Friday, Mar 1, 2024

The Best Diets for Weight Loss in 2023—Plus the Ones You Should Definitely Avoid

Going on a diet involves careful planning and plenty of research upfront. After all, you don’t want to find any diet—you want the right diet. And, if weight loss is your goal, you want to go on the best diet to lose weight that also fits within your lifestyle.

“Eating a nutrient-rich diet can make us feel better and more energized, and it lets us know we are taking steps towards a healthier life,” says dietitian Amanda Beaver, R.D.N, of Houston Methodist Wellness Services. But when you start researching the best ways to lose weight, your head can start spinning with all the different “miracle” diets out there—keto! paleo! 5-2 fasting! And of course each of these has an army of true believers, who post all over Instagram about how awesome they feel giving up carbs/sugar/meat/dinner. It can be impossible to know which one to try.

How to choose a new diet

Deciding on a new diet is a big deal, and it can be tricky to select the right one for you. “One must remember that healthy weight loss is a commitment that takes time,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. “There is no silver bullet. When choosing a diet, opt for one that is an all-food inclusive and not one that is about eliminating foods, especially those you love.”

Amanda Holtzer, M.S., R.D., a dietitian at Culina Health, suggests asking yourself the following question before settling on a new diet:

Is this diet sustainable for you? “Meaning, can you do it seven days a week, forever?” she says. “Because if not, the second you stop doing it, chances are you’ll gain the weight back.”

Is this diet overly restrictive? If you’re going to feel deprived, Holtzer says it will be tough to stick with a particular diet. “Eventually, those cravings will take over,” she says. “Oftentimes, this kind of situation leads to overindulgences or even binges.”

Will you be able to live your life while on it? If you like to eat out with friends, grab ice cream on occasion, and enjoy mimosas at brunch, it’s important to consider if your diet will allow this, Holtzer says. “If you think you’ll have to put your life on hold to execute this diet properly, it ain’t the one,” she says.

Will you be adequately nourished? Holtzer says this is “the most important” question to ask yourself. “Any diet that prescribes intensely low calories is not the one,” she says, citing diets that want to you to restrict yourself to 1,200 calories. “Remember, the second you stop eating that way, you’ll gain the weight back,” Holtzer says.

Ultimately, Gans says, “a good fit will have many parts to it that become part of your lifestyle, not something that you will be counting the days ‘til it is over.”

How long should you give a diet before trying something new?

Sure, it’s possible to choose a diet the first time that may not be right for you. So, how long should you give it? Holtzer says “not very long.” She recommends doing daily check-ins with yourself to see how you’re feeling on a new diet. A few things to consider, per Holtzer:

  • How well you’ve been able to stick to the diet
  • What you did well
  • What you could have improved on
  • Whether you feel satisfied from your meals and snacks
  • How much you’re thinking about food on the diet
  • How much the diet is impacting other areas of your life

    “Even if you finish day one of a diet, and the answers to some of these questions indicate that this diet may not be right, I would say it’s time to call it,” Holtzer says. “Life is too short to be on a diet that takes away from it.” (But, she adds, if you feel like daily check-ins are too much, you can reevaluate every week.)

    Gans agrees that you shouldn’t stick with something that doesn’t feel right. “If you are losing one to two pounds a week, then you are on the road to success,” she says. “However, if you are losing weight, but feel you cannot continue for long because it is so darn hard, the time to switch is immediate.”

    Overall, Gans recommends keeping this in mind: “The best diet is the one that doesn’t feel like a diet. The plan incorporates all foods groups, teaches you about portion sizes, provides healthy cooking tips, includes dining out strategies, suggest regular physical activity and adequate sleep. The best diet is actually not a diet, but a lifestyle.”

    We asked a panel of dietitians to sort through some of the most buzzed-about diets, and discuss the good, the bad, and the hungry. Here are their recommendations of the top 15 to consider—and 4 to forget about.

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    Mediterranean Diet

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    This diet consistently comes out on top, and there are a few reasons for that, says Jessica Cording, R.D., author of The Little Book of Game-Changers. “It’s high in fiber, which is great for improving digestion,” she says. “It’s also good for heart health and cancer risk reduction.” The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats and “tends to be low in unsaturated fat,” encouraging you to fill up good, nutrient-dense foods and taking a pass on unhealthy options, Cording points out.

    Based on the heart-healthy lifestyle of Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, Mediterranean-style diets include healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, and fish at least twice a week, plenty of beans, fruit, leafy greens, and whole grains, and even a daily glass of red wine. You can eat cheese in moderation, but limit the red meat to once or twice a week.

