Review of The Best Overall Diet Plans

by HealthfulMD

With the help of 22 experts the U.S. News Team determined that the top overall diet plans are DASH, Mediterranean, TLC, Weight Watchers, Mayo Clinic and Volumetric Diets.

Why Release a List of the Best Overall Diet Plans

In an attempt to help consumers sift through all of the dieting hype, U.S. News assembled a team of 22 experts to research, review and releas their list of the Best Diet Plans.

U.S. News's Health News Editor Lindsay Lyon, provided the reasons behind their team releasing the top diet plans. "The goal of the Best Diets rankings is to help consumers find authoritative guidance on healthful diets that will work for them over the long haul."

The Best Overall Diets

Image by Kirsti A. Dyer
U.S. News Best Overall Diet Plans
U.S. News Best Overall Diet Plans

The Top Five Best Overall Diet Plans

After extensively researching and reviewing 20 of the leading diet plans, the U.S. News team of health and nutrition experts picked their top overall diet plans.

These were the top 5 diets that came out on top:

1. DASH Diet

2. TIED - Mediterranean DietTherapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet and Weight Watchers Diet

5. TIED - Mayo Clinic Diet and Volumetrics

In order to qualify as one of the top-rated diets, the diet had to meet several different criteria. The diet needed to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and effective against diabetes and heart disease.

The next section explores more in depth the criteria used to evaluate the different diets.

The Criteria Used to Rate the Best Overall Diet Plans

The panel of experts debated and then agreed upon seven different criteria for rating diets. The ones used to rate the different diet plans reviewed.

  • Short-term weight loss - Rating the likelihood of losing significant weight during the first 12 months.
  • Long-term weight loss - Rating the likelihood of maintaining significant weight loss for two years or more.
  • Diabetes - Rating the effectiveness for preventing diabetes or as maintenance diet for diabetics.
  • Heart - Rating the effectiveness for cardiovascular disease prevention and as risk-reducing regimen for heart patients.
  • Ease of compliance - Rating compliance was based on initial adjustment, satiety,* taste appeal, special requirements.
  • Nutritional completeness - Rating was based on conforming with the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.
  • Health risks - Rating was determined after evaluating malnourishment, specific nutrient concerns, overly rapid weight loss, contraindications for certain populations or existing conditions, etc. 

Each of the 20 diets was rated based on seven different criteria. The diets were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5  with 5 = extremely effective, 4 = very effective, 3 = moderately effective, 2 = minimally effective and 1 = ineffective.

After reviewing each of the 20 diet plans, an in-depth profile was then drawn up. The profile for each diet explains how the diet works, whether its claims add up or fall short, and what risks it might pose. Each diet profile also included along with insights into actually living on the diet.

The complete A - Z (Atkins to Zone) reviews can be found on the U.S. News website.

* Satiety is the feeling of fullness so that you'll stop eating, or how soon you stop eating because you have filled up. 

A Look at the Best Diet Plans Study

My Look at all of the U.S. News Best Diet Plans
U.S. News released their list of top diet plans that include the best overall diet plans, best weight loss diets, best diabetes diets, best heart-healthy and best commercial diets.

More on the Best Diet Study

The Best Diets
The Best Diets determined by the U.S. New panel of health experts. They released diet plans that include the best overall diet plans, best weight loss diets, best diabetes diets, best heart-healthy and best commercial diets.

Best Diets Overall
The Best Overall Diets determined by the U.S. News panel of health experts.

Best Diets Methodology: How We Rated Them
A U.S. News team spent six months researching the diets, mining medical journals, government reports, and other sources.

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My thoughts on the Best Diets Overall

As a physician, a health educator and nutrition instructor, I have been reading, reviewing and watching different diet plans trying to make heads and tails of them for the past nearly 7 years since I started teaching college level nutrition.

I was very please to read the U.S. News' Best Diet Plans and applaud their efforts to create an online guide aimed to "help consumers find authoritative guidance on healthful diets that will work for them over the long haul." From what I can read their research looks sound and their assembled panel of 22 health experts was comprised mainly of professors, directors and nutrition experts.

My own thoughts about the ideal diet has been leaning towards the Mediterranean Diet for foods to emphasize and Volumetrics (which I didn't know existed) to increase the volume of foods consumed without increasing the bad calories. 

These best overall diets chosen offer options that are good for diabetics, for those with heart disease and for those wanting to lose weight. There is even a plan (Weight Watchers) for those who like to be involved with a group and group activities.

Read on for more information on each of the top overall diets.


The DASH diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension came out overall on top of all of the 20 different diets reviewed by the U.S. News Team of Nutrition and Health experts.

The DASH diet was originally developed by the The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) as an dietary approach to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension).

With the DASH diet the empasis is on fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.

People following the DASH diet are advised to cut back on salt, calorie- and fat-laden sweets and red meat. 

The DASH diet is an effective dietary way to reduce high blood pressure in many people.

The DASH Diet Plan Book

The DASH Diet Action Plan: Based on the National Institut...
Amidon Press
$24.87  $6.48
Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Only $4.24

Review of the DASH Diet

The DASH Diet
The U.S. News Teams review of the DASH Diet. See why this diet plan comes out on top as the best overall diet.

Mediterranean Diet

While there isn't one single Mediterranean Diet, what is known is that people who live around the Mediterranean Sead live a longer and healthier life.

There are different variations depending on whether you want to eat Greek, Italian, French or Spanish influenced meals.

