If you’ve been thinking of making some healthy changes to your eating pattern, a great place to start is the U.S. News and World’s yearly diet ratings.
Every January U.S. News and World Report publishes an extensive, descriptive ranking of a variety of diets. Now when I say “diet” that doesn’t necessarily mean weight loss diet. Diet just means eating style or eating pattern and that’s how you should approach these ratings. Just put “U.S. News and World Diet Rankings" in your search engine and you can see all the eating patterns in many categories including best overall, and best plans for diabetes, heart health, bone health, fast weight loss, overall weight loss and more! One category you should pay attention to is the “Easiest to Follow”. An eating style may be healthy but if it’s tedious to follow, you may not stick with it for long. On the website you’ll find descriptions of each eating style, examples of what kinds of foods you eat, and links to meal patterns and meal prep so you can decide which suits your needs best. You can also click on this link: https://health.usnews.com/best-diethealthy
Here are just a few highlights from the 2024 ratings:
Top 3 Best Diets for Healthy Eating
1. Mediterranean Diet
2. Flexitarian Diet
3. DASH Diet
What do these three have in common? They’re all plant-based and fairly easy to follow!
The Mediterranean diet is the all-time winner for best overall and best for healthy eating categories. It has commanded the top spot for many years now and for good reason - it’s got a lot of data to back it up. With a focus on healthy plant fats, lots of fruits and vegetables, dairy, fish, and a small amount of red meat, this style of eating is my personal favorite and has something for everyone! One of the reasons I love this eating pattern is that no foods are off limits. And, my mother is Italian American so I naturally gravitate towards this eating style!
The flexitarian diet is a great option for wannabe vegetarians who can’t quite commit to giving up meat and other animal foods. You follow a vegetarian diet most of the time but when you really want a burger – go for it. I love this idea because it takes the guilt out of dieting and does away with strict rules. Flexibility in your eating style helps you to stick with it and avoid the “good food vs bad food” mental trap.
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has some of the best data of any diet around. It has been clinically proven time and again to lower blood pressure. You’ll eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy foods daily, fish, lean meats, and nuts and seeds several times a week. It’s packed with nutrients like potassium, calcium, and magnesium – key nutrients for controlling blood pressure. I often recommend this plan for my patients who want to control their blood pressure with fewer or no medications.
But what about weight loss diets?
Weight Watchers wins again! It ranks at the top of the list for weight loss, and ease of sticking to the diet because of its point system. One of the things I really about WW – besides its nutritional balance – is its emphasis on social support and getting you in the right frame of mind. It’s also #4 in the easiest to follow category.
What if you want to lose weight fast?
If you want fast weight loss, the low carb keto diet might be for you. You’ll get 70-80% of your calories from fat, 10-20% from protein, and 5-10% carbs. But two caveats here: there are many kinds of keto diets – some of which may not be heart healthy – so check with your doctor before starting this diet. I also recommend that you seek guidance from a registered dietitian who can help you eat healthfully on a keto diet. An RD can also help you phase off of it if you miss bread and pasta. The keto comes in at a very low #20 on ease of following the diet so phasing off it without gaining back the weight you lost is critical. I also advise against the “Dirty Keto” diet (a phrase I discovered only this week!). The Dirty Keto diet doesn’t differentiate between types of fat so it’s a bacon free-for-all. I have nothing against bacon. In fact, I love bacon, but it should not be a primary source of fat in your diet! You should focus on healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds for heart health.
This is just a brief overview. I suggest you check out the website. There’s so much great information there on all these eating styles– complete with menus and recipes - that can help you find a plan that works for you!
Here's the link again: https://health.usnews.com/best-diet
Beth Kitchin PhD RDN