    How it works for weight loss: Though this diet’s primary appeal is in its numerous health benefits—it can lower your risk of both chronic disease and cognitive decline—it can also lead to weight loss if you limit your calorie intake to 1,500 a day or less. Studies have found that following either a traditional Mediterranean diet or a low-carb version of it can result in weight loss of about 5-10% of body weight over 12 months. And that weight stays off—a recent British study found that for people who had lost large amounts of weight, those who consumed a Mediterranean-style diet were twice as likely to keep it off. “This diet is easy to maintain, because the food is delicious!” says Beaver.

    RELATED: Hey, Let’s Talk About Why You Want to Lose Weight

    DASH Diet

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    The low-sodium Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet was designed as a way to help people control their blood pressure without using drugs, though a few books have used it as a basis for a weight-loss diet. DASH emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy and limits saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.

    How it works for weight loss: You will certainly improve your health with this diet, and if you restrict calories while following DASH’s heart-healthy rules, you can lose weight and lower your blood pressure. A recent study found of obese older adults found that those who followed the DASH diet lost weight and decreased body fat, along with many other health benefits. “DASH is one of my favorite diets,” says Meridan Zerner, R.D., a dietitian at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. “You’re getting the anti-inflammatory, high fiber, heart-healthy benefits, and if you use a personalized, calorie-limited plan, you can absolutely lose weight.”

    WW (formerly Weight Watchers)

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    Weight Watchers has been around so long, your Grandma probably tried it when she was trying to take off the baby weight. With the newest version, you’re assigned a Points budget based on your food and activity preferences ( (foods are given points based on calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein)—you can eat whatever you want within that range. You also have ZeroPoint foods (most fruits and veggies and lean proteins such as fish, tofu, beans, eggs, and chicken breast fall into this category). Memberships start at $5.29 a week for a point-tracking app and digital support; $13.83 a week gets you unlimited access to workshops and a personal coach, in addition to the app. The program can also be personalized to meet the needs of those living with different types of diabetes.

    How it works for weight loss: Research has consistently found that WW is effective at safely taking off the pounds. A 2013 study found that dieters assigned to WW were more than eight times more likely to lose 10% of their body weight over 6 months than those trying to diet on their own. “There is a lot of evidence that using a tracking app can help you lose weight,” says Zerner. She adds that even if you stop tracking every meal, it is easy to maintain weight loss once you internalize which healthy foods are low or 0 points.

    Vegan Diet

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    Going a step further than the traditional vegetarian diet, vegans shun all animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey. While many choose this lifestyle for ethical or environmental reasons, some people look to the vegan diet for weight loss as well. And with the new era of plant-based meats, going vegan is easier than ever.

    How it works for weight loss: Just going vegan won’t necessary help you drop the weight. After all, candy, pasta, and potato chips can all fall under the vegan label without being particularly healthy or low-cal. “If you eat high-quality vegan food, like leafy greens and plant-based proteins, you can lose more weight than either vegetarians or omnivores,” says Beaver. A 2020 Australian study came to the interesting conclusion that vegans and vegetarians are more likely to stick with the diet over the long run than those on plans such as paleo, because they were motivated by ethical and moral beliefs rather than just weight-loss.

    Flexitarian Diet

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    Whereas the vegan diet goes one step beyond vegetarianism, the Flexitarian diet takes it one step back, explains Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., nutritionist and author of The Flexitarian Diet. “This is a very pro-plant diet, but it gives you the flexibility to have a hot dog at a ballpark, or to eat some turkey at Thanksgiving,” she says. There are no strict calorie limitations, though Blatner’s book provides a 5-week plan that provides around 1,500 calories a day.

    How it works for weight loss: By filling your plate with more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and plant proteins, and sticking with the low-cal plan, you can lose weight and improve your health. A recent review found that people who followed a flexitarian diet had lower rates of metabolic syndrome than people who regularly ate meat.

    Intermittent Fasting

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    There are a few different ways to do the intermittent fasting plan: Some people eat whatever they want 5 days a week, then consume a very low calorie diet (usually around 500 calories) on the other 2 days; others restrict their eating to an 8-hour window every day. Say, eating unlimited food between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and fasting for the other 16 hours.

    How it works for weight loss: By limiting your overall calories consumption, you’ll take off the pounds, says Zerner, who points out that there is some evidence that this diet can also increase your metabolism rate and have other positive health effects. A 2015 meta-study found that people who did intermittent fasting lost about the same amount of weight as those who did a regular calorie-restricted diet.