The consumer-friendly Mediterranean diet, developed by the Harvard School of Public Health emphasizes fruits, veggetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, herbs and spices. People following this diet are encouraged to eat fish and seafood several times a week, to eat poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation. Sweets and red meat should be consumed in moderation or reserved for special occasions.

This diet includes a glass red wine for those who want to drink wine.

The Mediterranean Diet Plan

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mediterranean Diet
$21.49  $9.95
The Mediterranean Prescription: Meal Plans and Recipes to...
Ballantine Books
$14.1  $10.97

Review of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet
The U.S. News Team's review of the Mediterranean Diet.

Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet

The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) Diet was originally developed to improve cholesterol levels, not as a weight loss diet.

The TLC Diet was created by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cholesterol Education Program. 

The emphasis on the TLC diet is to reduce the amount of fat, particularly saturated fat (fatty meat, whole-milk dairy, and fried foods). Saturated fat increase the "bad" cholesterol levels, which in turn increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition to consuming a low -fat diet, users also reduce their daily dietary cholesterol intake and eat more fiber,

There is a good reason that the TLC Diet is endorsed by the American Heart Association. This heart-healthy regimen can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and help people magage their high cholesterol through diet, without medication.

Lower Cholesterol with TLC

American Heart Association Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookb...
Clarkson Potter
$7.0  $3.99

Review of the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet

The TLC Diet
The U.S. News Team's review of the TLC or Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet.

Weight Watchers Diet

The Weight Watchers Diet is a weight management membership program that has been around more than 40 years.

In November 2010 Weight Watchers launched their PointsPlus program. With the PointsPlus program every food is assigned a points value, based on its protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber, calories, and how hard your body has to work to burn it off. Foods that fill people up the longest and are nutritionally dense (lots of nutrition) have the lowest point values, while foods that mostly empty calories (sugar, fat etc.) have higher point values.

Users can eat what they want to as long as they are meeting their daily PointsPlus target, based on gender, weight, height, and age. 

People sign up for the Weight Watchers program which encourages weight loss with weekly meetings and weekly weigh-ins. There is an online "do-it-yourself version" of the program for those who don't like to or cannot attend meetings.

Weight Watchers Books

Weight Watchers Weight Loss That Lasts
$6.17  $13.99
Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook
$32.65  $2.04

Review of Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers Diet
The U.S. News Team's review of Weight Watchers Diet Plan. See why this diet plan is the top weight loss diet and top commercial diet plan.

Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet was obviously developed and researched by the Mayo Clinic. This diet plan is based on their unique food pyramid, that allows for an unlimited amount of fruits and vegetables and limits sweets to 75 calories a day.

In the Mayo Clinic Diet the emphasis is put on eating fruits, vegetables, lean meat and low-fat dairy while limiting saturated fat and salt .

The diet is divided into two parts. During the first two weeks (Part 1) users focus on 15 key habits to add and to eliminate. There is no calorie counting and users can snack on an unlimited amount of fruits and vegetables. During Part 2 users start learning about the healthy food sources and number of calories they need to lose or maintain their weight.

To help users on the Mayo Clinic Diet they have developed a journal where diet information and food intake can be recorded.

The Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet: Eat Well, Enjoy Life, Lose Weight
Good Books
$15.0  $8.99
The Mayo Clinic Diet Journal
Good Books
$15.89  $1.29

Review of the Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet
The U.S. News Team's review of the Mayo Clinic Diet Plan.

Volumetrics Diet

The Volumetrics Diet was developed by Penn State University nutrition professor Barbara Rolls. With Volumetrics one changes their approach to eating and focuses on eating low-energy dense foods or foods that are low in calories but high in volume. 

By eating low-density foods like fruits and vegetables, users feel full and satisfied without feeling deprived of food, are reducing the number of calories in a meal and losing weight.

In Volumetrics food is divided into four groups ranging from category 1 which is very-low density, category 2 which is low density, category 3 which is medium density and category 4 which is high density. Foods in categories 1 and 2 make up the bulk of the diet. Foods in category 3 need to be watched, particularly portion sizes while foods in category 4 need to be kept to a minimum.

Volumetrics is more of a weight-control technique than a diet plan. Users learn the Volumetrics philosophy and apply it when possible throughout the day.

Review of the Volumetrics Diet

The Volumetrics Diet
The U.S. News Team's review of the Volumetrics Diet.

Vote on the Diet Plan You Want to Try Now

After reviewing the information - Which Diet Plan do you think you will try?
Updated: 06/10/2011, HealthfulMD
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Comment on the Best Overall Diet Plan

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PeggyHazelwood on 06/19/2011

Thanks for this nice recap of the best diets out there. It is so overwhelming! I think eating sensibly is the basis for all of these.

HealthfulMD on 06/17/2011

Thanks Kathy for the vote of confidence. I've been looking at Diet Plans for several years now. It is good from a clinician's perspective to have the listing for what diets to recommend based on someone's heart or diabetes history.

KathyMcGraw on 06/17/2011

I was amazed at how little I knew about food several months ago when the Dr. was talking about cholesterol. This article on the best overall diet plans was quite helpful, because you don't have a monetary interest, and you are an experienced educator in Nutrition, I tend to trust what you say more :)

Jimmie on 06/10/2011

After reading Good Calories, Bad Calories, I am convinced that a low carb diet is the best. Omit all processed foods and eat only whole, unrefined carbs. And those should be limited.

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