Diet Plans & Weight Loss Programs

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Choosing a Weight Loss Program
Best weight loss book. Technically, it is not in that it allows some starch-based carbs such as sweet potatoes, yams, and squash. Others point out that all of the information in the book is available on the Atkins website, free of charge. Even though it's fee-based, the fees are pretty reasonable. Sign up at WeightWatchers. No weight loss program rivals Weight Watchers' Est.

Best weight loss program

The 10 Best Diet Programs for Every Goal

Best of all, you can usually try before you buy by checking out the book at your local library. These are very convenient if you don't have the time, energy or ability to plan for and prepare meals. A prepackaged food program gives you a no-hassle, no-brainer approach to dieting, but the best come at a cost. Even the least expensive prepackaged plans cost more than just buying your own food, and it can be difficult to find out the true cost until you actually commit.

Still, if you can afford it, you get a nutritionally balanced, calorie-controlled eating plan with lots of support and no additional tools needed -- except a microwave oven, which are covered in a separate report. Practically everyone decides at some point in time that they want or need to lose weight. For some, it may be a few pounds they've put on over the holidays, for others it's a serious issue and their weight may be leading to obesity-related health problems.

The good news is that if you're struggling with your size, reducing your calorie intake and increasing your activity level have been clinically shown to help you lose weight. The bad news is that there are no shortcuts and no short-term fixes. Fad diets, herbal supplements, "fat-burning" pills, and highly restrictive diets don't work for long, if at all, and some may cause more harm than good.

The most important consideration of any diet is finding one that you can stick with for the long haul. While many diets promise that you'll quickly shed pounds in the beginning, the truth is that reining in your eating will almost always result in quick, initial weight loss regardless of what program you decide to try. The trick is to find a program that -- after that first couple of weeks -- you can adhere to as your weight loss slows to more realistic levels.

Experts say that people who make diets a lifestyle rather than just a "diet," while setting a goal of losing a pound or so a week, are more apt to keep the weight off over the long term. The best diets incorporate or encourage exercise and allow you to ingest more calories as your reward.

Some programs have even more specific exercise guidelines, suggesting the best foods to eat both before and after you exercise for maximum energy and recovery. If you don't know what's the best exercise for you, head on over to our reports on treadmills , elliptical trainers , exercise bikes and stair climbers for some ideas to help in your efforts to improve your fitness.

A fitness tracker can also give you the motivation to get up and get moving. Support, either in-person or online, is another key to successful dieting. The best diets offer support from both trained counselors and fellow dieters. In addition, studies show that those who keep track of their food and activity are ultimately more successful at losing weight. This personal accountability can help you shed pounds whether you follow a commercial diet program or choose a self-directed diet.

Many of our best-rated weight loss programs have tracking software available online, as well as mobile apps, or even paper-tracking programs for those who prefer hard-copy journaling.

Other programs or diets may not have dedicated websites, but there are a wealth of free calorie and activity tracking websites that offer community support, recipes and even free exercise videos.

There is always a lot of controversy when it comes to evaluating diets. Many people are firmly in one camp or another over the "right" way to eat. Studies are often contradictory in their findings, and many critics charge that government recommendations are influenced by the food industry.

We present the controversies and cross-opinions, when relevant, but we do not take sides; in our opinion the best diet is the one you feel best on and can stick with.

Instead, we've evaluated expert reviews, most notably those published annually at U. News and World Report. That publication consults medical professionals who, in turn, consult clinical studies as well as utilizing their own experience and expertise to make their recommendations.

We then work our way down to dieter opinions posted on survey sites -- to identify the most nutritionally sound and sustainable weight loss programs. That includes diets, meal-delivery plans, diet books and free, online resources that will help you lose weight and keep it off over the long-term.

No weight loss program rivals Weight Watchers' Est. There are no off-limit foods, and the program can be customized for any dietary need, making it a good choice for vegetarians, vegans and anyone who has a specific food allergy or intolerance. It emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables by making them "free" foods -- in other words, foods that don't have to be portioned or tracked. Weight Watchers has been around for more than 50 years, and has always been a point-based system -- currently known as SmartPoints.