    Volumetrics DIet

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    Consistently rated as one of the best diets by U.S. News & World Report, Volumetrics was created by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at Penn State University. The strategy here is simple: Fill up on foods that provide the most nutrition for the least amount of calories. Foods are divided into four categories, from least energy-dense (fruits, non-starchy vegetables, broth-based soups) to most energy-dense (crackers, cookies, chocolate, nuts, and butter); dieters plan their meals to include as many of the lower-density foods as possible.

    How it works for weight loss: The math here is simple—the fewer calories consumed, the more weight you’ll drop. A 2016 study found a significant association between low-energy-density diets and weight loss.

    Plant-Based Diet

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    Similar to a Flexitarian diet, a plant-based diet doesn’t have any super-strict rules: You just focus on eating whole foods derived from plants most of the time, with wiggle room for the occasional piece of chicken or scrambled egg. You’re basically taking the standard American diet—which features a big hunk of meat in the center of the plate, with a few vegetables scattered on the side—and flipping that around, so vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains, are the star of the show, and beef, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy only make small, cameo appearances when you have a true craving.

    How it works for weight loss: Plant-based foods tend to be higher in fiber and lower in fat than animal products, keeping you filled up for fewer calories. According to one large study, overweight and obese adults who followed a plant-based diet for six months lost an average of 26 pounds.

    The New Mayo Clinic Diet

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    The Mayo Clinic Diet was created by the highly esteemed medical organization of the same name, and it’s specially designed to be a lifestyle change—not a quick fix. The diet centers around an easy-to-follow food pyramid that stresses the importance of loading up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while minimizing sweets and certain fats.

    The diet happens in two phases. First, there’s a two-week phase that’s designed to jump-start your weight loss by introducing five healthy habits and teaching you to break five common habits. The second phase is designed to be followed for life and helps you learn more about healthy food choices and portion sizes, along with being physically active.

    How it works for weight loss: Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet says the focus on lifestyle changes is important, both for weight loss and weight maintenance. “It teaches you about portion sizes and food choices, while not excluding any food groups, as well as including daily physical activity, all of which may play a huge role in weight loss,” she says. Worth noting: The Mayo Clinic says you may lose up to 10 pounds during the first two weeks, and one to two pounds during the second phase, depending on what your lifestyle was like before you went on the diet.


    noom diet

    Noom is a subscription-based app that tracks a person’s food intake and exercise habits. It helps categorize foods as potentially being helpful or detrimental to a person’s weight-loss goals and also offers up daily calorie goals. Users of the app are synched up with coaches to help guide them through their weight loss process. “It has one-on-one support, and the tech is very convenient,” says Cording.

    How it works for weight loss: The accountability aspect is “really helpful,” Cording says. Gans agrees. “If you are truthful and log everything you eat and drink via the Noom app, it will help guide you to stay within your daily calorie allotment,” she says. “It also focuses on low-calorie nutrient foods and provides a one-on-one coach via messaging, all valuable for tools for weight loss.”

    Pescatarian diet

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    The Pescatarian diet is a mostly plant-based diet that still allows room for fish and other seafood. “It’s a mostly vegetarian diet, but with some fish,” Cording says. The emphasis is on eating whole, unprocessed foods, along with grilled or seared seafood for an overall healthy diet.

    How it works for weight loss: “Fish is a pretty lean protein source,” Cording says. “When you compare that to somebody who was eating heavy amounts of red meat, you would expect to see some weight loss.” Gans stresses the importance of eating plenty of fruits, veggies, and 100% whole grains, along with “watching portion sizes and preparing your fish in a healthy way, i.e. broiled, grilled, or steamed.”

    TLC Diet

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    The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet was originally designed to help lower cholesterol and created by the National Institute of Health (NIH). Under the diet, followers are encouraged to fill up on fruits and veggies, lean meats, and whole grain pasta, bread, and cereals. It also recommends limiting saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.

    How it works for weight loss: The diet encourages people to maintain a healthy weight and get regular exercise, aiming for 30 minutes on most days. “The diet is more about reducing cholesterol, but because it’s so low in saturated fat and foods that are calorie dense, some people find that they lose weight by default,” Cording says.

    MIND Diet

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    The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet is actually a combination of the DASH and Mediterranean diets, Cording explains. It focuses on foods that improve brain health with the overall goal of lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mental decline.

    The diet focuses on foods like leafy greens, nuts, and berries, and is naturally low in carbohydrates. “It tends to be low sodium and high in potassium, encouraging followers to choose healthy fats and lean protein sources,” Cording says.

    Research has found that the MIND diet lowered study participants’ risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 53% (for people who followed it well).

