The 12 Best Diets of 2021
U.S. News & World Report have just released its top diets for 2021.
What I found interesting was that the same group of diets that featured in the top 12 were also rated the easiest to follow.
In addition, they have the best health benefits when developed as a long-term lifestyle change and are intelligently followed. (Unlike “fad diets”).
So let’s dive in.
For dramatic effect, I’ve listed them in reverse order … drumroll please …
12. The Jenny Craig Diet
Jenny Craig, Inc., is an American weight loss, weight management, and nutrition company. Although founded (in 1983) in Melbourne, Australia, its current headquarters are in Carlsbad, California, United States.
Despite being an incredibly popular and successful dieting company, Jenny Craig has always had a very vocal and active group of detractors … mainly because it can be very expensive. Depending on the plan you choose, your location, and the time of year, A month’s worth of food can cost between $623 and $701. There are also program fees in addition to the cost of food.
However, strictly from the point of view of the diet and weight loss programme Jenny Craig promotes, the U.S. News’ team of expert panellists liked it!
Losing weight with the program revolves around managing calories (calorie deficit), fat and portion sizes and sticking to the Jenny Craig prepackaged meals and recipes provided.
The real strength is the emphasis on healthy eating, an active lifestyle and behaviour modification.
Personal consultants guide members through their journeys from day one and regular high-quality support and motivation is provided.
There is a lot of focus on education e.g.: how much you should be eating, what a balanced meal looks like and how to use that knowledge to achieve weight maintenance. By following the plan carefully, you can expect to drop up around 2 pounds a week.
At the time of writing, Jenny Craig currently offers three main plans: the Simple Meal Plan ($12.22 per day), the Essential Meal Plan ($20.78 per day) and the Rapid Results Max Weight Loss Plan ($23.39 per day).
11. The Vegetarian Diet
There are different types of vegetarian diets.
What kind of vegetarian do you want to be?
Most choose a “lacto-ovo” approach, turning their backs on meat, fish and poultry, but still eating dairy products and eggs.
Lacto-vegetarians, meanwhile, eliminate eggs, whereas ovo-vegetarians also elimiante dairy.
Vegans exclude all animal products.
A daily 2,000-calorie diet, for example, should include 2 cups of fruit, 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, 3 cups of dairy, 6 “ounce-equivalents” of grains and 5 1/2 ounce-equivalents of protein.
For grains, one ounce-equivalent is a slice of bread or a 6-inch tortilla; for protein, it’s an egg or quarter-cup of cooked beans.
As with any diet, boredom is avoided through variation – like incorporating different-colored veggies and sources of protein to get the nutrients you need.
US News experts view the Vegetarian Diet as a balanced diet with almost all the variations falling within accepted ranges for the protein, carbs, fat and other important nutrients.
10. The Ornish Diet
Developed in 1977 by Dr. Dean Ornish – a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
The diet is low in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal protein, which Ornish says makes it “the ideal diet”.
But it’s not just a diet: it also emphasizes exercise, stress management and relationships. On nutrition, for instance, Ornish categorizes food into five groups, from most (group one) to least (group five) healthful.
As for exercise, Ornish stresses aerobic activities, resistance training and flexibility; you decide what you do and when.
To manage stress (a core element of his program), you can call on deep breathing, and meditation. Find a combination that works for you and set aside some time each day to practice.
Finally, Ornish says that “spending time with those you love and respect, and leaning on them for support, can powerfully affect your health in good ways”.
Regarding the diet itself, only 10% of calories can come from fat, very little of it saturated. Most foods with any cholesterol or refined carbohydrates, oils, excessive caffeine and nearly all animal products besides egg whites and one cup per day of non-fat milk or yogurt are banned. The plan does however include some seeds and nuts.
The U.S. News experts rank the diet highly in most categories – especially heart health – due in part to its solid evidence-base.
The whole foods, plant-based diet is made up predominantly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, minimally processed and low in fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates.
They liked the fact it’s not just a diet: they particularly appreciated the emphasis on exercise, stress management and relationships.
9. The Nordic Diet
The Nordic diet was specifically designed to revolutionize Nordic cuisine and improve public health.
Nutritional scientists based at Denmark’s University of Copenhagen teamed up with a co-founder of the world-renowned restaurant Noma for this multi-year project.
