The Top 5 Diets for Weight Loss, According to Experts

Woman looking at diet app

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Looking to lose weight? You’re in good company. According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of American adults had attempted to lose weight in the previous 12 months. Bringing down the number on the scale affects more than your physical appearance—it can also give you more energy, reduce your risk for chronic health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and improve your longevity.

Choosing the right diet is key for weight loss, and there are innumerable weight-loss diets on the market. However, not all of them have a track record of long-term success. If you’re starting out on a weight loss journey, you’ve probably wondered which eating plans will actually help you reach—and maintain—your goal.

We’ve rounded up five of the best time-tested, expert-approved diets to consider—and don't forget to talk to your healthcare provider or registered dietitian before diving into any new weight loss plan.

Volumetrics Diet

The Volumetrics Diet ties with the flexitarian diet and WW (formerly Weight Watchers) for the number one spot on U.S. News and World Report’s best weight loss diets for 2022. As its name implies, this this diet purports that the volume of foods we eat creates a sense of fulness, leading to fewer cravings. Therefore, it encourages eating nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods at high volume.

“The Volumetrics diet is based on the concept that we eat about the same volume of food per day, not necessarily the same amount of calories,” says Holly Klamer, MS, RDN. “The brain does not track calories very well, but it can track the volume or amount of food eaten. Therefore, the focus is on eating high volume foods that leave you feeling satisfied while supporting weight loss.”

On a Volumetrics diet, you’ll eat a variety of foods like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean proteins, as well as other low-calorie items like broth-based soups.

Health Benefits of the Volumetrics Diet

With its focus on water-rich, low-density foods, a Volumetrics diet allows you to make dietary choices at your discretion (no calorie counting involved). This can be a significant advantage for people who prefer more freedom and flexibility at mealtimes.

Meanwhile, this diet may offer extra health benefits besides weight loss. “The Volumetrics diet is based on foods that are high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals,” Klamer points out. Diets rich in fiber have been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers, such as colorectal cancer, as well as reduced risk of heart disease.

Flexitarian Diet

Sharing the top spot on U.S. News and World Report’s list of weight loss diets is the flexitarian diet. This mostly plant-based eating plan (a combination of “flexible” and “vegetarian”) focuses on foods like fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, plant-based proteins, and whole grains—with the freedom to enjoy a burger or bacon when the craving (or social situation) calls.

“Research suggests that following a flexible, plant-based diet can lead to weight loss,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD, whose 2009 book The Flexitarian Diet kicked off nationwide interest in the flexitarian concept. “This is likely because plants contain fiber and water to increase fullness with fewer calories, and plants are rich in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial phytochemicals to keep cells healthy and nourished.”

Health Benefits of the Flexitarian Diet

The flexitarian diet is about as flexible as they come—so if you’re looking for an eating plan that can accompany you to parties, buffets, and ball games, this one might be for you. Additionally, cutting back on animal products can save money and reduce your carbon footprint. “Flex eating tends to be less expensive than a meat-focused diet and also a more sustainable way to eat, meaning less taxing on the Earth,” says Blatner.

Besides its social and environmental advantages, a flexible vegetarian eating style offers multiple positive effects for physical health. “Flexitarian health benefits may include increased longevity and decreased risk of diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and diabetes,” says Blatner. “Also, a 2022 research study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a flexitarian diet improves gut bacteria more than any other type of eating plan.”

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet gets plenty of buzz for its appealing recipes and copious health benefits—one of which is weight loss. “This diet pattern tends to be effective for weight loss because there's no emphasis on calorie counting or restricting,” says Anne Danahy, MS, RDN, author of The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Two. “The Mediterranean diet is heavy on plant foods and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and olive oil—foods that tend to be very filling and satisfying. As a result, most people who try this eating pattern comment that they feel like they're eating more, not less food.”

Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

You’d be hard-pressed to find an eating plan with more established health benefits than the Mediterranean diet. “I love it for its wide range of anti-inflammatory benefits,” says Danahy. “Nearly every chronic disease has some degree of inflammation at its root, and the Mediterranean diet has been shown to have tremendous anti-inflammatory effects.”

Need more proof? Research has linked a Mediterranean diet pattern to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, cognitive problems, and autoimmune disease.

