Weight Watchers (WW), Jenny Craig, and the Nutrarian Diet top the list of 10 best brand-name diet plans. Get highlights here, then find out what your patients are reading.
Brand-name, commercial diet plans are enticing to many who want and/or need to lose weight; the majority ranked recently by US News & World Report in its "Best Diets 2020" issue offer portion and calorie control in prepackaged meals delivered to the front door. Many, according to US News expert panelists, offer sound nutrition, promote heart health, and work against diabetes.Patient Care looked at the top 10 of the 13 Best Commercial Diet Plans ranked by US News and assembled top-line snapshots of the expert rankings in the 8 key categories: Diet OverallÂ *Â Managing/preventing diabetesÂ *Â Ease of followingÂ * Heart-healthy profileÂ *Â Long-term weight lossÂ *Â NutritionÂ *Â SafetyÂ *Â Short-term weight loss. Diets are ranked on a scale of 0 to 5 stars.The full report offers myriad details on each. Links to all the details on each are provided.Â
Each diet profile draws on combined knowledge of a deep pool of experts from institutions including Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, Harvard Medical School, Duke Diet & Fitness Center, and Tufts Medical Center. Each detailed review 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 (including costs), not just read about it.
#1. Weight Watchers. WW scored the highest among commercial plans for overall weight loss and fast weight loss; experts said it's a smart, effective diet. WW outperformed most other diets on ease of following (tied for #3) and for long-term weight loss, the balanced dietary approach with no restrictions, and the support system help followers maintain momentum and adherence. WW is ranked #4 in Best Diets Overall.Learn more.
#2. Jenny Craig. The familiar weight loss plan was praised by panelists for being easy to follow, nutritionally complete, and safe, but experts were less confident about its potential to bolster heart health or help those with diabetes. The home-delivered, prepackaged meals are convenient, but cost may be an issue for some. It did rank among top-scoring plans for ease of following and the built-in support from counselors is a strong point. Jenny Craig ranked #3 in Best Fast Weight-loss Diets and #4 in Best Weight-loss Diets. Learn more.
#3. The Nutritarian Diet. Developed by family physician Joel Fuhrman, MD, based on extensive research on foods and food plans that promote longevity, this diet centers on plant-based, nutrient-dense, disease-fighting superfoods and limits animal protein and processed choices, including olive oil. The idea is to "reset and retrain" the palate to enjoy natural healthier foods. Experts found its limitations made it difficult to follow. It ranked #7 in Best Plant-based Diets. Learn more.
#4. The Engine 2 Diet. Created by former firefighter and professional athlete Rip Esselstyn, the plan is essentially vegan "with a twist." The plan relies on whole, plant foods and no vegetable oils allowed. Expert panelists ranked it above average on a number of measures but noted that "all of its 'don’ts' can make it exceptionally difficult to stick to long term." Esselyn pronounces that followers can eat all they want and still lose weight, as long as they give up oils and processed foods and stick to the plant-based regimen. Learn more.
#4 (tied). South Beach Diet. South Beach, notes the US News report, is lower in carbs and higher in protein and healthy fats than the typcial American diet; carbs allowed should be low-glycemic choices. Weight loss without hunger or deprivation is one of the plan's goals. South Beach is now a home-delivery program which makes it convenient to start. Actual meal planning with portion control guidance begins in Phase 2. Learn more.
#6 (tie). Nutrisystem. Prepackaged/delivered meals and snacks guarantee portion control and calorie restriction which Nutrisystem claims will help followers lose up to 13 lbs and 7 inches in the first month on its primary plan. Experts rated it overall "in the middle of the pack," effective for short-term weight loss and above average for diabetes prevention/management (built around the glyceimic index) but "minimally effective" for long-term weight reduction. Learn more.
#6 (tie) Zone Diet. Zone diet creator Barry Sears says food, like a drug, needs to be taken in the correct dose at the correct time. The food plan is designed to deliver to the body 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat at every meal. US News experts rated it nutritionally decent and safe, but are not convinced by the evidence Sears offers for the plan and comment that "It's 'unecessary and tedious to structure every meal around specific macronutrient thresholds.'" Learn more.
#8. The Slimfast Diet. Centered around Slimfast prepackaged products (shakes, smoothies, meal bars) that stand in for snacks and 2 meals/day, the plan is described as "relatlively nutritionally sound," but was given less than 3 stars on most other scales. Overall it was judged effective for quick, short-term weight loss (1200 calories/day) but experts doubt the diet or the food offerings would be realistic long-term. Learn more.
#9. The HMR Diet (Heatlh Management Resources). Developed by a behavioral psychologist, the plan, which is offered as an "in-clinic" program in ~60 US hospitals, jump-starts weight loss with home-delivered meal replacement options plus added fruits and vegetables. The HMR aim is to teach healthy lifestyle behaviors and increase phsyical activity and personal accountability. After the initial rapid weight loss phase, healthy food choices are phased in; weekly phone coaching with dieticians and exercise physiologists provides support and encouragement. Learn more.
#10. OPTAVIA Diet. The plan's meal replacement products, referred to as "fuelings," are nutritionally identical to the original Medifast line and developed by the same team. Working with Optavia coaches, followers combine prepackaged fuelings with one high-protein, lowish-carb meal/day to start and move toward goal weight and eventual transition off the plan, taking new healthier habits with them. US News experts rated Optavia quite low overall for healthy eating but did say it can "deliver short-term weight loss without straying wildly from accepted nutrition standards. Learn more.