Those points are calculated from a formula that takes into account the food's fat, sugar, protein and carbohydrate count. You're given a specific number of points each day that you track and log, as well as weekly bonus points for snacks or additional food items. Fitness is also a bigger component, and you're encouraged to set fitness goals when you set up your profile, then track them and, if you wish, exchange FitPoints for food.

For , "WW Freestyle" is the new buzz phrase, denoting an expanded list of "free" foods -- more than -- that don't have to be tracked or logged. The program also allows you to rollover up to 4 points per day to add to your weekly total to build a points bank -- perhaps for a special weekend dinner. We see very few downsides to Weight Watchers. Even though it's fee-based, the fees are pretty reasonable.

There are also pricier plans available that provide you with individual coaching sessions. Regardless of the plan you choose, experts say you get a lot for your money, especially in online tools and support. However, if you're on a tight budget, these fees may still be a bit too steep. The only other complaint we noted is that some people say they feel hungry all the time or often in spite of the plethora of food choices, but we see that with virtually all diets as calorie restriction tends to have that result.

Experts say that Weight Watchers is one of the easiest programs to follow. There are hundreds of Weight Watchers recipes available, both in cookbook form and online, with pre-calculated points values for each recipe. Weight Watchers has its own line of frozen entrees, and Weight Watchers points values are often pre-calculated on other brands of frozen entrees. There are many other Weight Watchers-branded prepared foods available as well. Food preparation-wise, the program can be as easy or as difficult as your skill level in the kitchen.

You do have to track everything you eat, which is easy if you're following a Weight Watchers' recipe or eating a prepackaged food with the points pre-calculated. It gets a bit trickier when you prepare your own recipes as you have to break down the ingredients and do the math -- although that's certainly simpler if all you're doing is, for example, grilling a chicken breast and making a salad.

And, under the new "Freestyle" program, that's a meal that could be points-free under the current guidelines, depending upon whether or not the salad is dressed. It has categories of foods with similar serving sizes and caloric loads, and it's easy to swap one food for another. You can even purchase exchange cards that give you food options within categories at a glance, as well as a variety of other accessories, such as food prep tools scaled to accurate portion sizes.

TOPS also recommends that you get a diet recommendation from your doctor or follow the USDA's MyPlate tool, which focuses on filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with lean meats and whole grains. TOPS is low-cost, nutritionally sound, provides plenty of support and is very affordable.

However, it's not as structured as some other commercial weight loss programs, so those who prefer a diet that offers more specific meal guidelines may find it more difficult to follow.

If your budget -- or your preferences -- don't make either Weight Watchers or TOPS appealing to you, there are some popular diet programs that are less-structured, but no less effective if you stick to the program. The Volumetrics Diet Est. You swap high-density foods, which tend to have more calories, for lower-density foods like fruits, vegetables, soups and stews.

This swap of foods with more bulk but fewer calories helps fill you up, thus eliminating one big problem with dieting: It's a top pick in most of our expert roundups, and its author, Barbara Rolls, is a leading researcher in the field of nutrition. Many other diets, most notably Jenny Craig Est. The Volumetrics plan does not have a website, therefore there is no formal support, but it can be paired with any free online support program, such as SparkPeople or MyFitnessPal , both free, highly rated diet and fitness-support websites.

For some people the big drawback to the Volumetrics approach is that food preparation, both shopping and cooking, is not optional -- you will need to have some level of comfort in the kitchen. However, the book features meal plans, and the recipes are reported as easy to follow by consumer reviewers. At least one expert says this particular approach is probably best for people who have hunger or portion-control issues rather than emotional eaters who often eat for reasons other than hunger.

Also, if you're more a meat-and-potatoes kind of eater, you may get weary of a diet that's heavy on vegetables, fruits and soups. The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet, most commonly called the TLC Diet Free , has a name that's about as interesting as cold broth, but experts say it's a top choice to lower cholesterol and that you will lose weight if you follow the eating and activity guidelines.

The downside to this diet is that you have to figure out which foods to eat and there is no support. Guidelines are available online on the U.

National Institutes of Health website , but they're not as specific as with fee-based weight loss programs. However, while there are no "official" community websites that accompany the TLC diet, there is plenty of information available online from dieters who have successfully followed the programs and offer their suggestions, recipes and tips.

