U.S. News Best Diets: How We Rated 32 Eating Plans

With help from a panel of diet and nutrition experts, U.S. News unveils new 2014 diet rankings.

best_you_featured_diets.jpg
SHARE

Diets come and go, teasing and tempting us with dreams of that elusive hot body. Eat what you want! Pounds melt away overnight! The reality, as frustrated dieters know well, is that dieting is hard, and frankly, most diets don't work. Some can even threaten your health. And digging out the truth about dieting, let alone deciphering whether particular plans live up to the hype, is laborious enough to burn off a pound or two by itself.

Best Diets 2014 cuts through the clutter of claims. Now in its fourth year, Best Diets delivers the facts about 38 eating plans and ranks 32 of them on a range of levels, from their heart healthiness to their likelihood to help you lose weight.

Many of the diets, like Weight Watchers, are household names, while others, such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, should be. To create the fourth annual rankings, U.S. News editors and reporters spent months winnowing potential additions to our diet roster and then mining medical journals, government reports and other resources to create in-depth profiles for those that made the cut. This year, we added the Acid Alkaline Diet, Spark Solution Diet and Fast Diet to the rankings and produced in-depth profiles about the gluten-free diet and Low FODMAP diet.

Each profile explains how the diet works, determines whether its claims add up or fall short, scrutinizes it for possible health risks – and reveals what it's like to live on the diet, not just read about it.

A panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease reviewed our profiles, added their own fact-finding and rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. We also asked the panelists to let us know about aspects of each diet they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in with tidbits of advice that someone considering a particular diet should know.

After every diet received robust scrutiny, we converted the experts' ratings to scores and stars from 5 (highest) to 1 (lowest). We then used those scores to construct eight sets of Best Diets rankings, which have been refreshed to add the three diets new to the 2014 rankings. The eight ranking sets are as follows:

Best Diets Overall combines panelists' ratings in all seven categories. All categories were not equally weighted. Short-term and long-term weight loss were combined, with long-term ratings getting twice the weight. Why? Quick results are important after the holidays or when summer looms, but a diet's true test is whether it can be sustained for years. That's especially the case for those who are overweight or obese; losing as little as 5 percent of body weight can dramatically reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. And safety was double-counted, because no diet should be dangerous.

Best Commercial Diets uses the same approach to rank 13 structured diet programs marketed to the public.

Best Weight-Loss Diets was generated by combining short-term and long-term weight-loss ratings, weighting both equally. Some dieters want to drop pounds fast; others, looking years ahead, are aiming for slow and steady. Equal weighting accepts both goals as worthy.

Best Diabetes Diets is based on averaged diabetes ratings.

Best Heart-Healthy Diets uses averaged heart-health ratings.

Best Diets for Healthy Eating combines nutritional completeness and safety ratings, giving twice the weight to safety. A healthy diet should provide sufficient calories and not fall seriously short on important nutrients or entire food groups.

Easiest Diets to Follow represents panelists' averaged judgments about each diet's taste appeal, ease of initial adjustment, ability to keep dieters from feeling hungry and imposition of special requirements.