If losing weight—or just eating healthy—is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, you’re likely thinking about diet plans and how to pick the right one for your goals. And it’s probably giving you a headache.
With so many different diets and eating philosophies out there, it can be hard to cut through the hype and figure out what will actually work. But don’t throw in the towel just yet: U.S. News & World Report has released its annual Best Diets guide. Based on exhaustive research and feedback from a panel of experts on 35 diet plans, the guide named the Mediterranean diet the best overall diet (for the third year in a row), and named top meal plans in eight other categories as well.
“The fundamentals of sustainable, healthful eating do not change every year,” David L. Katz, one of the experts who helped compile the report, said in a press release, “but the ways to get there, the range of variants on that common theme, and the most current evidence all do.”
In addition to being named the best overall, the Mediterranean diet nabbed top honors in four other categories as well: best diet for healthy eating (for plans that hit all the major nutrients and provide sufficient calories), easiest diet to follow, best diet for diabetes, and best plant-based diet. Compared to other diets, the Mediterranean diet is less restrictive and includes a wide range of healthy foods like olive oil, fruits and veggies, nuts and legumes, whole grains, and moderate amounts of fresh fish and red wine. Experts note that well balanced, less restrictive meal plans are the best way to create lasting results. If your diet gives you some freedom in what you can put on your plate, you’re more likely to stick with it long-term.
The Weight Watchers diet was another top performer. It received the top ranking in the best commercial diet (plans that require a fee or use branded food products) and the best weight-loss diets categories. The HMR diet took top honors in the fast weight loss category, which ranks diets that can help you drop pounds in 12 months or less, and the DASH diet tied with the flexitarian diet as the second best diet overall.
The popular ketogenic diet tied for third in the fast weight loss category, but otherwise, keto didn’t fare very well in the report: Overall, it was ranked second to last out of the 35 plans. The reason? Experts say keto is too restrictive and is difficult to sustain over a long period of time.
Creating the rankings was an exhaustive process. First, U.S. News staff pored over available research on the 35 diet plans, including published studies in medical journals and government reports. Based on this data, they created profiles for each diet that summarized how the diet works, assessed possible health risks, and outlined what it’s like to eat under each diet’s restrictions.
From there, the profiles went to a panel of 25 health experts who reviewed the data and rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, ability to drive short- and long-term weight loss, nutritional completeness, safety, and ability to prevent or manage diabetes and heart disease. The panelists also gave feedback on which diets they thought were standouts—good and bad. Finally, each diet received a score, which was used to rank them across all nine categories, from best overall to best for diabetes.
Want to find out which plan is right for you? Check out the full list of rankings at U.S. News & World Report, and get ready to nail those New Year’s resolutions.