Thanks to its flexibility, easy-to-understand system, and group support, Weight Watchers came out way (weigh?) ahead, winning "best weight loss," "best fast weight loss," and "best commercial diet" in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. (Oprah's endorsement probably didn't hurt either!) They recently revamped their signature plan to include "free" foods like chicken breasts and fresh produce so you'll never feel hungry even while dropping pounds. In addition, their app makes tracking your food a piece of cake—which you're totally allowed to have on the program, by the way. (Even better news: Research supports the fact that Weight Watchers is one of the best weight-loss diets.)
Created in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, this low-carb diet features three phases. The first phase is the most restrictive, limiting carbs such as potatoes and rice. Each subsequent phase becomes more lenient, and the diet emphasizes lean protein, unsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbs such as non-starchy vegetables. South Beach promotes lasting lifestyle changes, according to the Mayo Clinic. (21)
The goal? Reverse (or prevent) heart disease. Nutrition of course plays a huge role in a healthy ticker, and Dr. Ornish's plan keeps you focused on eating the super healthy stuff: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy, nonfat dairy, egg whites, and omega 3s. The challenge is no meat, poultry, or fish or caffeine (so it can be hard to follow), but you can eat unlimited calories if you're doing it for health rather than weight loss. Not only is it ranked a top plant-based and heart-healthy diet by U.S. News & World Report, but research shows people on the diet had healthier cholesterol levels and they lost about seven pounds after a year.
2. (tie) Jenny Craig, Biggest Loser, and Raw Food diets (3.5 stars): The Biggest Loser plan, from the TV show, is built around healthy food and regular exercise. Jenny Craig provides weekly one-on-one counseling sessions and has prepackaged, portion-controlled foods. The Raw Food Diet was cited for both short-term and long-term weight loss. Raw foods typically have fewer calories than other foods. The restrictive diet may not work for everyone, experts caution.
It’s easy to see the front of a package and get lured in by misleading claims, particularly those that say they’re “free-from” something, says Taub-Dix. She points out that gluten-free foods may also be high in sugar, salt, calories, and fat and contain less fiber—and thus be weight-promoting. Reading the nutrition label will give you the real truth for what you’re buying.