Known as the Nordic diet or New Nordic Diet, it incorporates aspects of Scandinavian tradition and culture.
The Nordic diet calls for a lifestyle that embraces a return to relaxed meals with friends and family, centred on seasonal, locally sourced foods, combined with concern for protecting the environment.
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8. The Volumetrics Diet
Pioneered by Penn State University nutrition professor Barbara Rolls, volumetrics is more of an approach to eating than it is a structured diet.
With “The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet” book as your guide, you learn to decipher a food’s energy density, cut the energy density of your meals and make choices that fight hunger.
Food is divided into four groups.
Category one (very low-density) includes non starchy fruits and vegetables, non fat milk and broth-based soup.
Category two (low-density) includes starchy fruits and veggies, grains, breakfast cereal, low-fat meat, legumes and low-fat mixed dishes like chili and spaghetti.
Category three (medium-density) includes meat, cheese, pizza, French fries, salad dressing, bread, pretzels, ice cream and cake.
Category four (high-density) includes crackers, chips, chocolate candies, cookies, nuts, butter and oil.
You’ll go heavy on categories one and two, watch your portion sizes with category three, and keep category four choices to a minimum.
Each day, you’ll eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, a couple snacks and dessert.
Exactly how strictly you follow volumetrics is up to you. The point is to learn the volumetrics philosophy and apply it where you can throughout the day.
7. The TLC Diet
The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet was created by the National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program with the goal of cutting cholesterol as part of a heart-healthy eating regimen.
It calls for eating plenty of veggies, fruits, breads, cereals and pasta and lean meats.
The guidelines are broad enough that you’ll have a lot of latitude with what you eat.
The TLC Diet contains significantly less fat than the government’s recommended limit and is known as a “heart-healthy approach”.
On the TLC diet, you’ll be eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy products, fish and skin-off poultry.
Exactly how you meet these guidelines is up to you, though sample meal plans are available.
6. The Mind Diet
The MIND diet takes two proven diets – DASH and Mediterranean, and zeroes in on the foods in each that specifically improve brain health.
Although there’s no sure fire way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, eating healthy mainstays such as leafy greens, nuts and berries may lower a person’s risk of developing the progressive brain disorder.
The MIND diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, was developed by the late Martha Clare Morris, then a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, through a study funded by the National Institute on Ageing.
The study found the MIND diet lowered Alzheimer’s risk by about 35% for people who followed it moderately well and up to 53% for those who adhered to it rigorously. Several studies have found brain-health benefits from following MIND, including an April 2020 study from Iran, which concluded that the MIND diet may reverse the harmful effects of obesity on cognitive ability and brain structure.
The MIND diet may have protective effects against Parkinson’s disease.
In comparison research on adults starting at about age 65, following MIND was associated with later Parkinson’s onset – up to about 17 years later for women and eight years for men, according to the study published in January 2021 in the journal Movement Disorders.
The Mind Diet is essentially a “Low-Carb Diet” and features far fewer carbs than is recommended by government guidelines.
Low Carb diets and are universally recognized as effective tools to bring on quick weight loss, esp if followed diligently.
5. The Mayo Clinic Diet
You recalibrate your eating habits, breaking bad ones and replacing them with good ones with the help of the Mayo Clinic’s unique food pyramid.
The pyramid emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
In general, these foods have low-energy density, meaning you can eat more but take in fewer calories.
By sticking with the Mayo Clinic diet, you’re expected to shed 6 to 10 pounds in two weeks and continue losing 1 to 2 pounds weekly until you’ve hit your goal weight.
This diet was viewed as very healthy and fell well within accepted ranges for the amount of protein, carbs, fat and other nutrients that are generally accepted as constituting a “balanced diet”.
4. The Weight Watchers (WW) Diet
Although still used to shed pounds, WW (formerly Weight Watchers) now focuses on inspiring healthy living and improving overall well-being. That includes taking a holistic approach to help members eat healthier and move more.
“Its my WW Program”, launched in late 2019, is its most customized and flexible program yet.
The program builds on WW’s SmartPoints system, which assigns every food and beverage a point value, based on its nutrition, and leverages details about food preferences and lifestyle to match each member to one of three comprehensive ways to follow the program.
A backbone of the program is support via the WW app, expert-led workshops and Digital 360 plans to provide practical tools and behaviour change techniques for help along the way.
WW scientists specialize in behaviour change, behavioural economics, clinical research, nutrition and exercise science.
