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 Biggest Loser diet’s solid nutrition and safety garnered plenty of ratings of 4 and 5. Although some experts were concerned that the diet is too salty and falls short on potassium and vitamin D, they still concluded that it’s a healthy diet.
A vegetarian menu isn’t automatically healthy or safe. But when the U.S. News experts analyzed a vegetarian menu adapted from U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, with meals like buckwheat pancakes, vegetable soup, and tofu stir fry, they found the approach nutritious and gave it ratings of “very” and “extremely” safe.
How much potassium and vitamins B-12 and D the diet supplies is unclear, but the expert panel deemed the packaged meals, supplemented with snacks of fresh produce, nonfat dairy, and protein sources, generally nutritionally complete and safe.
This program revolves around foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados, which are paired with fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, and fish. Experts were impressed with the plan’s nutrition and safety, handing out mostly 4s and a few 5s. Dieters needn’t worry about serious side effects or risks, the experts agreed.
The plan earned 3.7 stars, but experts weren’t overly impressed. Although it’s considered “nutritionally balanced,” it’s a complicated plan, and dieters are told to avoid certain fruits and veggies if they’re not organic. “This kind of advice unnecessarily deters folks from consuming healthful fruit and vegetables,” one expert said.
The Glycemic-Index diet distinguishes “good” carbs from “bad.” A food’s GI ranking doesn’t always reflect how nutritious it is—foods can be laden with sugar, calories, and saturated fat but still have a low GI. Considering the nutrients it can provide, the GI approach is reasonably complete, the experts decided, and you probably won’t face major health risks.
Getting just 1,200 calories a day on Slim-Fast didn’t sit well with some experts. That’s half the amount recommended in federal guidelines for men from 21 to 40 and nearly that much less for women in that age group. Concerned panelists thought it’s low, especially for dieters under 18, who are still growing. Still, the company’s products are nutrient-fortified and dieters have one homemade meal each day, so the consensus was that Slim-Fast is mostly nutritious and safe.
The Abs diet is a moderately healthy approach, our panelists concluded. Two of their main complaints: Research backing the plan is scant, so it’s hard to know exactly how safe and nutritious it is. And it comes up short on important nutrients like potassium and vitamin D.
Experts had enough reservations to send South Beach to the lower end this list, but most didn’t consider it extremely nutrient-deficient or unsafe. It’s a little heavy on fat at the start in phase 1, short on carbs during phases 1 and 2, and low in potassium throughout. Some experts were concerned it might be too high in protein for those with kidney problems.