Another diet that's highly ranked by experts is the Mediterranean Diet Free. Experts say that eating the Mediterranean way is the healthiest dietary choice you can make. The difficulty for most people is figuring out exactly what that means since there is no formal "Mediterranean Diet;" rather, it's a way of eating that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats in moderation, whole grains, legumes, seeds and healthy fats. However, there are some guidelines on the Oldways website that may be helpful, and there are a wealth of other online resources from those who have adopted the Mediterranean diet lifestyle, as well as plenty of cookbooks.

Low carb diets, which eliminate basically all non-vegetable carbs, even most fruits, used to be considered "fad" or "fringe" diets. However, they're becoming more mainstream as more studies show that this approach is effective for both short and long term weight loss, as well as lowering overall cholesterol and increasing "good" cholesterol. However, many experts are leery of any diet that eliminates entire food groups -- in this case grains and many starches.

However, plenty of others point out that vegetarians and vegans do not receive this type of criticism even though those diets also eliminate several food groups. Regardless of which camp you're in, if you do decide to try out a low carb diet, the Atkins Diet is the gold standard.

Atkins has been proven effective for both short- and long-term weight loss, and studies show it is just as effective in lowering cholesterol levels over the long term as low fat diets for many people. As with any diet program, it may not be effective for everyone. While Atkins does initially restrict carbs to very low levels, the plan adds in more carbohydrates as you lose weight. Follow these guidelines to make sure you're absorbing all the nutrients from your food.

Forget old low-carb diet plans that focused on processed protein bars and shakes. This year, the keto diet got high marks for low carb. Keto, short for "ketogenic," is all about training the body to burn fat for fuel. By eating fat—and lots of it. Most keto diets recommend getting at least 70 percent of your daily calories from fat and the rest from protein.

The goal is to eat as few carbohydrates as possible. Proponents say it helps them drop weight fast with little or no hunger in addition to perks like more energy and mental clarity.

Here's everything you need to know about the keto diet. The best low-cal diet plan isn't a diet so much as it is a method. CICO stands for "calories in, calories out" and is based on the mathematically sensible principle that as long as you're burning more calories than you're eating, you'll lose weight.

Also read this guide on how to safely cut calories to lose weight. People love the simplicity and straightforwardness of the plan. And while it may not be the fastest way to lose weight, you're guaranteed to have success long term. Just know that some weight-loss experts actually don't recommend calorie counting. DASH stands for "dietary approach to stop hypertension" and was created by the National Institutes of Health NIH as a way to help reverse national trends of obesity and heart disease.

Scientists combed through decades of research to come up with an expert-backed list of diet tips, along with a prescription for exercise. The DASH diet has topped nearly every diet list for nearly a decade. Doctors particularly recommend it for people looking to lower high blood pressure, reverse diabetes, and lower their risk of heart disease.

Here's the basic list of DASH diet-approved foods. Popularized by the documentary Forks Over Knives , the Ornish diet is a low-fat, plant-based diet plan based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. It's based on a lacto-ovo style of vegetarianism, allowing only egg whites and nonfat dairy products.

It's packed with vitamins, fiber, and lots of filling plants to keep you satiated. Some studies have shown it can reverse heart disease and have beneficial effects on other chronic health conditions.

BTW, there is a difference between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet. Interested in following a more historical approach to eating? The Primal Blueprint is similar to the Paleo diet , which has roots in how our long-ago ancestors supposedly ate. This plan ditches grain, sugars, and processed foods while focusing on clean eating with plenty of protein both animal- and plant-based , lots of vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. The Primal Blueprint acknowledges other health factors too, advocating for lots of low-intensity activity, some high-intensity exercise, strength training, and plenty of sleep.

If you've been trying to eat healthy for a long time, you know how quickly you get sick of chicken breasts and broccoli. Break out of your diet rut with the Middle Eastern diet.

It's based on the same principles as the Mediterranean diet but with more of an emphasis on plant-based foods and a different flavor profile. With all the tasty and healthy spices, you'll never get bored of making dinner and you'll get all the same heart-healthy benefits as its geographical cousin's diet.

Best weight loss book