meal is based on “faulty logic.”
The Abs diet stands solidly in the middle of its commercial counterparts. While it incorporates “many of the principles for effective weight loss,” according to one expert, another commented that “there is no research behind this plan.” As a group, experts rated it near the back of the pack in ability to sustain long-term weight loss.
Neither was South Beach a standout. While one expert called it a “healthier version of a carbohydrate-controlled diet,” and it received a high mark for short-term weight loss, panelists weren’t fond of its restrictive requirements. We found few studies that support claims of effectiveness.
Experts found the diet mediocre relative to the other commercial programs. It emphasizes eating precise proportions of each type of calorie source—40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat—an approach many experts dismissed as healthy but unrealistically demanding. As one put it, “research has not found anything miraculous in this nutrient breakdown.”