A Few Take-Aways From “The Best Diet” Rankings

Boy, those folks at U.S. News & World Report know how to get publicity! Their annual “Best Diet” Rankings garner so much attention from the media and consumers that many Registered Dietitians find commenting on the list (or at least mentioning it) a “must do” each January. So, here are my thoughts on the 2019 list.

Mediterranean Fish Chowder with Potatoes and Kale.

Mediterranean Fish Chowder with Potatoes & Kale

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. Dishes full of fish and veggies are common recipes in the top ranked Mediterranean diet.

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Which diet earned the #1 “Best Diet” ranking?

Given all the media hoopla, you’ve likely already heard—the Mediterranean Diet snagged the top slot for “Best Diet Overall” for the first time this year. Unless you read through the whole list, you may not realize how extensive it is—41 diets were reviewed! (That’s a lot of diets…wonder what that says about dieting in general…a topic for another day.)

We’ve covered the Mediterranean Diet in past blogs and also in a free webinar (Making the Mediterranean Diet Work For You) and of course, Guiding Stars recipes include plenty of star-earning recipes to help you cook up Mediterranean-style recipes. The Mediterranean Diet does have food-related tenets that one can follow, such as plentiful vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil as the main fat source and little meat and sugary treats. But it’s more than that; it also focuses on healthy lifestyle habits including regular physical activity and social meals that include family and friends. I, along with many nutrition experts, agree with the choice of the Mediterranean Diet for the top spot. It’s got lots of research documenting its health benefits and is associated with longevity, bone health, some weight loss and a lower risk of several chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

Bottom line: the Mediterranean Diet was a great choice, and following it is a big step in the right direction if you’re going for an all-around healthful lifestyle.

What about diets specifically for weight loss?

If you’re looking to shed some weight, there certainly are lots of options out there—and many approaches. We’ll be discussing some of the many weight-loss diets available and digging into the science behind them (or lack thereof) in our upcoming free webinar (you can sign up here). As far as the 2019 ranking goes, though, the top spot is again occupied by Weight Watchers (it’s been tops since the Best Diet ranking began in 2010). Weight Watchers, now going by the more streamlined name, WW, also took the top spot for “Easiest to Follow,” which is something that many consumers will likely take interest in, since a diet that nobody can follow is basically useless. According to WW press material, their “Freestyle” program has become their most effective program in their history, and although the organization is transitioning to become more holistic, weight loss will always be a primary part of WW. Certainly, many people know about WW programs, and lots of people seem to have success with their programs—not all of which require attending group meetings, by the way.

What’s more interesting to me is the Volumetrics Diet, which garnered the #2 spot in this category. I’ve long considered the principles of the Volumetrics approach to be reasonable and sustainable (unlike the approaches of various other weight-loss diets). It’s also science-based, with a good amount of solid research behind it. This is a diet that you do on your own—you don’t have to sign up, pay anyone, purchase any special foods or meet with any representative or advisor. It’s also a plan that doesn’t dictate exactly what and when you’re going to eat—it’s flexible, and relies on you learning the principles and applying them when you cook/eat. Volumetrics is a satiety-focused approach that emphasizes low energy-density foods (generally those foods that are high in water content and fiber), allowing one to eat until full while consuming fewer calories overall. There is a cookbook that supports this plan (I happen to own a copy) and that makes following the diet much easier until you get used to the concepts. Bottom line: If you’re looking for something that you can adopt long-term, aim to find a weight-loss diet that teaches you how to eat and cook, and doesn’t require a lifetime of tracking, counting or outside supervision.

There really is no “best diet.”

Huh? After an entire post spent talking about which diets are best, what am I trying to pull here? Actually, my point is this: everyone is unique, therefore there is no “best diet.” What works best for one person will not necessarily work well for the next. Obviously some diets and eating plans have more scientific merit than others, some are innately more healthful because they don’t eliminate entire food groups, call for special foods or the purchase of specific diet shakes or supplements, or require dietary restrictions that are hard to live with. While these types of rankings can give general pointers to various eating approaches, one has to wonder when we’ll get over our desire to look for the next diet. When we will get fed up with following a food plan or approach that someone else devises for us, instead of with us?

We each need to learn how to eat in order to nourish ourselves, maintain a healthy weight and address any health issues we may have.

To do this, we may need help—after all, we seek help from professionals for many health-related issues, and we all know that nutrition is highly connected to health. For guidance in addressing your unique food/body/eating issues, I’d suggest seeking the help of a qualified nutrition professional, such as a Registered Dietitian. Check to see if your insurance covers a few visits with an RD (many plans do). Reading about various eating approaches can be interesting and may give us ideas, but ultimately, each of us is in charge of finding our for ourselves what diet works best for us. No ranked list of diets really holds the answers.