Diet Rundown – The Top Ten


If you’re con­sid­er­ing going on a diet, you’ve prob­a­bly been think­ing about doing some research to help you decide what pro­gram is best for you. There are a ton of options out there, and not every option works for every indi­vid­ual. Every pro­gram has its pros and cons.

Here’s a quick run­down of ten of the most pop­u­lar diet pro­grams out there right now, their strengths and weaknesses.

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hyper­ten­sion) Diet

The Skinny: Devel­oped as a way to com­bat high blood pres­sure and related mal­adies, DASH focuses on how many calo­ries you should eat and where those calo­ries should come from. Sev­eral guides, devel­oped by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Insti­tute, are avail­able, and pro­vide the info the pro­gram is based on.

Pros: Heart healthy, Nutri­tion­ally sound

Cons: Can be pricey, you have to do a lot of the work yourself

TLC (Ther­a­peu­tic Lifestyle Changes) Diet

The Skinny: Aim­ing to cut high cho­les­terol, TLC empha­sizes cut­ting way back on fat intake. The pro­gram advises patients to pick a daily calo­rie count tar­get and then restrict fat intake to 7% of that number.

Pros: Heart healthy, government-endorsed

Cons: Not intended to pro­mote weight loss (although low-fat diets do pro­mote weight loss), you’re on your own

Mayo Clinic Diet

The Skinny: Fol­low­ing guide­lines set out in the Mayo Clinic Diet book, you work through a two-part process. Part 1, “Lose It!”, focuses on your eat­ing habits: which habits to keep, which habits to add, and which habits to get rid of. Dur­ing “Lose It!” you don’t count calo­ries and you can snack on all the fruits and veg­eta­bles you want. Part 2, “Live It!”, deals more with edu­cat­ing your­self about calo­ries and where they should come from. The goal is the for­ma­tion of new eat­ing patterns.

Pros: Good poten­tial for long-term weight loss, you set the diet

Cons: Lots of work for dieter, can be pricey

Mediter­ranean Diet

The Skinny: It’s no secret that folks liv­ing in coun­tries sur­round­ing the Mediter­ranean Sea live longer lives, suf­fer­ing less dis­ease. The Mediter­ranean pro­gram adopts the eat­ing and lifestyle choices of these folks, focus­ing on eat­ing more fresh pro­duce, con­sum­ing much less red meat and sweets, and get­ting phys­i­cally active.

Pros: Tasty, fla­vor­ful food choices, good nutri­tional foundation

Cons: Can be pricey, you do a lot of the research work

Weight Watch­ers

The Skinny: A pop­u­lar com­mer­cial diet plan, Weight Watch­ers’ sys­tem revolves around the idea that if you make smarter food choices, you can con­sume fewer calo­ries with­out eat­ing less. Foods are given a point value, with healthy, fill­ing foods receiv­ing the low­est point total. Dieters can eat what­ever they want, as long as they adhere to their daily points target.

Pros: Easy to fol­low, eat what­ever you want

Cons: Pricey, lots of bor­ing point counting

Flex­i­tar­ian Diet

The Skinny: A fusion of the words “flex­i­ble” and “veg­e­tar­ian”, the Flex­i­tar­ian plan encour­ages dieters to fol­low a veg­e­tar­ian diet most of the time, but still leaves room for the occa­sional cheese­burger. The pro­gram re-organizes the food groups and break them down into a 3–4-5 reg­i­men: 300 calo­ries for break­fast, 400 for lunch, and 500 for din­ner, with a pair of 150-calorie snacks thrown in.

Pros: Flex­i­ble, lots of recipes available

Cons: Fruit and veggie-heavy, empha­sis on home cooking

Vol­u­met­rics

The Skinny: Vol­u­met­rics runs on the idea that if you fill your plate with less energy-dense foods, you’ll con­sume fewer calo­ries with­out eat­ing less food. Foods are divvied up into four cat­e­gories based on their energy den­sity. Dieters are advised to eat more foods that falls in the lower cat­e­gories, while eat­ing from other cat­e­gories in mod­er­a­tion or sparingly.

Pros: Fill­ing, every­thing is fair game

Cons: Lots of meal set-up, not for those who aren’t fans of fruits, veg­gies, and soup

Jenny Craig

The Skinny: Dieters lose weight by adher­ing to a per­son­al­ized diet and exer­cise plan, with the help of a weekly coun­sel­ing ses­sion with a Jenny Craig con­sul­tant. Dieters learn what they should be eat­ing, what bal­anced meals are com­prised of, and how to use that knowledge.

Pros: Clear guide­lines, pre-packaged meals

Cons: Expen­sive, no room for home-cooking or eat­ing out

The Biggest Loser Diet

The Skinny: After choos­ing a Biggest Loser book to fol­low, dieters learn to pre­pare meals based on a spe­cial food pyra­mid and get sug­ges­tions for exer­cise reg­i­mens, all while being buoyed by suc­cess sto­ries from past Biggest Loser contestants.

Pros: Good nutri­tional foun­da­tion, no off-limits foods

Cons: Lots of read­ing involved, can be pricey

Ornish Diet

The Skinny: Based on his book The Spec­trum, pro­fes­sor Dean Ornish sets out guide­lines for nutri­tion, activ­ity, stress man­age­ment, and emo­tional sup­port options. Foods are bro­ken into five groups from least (group 1) to most (group 5) healthy. The goal is to edu­cate dieters about the rel­a­tive nutri­tional val­ues of dif­fer­ent foods and help them make bet­ter deci­sions when fill­ing their shop­ping carts.

Pros: Very heart healthy, nutri­tion­ally stout

Cons: Could be hard to fol­low, not cheap