Plus, the flexible, varied nature of a Med diet keeps things interesting in the long term. “There's such a wide variety of flavor profiles and interesting dishes. It's hard to get tired of it," Danahy says. "There are over 20 countries in the Mediterranean region, and they each have a unique cuisine.”

WW / WeightWatchers

WW/WeightWatchers rounds out the trio of U.S. News and World Report’s top three (tied) weight loss diets. This popular, highly structured diet plan has endured for over 50 years for good reason. Its portion-controlled points system consistently gets results. One study that compared 141 commercial and proprietary weight-loss programs concluded that WW was one of just two diets clinicians should prioritize for referral for their clients.

On a WW diet, different foods are assigned different point values, and you’ll receive a “budget” of points to use throughout your day. Multiple low-calorie founds are also allowed outside of your daily budget. "Each member also has their very own ZeroPoint™ foods list to ensure that they reach their goals while eating foods they truly love and reach for often,” says Michelle Cardel, Ph.D., MS, RD, director of clinical research and nutrition at WW.

In addition to its points system, WW offers a social support network many users say is key to their success. “Through our in-person and virtual workshops, like-minded members come together to support each other along their journey, and WW coaches inspire and guide them with science-backed techniques rooted in behavior change,” explains Cardel.

Health Benefits of WW

Research shows that social support has a positive impact on mental health—so WW’s social component might yield surprising benefits for your emotional state.

As for physical wellness, WW appears to have plenty to offer, too. According to Cardel, an unpublished six-month clinical trial on WW’s PersonalPoints system found that this program increased participants’ “automaticity” of healthy habits. (In other words, they were better able to engage in healthy habits without thinking about it.) The same trial reported an increase in daily fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as increased physical activity. Participants also rated their quality of life, self-esteem, and well-being higher after going through the program.

Jenny Craig

Since its founding in 1983 in Australia, Jenny Craig has become synonymous with weight loss, followed by thousands around the globe. It comes in at number five on the U.S. News and World Report’s list of best weight loss diets. The aforementioned study that named WW as one of the best commercial diet for clinicians to recommend named Jenny Craig as its other top contender.

On a Jenny Craig diet, you’ll eat meals purchased from the company, as well as additional fruits and vegetables. According to Angela Fitch, MD, FACP, FOMA, chair of Jenny Craig’s science advisory board, the Max Up plan is the brand’s most effective option. “Through Jenny Craig’s Max Up program, participants are provided with a personalized coach to support their journeys and ensure they are hitting their weight loss and wellness goals,” she explains. “The coaches meet with each member weekly to keep participants motivated with weight loss, and activity guides, plus they can even create custom menus together.”

Health Benefits of Jenny Craig

Like WW, Jenny Craig’s built-in network of coaches and fellow dieters could not only boost your weight loss efforts but add to your overall sense of well-being.

Sticking with a Jenny Craig diet could also help stabilize blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. A 2021 study concluded that there was preliminary evidence that Jenny Craig improved A1c levels and could reduce hypoglycemic agents in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Participants who choose Jenny Craig’s Max It Up program also engage in intermittent fasting, which comes with benefits of its own. Another 2021 study found that people who added a fasting component to their Jenny Craig experience had even greater weight loss and better blood sugar control.

A Word From Verywell

There’s no shortage of weight loss diet plans to choose from, and it’s important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. Consider consulting with a health care professional prior to making changes to your diet or lifestyle. If you find you require some trial and error to find your best diet, try not to get discouraged! With patience and creativity, you can successfully tweak or switch plans to match your preferences and goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to lose weight?

    Losing weight is an individual journey as unique as yourself! However, for most people, a pattern of slow and steady weight loss is best for long-term success. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends losing one to two pounds per week.

  • How do I know which diet plan is right for me?

    Your perfect diet plan will depend on a variety of factors. When choosing a diet for weight loss, consider your food preferences, your budget, and even your personality. People who do well with following pre-set guidelines may prefer a more structured plan like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, while those who enjoy more flexibility might gravitate toward a Mediterranean or flexitarian diet. If you're looking for something more customized, you may want to work with a registered dietitian.

  • Should you take supplements when starting a new eating plan?

    There’s a wealth of supplements on the market that promise to assist with weight loss—so it can certainly be tempting to load your grocery cart (or your online cart) with pills and powders to accompany your journey. Still, it’s always best to talk to a health care provider or registered dietitian before starting a new supplement. They can best advise you about which dietary supplements (if any) are right for you.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.