    How it works for weight loss: The MIND diet focuses on healthy fats like nuts, avocado, olive oil, and oily fish, and is high in fiber, all of which can “support healthy weight loss,” Cording says. It also encourages people to be more mindful about what they’re eating and what they can do to support their overall health. “The diet is low in saturated fat, which will reduce caloric intake and can lead to weight loss,” Cording says.

    Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet

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    This diet was created by integrative medicine doctor Andrew Weil, M.D., and it’s “very similar” to a Mediterranean diet, Cording says. The diet focuses on reducing chronic inflammation in the body with the goal of lowering your risk of developing heart disease, some types of cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

    “It has lots of fiber and nutrient-dense foods, focusing on lean proteins and healthy fats,” Cording says. It’s also low in saturated fats and encourages followers to avoid fast food while eating plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, she says.

    How it works for weight loss: People tend to lose weight on Dr. Weil’s diet because “it’s a healthy lifestyle,” Cording says. “It’s a whole life plan to help you stay well for the long haul,” she adds. The lean proteins and healthy fats can also help you feel fuller, longer, reducing the risk of mindless snacking and overeating, she says.

    Ornish Diet

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    The Ornish diet was developed in the 1970s by Dean Ornish, M.D., a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. It focuses on low-fat foods and encourages followers to zero in on plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, Cording says. It’s a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, meaning it discourages followers from eating meat, fish, or poultry, but allows for dairy products and eggs.

    People on the diet are also encouraged to limit “bad carbs” like refined carbs, sugar, white flour, and white rice, while focusing on healthy fats from fish oil, nuts, and seeds, along with plant-based proteins like egg whites, tofu, beans, and legumes, per the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine website.

    How it works for weight loss: The diet is “really about food quality and nutrient density,” which can help lead to weight loss, Cording says. On a basic level, she points out, low-fat foods tend to be lower in calories and can help someone lose weight. “It can be helpful for weight loss by default,” Cording says.

    Skip It: Paleo Diet

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    The Paleo diet is still getting a lot of buzz, even though it’s nearly impossible for modern-day humans to stick with this diet over the long-term. Based on the eating patterns of our Paleolithic ancestors, this diet requires a strict adherence to foods that would have been hunted and gathered, including lean meat, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables. While it cuts out processed foods, it also eliminates dairy, grains, beans and legumes. “Any diet that has a glaring list of what’s not allowed is going to be very hard to maintain,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of, author of Read It Before You Eat It. “You want a diet that makes you feel balanced both emotionally and physically.” While the elimination of processed food is a good thing, the complete elimination of healthy whole grains can leave you with a shortage of important vitamins and minerals, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

    Skip It: Keto Diet

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    Sure, you can lose weight initially on this high-fat, low-carb diet, which puts your body into a state of ketosis—with no carbs to burn off for energy, your cells start burning off stored fat. But keeping your body in what is basically a crisis state is not a viable long-term plan, says Kristine Clark, Ph.D., a sports nutritionist at Penn State University, who also points out that the diet can lead to side effects such as headaches, muscle soreness, constipation, and fatigue.

    Skip It: Sirtfood Diet

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    Kale smoothies are suddenly hot, thanks to Adele’s recent weight loss, which newspapers have linked to the strict Sirtfood diet. The diet focuses on the powers of foods that contain a group of proteins called sirtuins, including kale, red wine, strawberries, onions, soy, parsley, matcha tea, and oily fish such as salmon and mackerel. The first phase of the diet involves a lot of green juices and restricted calories, before you move into the maintenance phase. Restricting calories will always result in short-term weight loss, but there have been no independent studies backing up this diet.

    Skip It: The Mayr Diet

    plate of salmon fillet steak roasted with spices served with fresh salad with lime fruit and peppercorns on a wooden table, selective focus picnic fool healthy and organic food concept easter food
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    Speaking of celebrity weight loss, no one has shown off a more dramatic change this year than Rebel Wilson, who says she’s slimmed down with a combination of exercise and the Mayr Method, developed a century ago by an Austrian doctor. What we know about the diet seems legit—it involves reducing gluten and dairy, eating high-alkaline foods such as fish and vegetables, and eating slowly and mindfully (including chewing each bite of food at least 40 times!). To get the full Mayr experience, you have to visit a pricey clinic in Austria, so it’s best to simply stick with a plant-based diet and remember to eat without distractions, says dietitian Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N.

    Marisa Cohen is a contributing editor in the Hearst Lifestyle Group’s Health Newsroom, who has covered health, nutrition, parenting, and culture for dozens of magazines and websites over the past two decades.