Jan. 7, 2014 -- Just in time to help us with those New Year’s weight loss goals, the new annual ‘‘best diets'' list is out from U.S. News & World Report.
Once again, the tried and true plans won over fad diets to receive top spots on the experts' lists. The DASH diet repeats as best diet overall. It was originally developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to prevent high blood pressure. It stresses eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while eating less salt.
The 2014 version of the report evaluates 32 diet plans in multiple categories. The categories are:
- Best overall
- Best weight loss
- Best diabetes
- Best heart-healthy
- Best for healthy eating
- Best commercial
- Best plant-based
- Easiest to follow
For heart health, the Ornish diet, a low-fat approach similar to the DASH diet, took first place. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, grains, vegetables, olive oil, and other healthy foods, took first place for the best plant-based diet.
Tied for last place overall were the Paleo diet and the Dukan diet. The Paleo suggests ''eating like a caveman" -- meat, fish, poultry. But it's not feasible for modern times, the experts say. Dukan emphasizes protein, and experts call it restrictive, even ''idiotic."
The report wins approval from Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition for Washington University in St. Louis. She reviewed the findings but was not involved in the report.
"The diets topping the charts focus on health, nutritional needs, and palatability -- factors that are essential to maintaining eating plans that will meet individual needs," she says.
Stressing those factors, she says, emphasizes the importance of a diet as a lifestyle, not a quick fix.
Ranking the Diets
The experts rated the diets for short-term and long-term weight loss, how easy they are to follow, and safety and nutrition. They also considered how well each diet could help prevent and control diabetes and heart disease.
Cost was not a factor they looked at.
The experts' evaluations were converted to scores and then stars. One star was lowest, five highest.
Here are more details on the rankings for best overall and best weight loss diets.
Best Overall Diets
2. TLC diet (4 stars): The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet was created by the National Institutes of Health. Experts say it's good at promoting heart health. One downside: You do it yourself, and some people may miss the support provided by some commercial plans.
3. (tie) The Mayo Clinic diet, Mediterranean diet, and Weight Watchers (3.9 stars): Mayo is cited for its good nutrition and safety, as well as being ''a tool against diabetes." The Mediterranean Diet is called sensible. Weight Watchers ''surpassed other commercial diet plans in multiple areas," the experts say, ''including short- and long-term weight loss and how easy it is to follow."
Best Weight Loss Diets
1. Weight Watchers (3.8 stars): This popular diet assigns points for foods and includes a program to keep weight under control.
2. (tie) Jenny Craig, Biggest Loser, and Raw Food diets (3.5 stars): The Biggest Loser plan, from the TV show, is built around healthy food and regular exercise. Jenny Craig provides weekly one-on-one counseling sessions and has prepackaged, portion-controlled foods. The Raw Food Diet was cited for both short-term and long-term weight loss. Raw foods typically have fewer calories than other foods. The restrictive diet may not work for everyone, experts caution.
Rating the Newcomers
Three new diets added to the list this year didn’t fare so well:
The Fast diet (2.5 stars): On this plan, you eat normally for 5 days, then cut how much you eat to a quarter of that for 2 consecutive days.
The Acid-Alkaline diet (2.6 stars): You avoid acid-forming foods such as red meats.
The Spark Solution diet (3.3 stars): You exercise and cut back on calories. Experts were concerned that Spark’s detailed guidance is given only for the first 2 weeks.
Diekman reports receiving honoraria from advisory board work for the California Walnut Board, National Dairy Council, Aspartame Advisory Panel, and Facts Up Front.