Best Diets for Healthy Eating
The last thing you want from a diet is a risk to your health. Any diet should provide sufficient calories and not fall seriously short on important nutrients or entire food groups. The Best Diets for Healthy Eating rankings weigh nutritional completeness and safety, with particular emphasis on safety, based on ratings in those categories of 5 (best) to 1 (worst) by a panel of experts. (See how we did it.) Of the 29 popular diet programs ranked by U.S. News, the government-endorsed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) plan stood at the top of the Healthy Eating list.
The panelists applauded the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) plan for its nutritional soundness and safety—it racked up near-perfect scores in both categories. Endorsed by the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services, the diet is packed with produce and light on saturated fat and salt.
Developed by the National Institutes of Health, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet is a healthy choice, panelists agreed. Doling out all 5s and 4s, experts approved of the fiber and calcium it generously provides as well as the saturated fat it doesn’t.
A Mediterranean diet-style buffet will showcase healthy foods like whole-grain pita and hummus, salads, fresh fruits and veggies, salmon, and beneficial fats like olive oil. The panelists concluded that diet meets the government’s nutrition recommendations and does not compromise compromising safety. True to its Mediterranean roots, a daily glass or two of red wine is encouraged. À votre santé!
You’re in good hands with this diet, developed by one of the country’s highest-profile medical centers. The experts liked the plan’s unique eating pyramid, which promotes foods with low energy density (you can eat more but take in fewer calories) like fruits and veggies. It took home all 4s and 5s save for one 3 in both safety and nutrition.
Another diet based on low-energy-density foods, Volumetrics menu items are large in volume but low in calories. That’s thanks to a whole lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy, and lean meat. Volumetrics fully or almost meets recommendations for the majority of necessary nutrients, making it a safe and healthy way of eating.
All-you-can-eat fresh fruits and veggies? It’s got to be healthy. Dieters are allotted daily points that quickly run out if expended on fatty foods like sweets. Weight Watchers promotes a healthy, balanced approach to eating, concluded the experts, who largely felt that dieters would get adequate nutrients and would not lose weight too quickly, which could be unsafe.
Dieters on this plan get appropriate amounts of fat, protein, and carbs, with lots of fiber and calcium. The program is “scientifically sound and safe,” said one of the experts. It garnered 3s, 4s, and 5s for both nutrition and safety.
The Flexitarian diet earned 4 out of 5 stars in this category, which means experts were impressed with its nutritional completeness and safety. One described it as “nutritionally sound,” and dieters can expect to stay in line with the government’s nutrient recommendations.
Provided that you obey the limitations on what Dr. Dean Ornish calls “group 5” foods heavy on saturated fat and instead stick with groups 1 through 3 at the other end of his spectrum—fish, plants, whole grains—your menu will stay in line with the government’s recommendations and you won’t risk your health.
Overall, experts deemed the Asian diet relatively safe and nutritious. Some panelists were concerned about dieters double-dipping into the soy sauce and downing heaps of refined white rice. One expert worried that because dairy isn’t emphasized, “adequate calcium intake will require some effort.” Another stressed that there’s little evidence to speak to the plan’s healthfulness or effectiveness.