The group is led by Gary Foster, chief scientific officer for WW and author of “The Shift: 7 Powerful Mindset Changes for Lasting Weight Loss,” released in October 2021.
Viewed very highly as a “Balanced Diet” by the US News & World Report experts, cynics however still point to high pricing associated with this program, as the do with the Jenny Craig system.
Pricing for current WW plans are as follows:
(1) The Digital Plan (Self Guided) – $20 pm.
(2) Digital 360 (Self Guided and Guided support through WW coaches) – $27 pm
(3) Digital + Unlimited Workshops (Includes full access to in-person or virtual workshops with WW certified coaches) – $31 pm
No foods are viewed as off limits, although the WW point system emphasizes whole unprocessed food esp vegetables, fruits and lean proteins.
While healthy choices are encouraged, members can choose any foods they want, as long as they stay under their daily smartpoint allotment.
3. The Flexitarian Diet
Flexitarian is a marriage of two words: flexible and vegetarian. The term was coined more than a decade ago by registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner in her 2009 book “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight”.
Blatner says you don’t have to eliminate meat completely to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism – you can be a vegetarian most of the time, but still enjoy a burger or steak when the urge hits.
By eating more plants and less meat, it’s suggested that people who follow the diet will not only lose weight but can improve their overall health, lowering their rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and live longer as a result.
No exotic ingredients are required, so groceries shouldn’t cost more than they typically do.
Bypassing the butcher also helps keep the tab reasonable.
The diet’s individualized nature gives you financial wiggle room – by making dinner from whatever produce is on sale.
There’s no membership fee, but you will need “The Flexitarian Diet” book, which is available for $16.65.
2. The DASH Diet
The DASH diet, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension“, is promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the USA to do exactly that: stop (or prevent) hypertension, aka high blood pressure.
It emphasizes the foods you’ve always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy), which are high in blood pressure-deflating nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fibre.
DASH also discourages foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods and tropical oils, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
Following DASH also means capping sodium at 2,300 milligrams a day, which followers will eventually lower to about 1,500 milligrams.
DASH diet is balanced and can be followed long term.
A study published in 2019 in Scientific Reports suggests that adhering to the DASH diet is associated with “better metabolic profiles.”
Researchers found that, compared to metabolic healthy obesity, “greater adherence to the DASH diet was associated with 21% lower odds of metabolic unhealthy obesity” regardless of age, sex, energy intake, physical activity, body-mass index, smoking and educational level.
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the DASH diet is associated with reductions in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.
The Dash Diet is balanced, healthy and extremely easy to follow.
1. The Mediterranean Diet
It’s generally accepted that the people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments.
The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods.
The Mediterranean diet may offer a host of health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control.
By following the Mediterranean diet, you should also keep that weight off while avoiding chronic disease.
Strictly speaking, there isn’t really “a” Mediterranean diet. Greeks eat differently from Italians, who eat differently from the French and Spanish. But they share many of the same principles.
Because the Mediterranean Diet is an eating pattern – not a structured diet – you’re on your own to figure out how many calories you should eat to lose or maintain your weight, what you’ll do to stay active and how you’ll shape your Mediterranean menu.
The Mediterranean diet pyramid (see below) should help get you started. The pyramid emphasizes eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil and flavourful herbs and spices; fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation, while saving sweets and red meat for special occasions. Top it off with a splash of red wine (if you want), remember to stay physically active and you’re set.
So there you have it … the top 12 Diets of 2021 … as recommended by a team of experts and professionals over at US News and World Report.
US News actually listed 40 top diets in their study … I’ve condensed it to the top 12 for the sake of brevity.
“The Mediterranean Diet” is No. 1 again … for the third year in a row.
Meanwhile, other popular diets, including the ketogenic diet (“keto”), Modified Keto, and the Dukan Diet landed toward the bottom of the “Best Diets Overall” list, at Nos. 35, 37, and 39, respectively.
Whatever plan you choose to follow, one thing is clear: focusing on plant-based foods is one of the best things you can do for your health.
According to an article published in May 2017 in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, eating a plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A study published in August 2019 in the Journal of the American Heart Association also concluded that people who closely adhered to plant-based diets had up to a 25 percent lower risk of dying from any cause compared with those who didn’t follow the eating pattern.
So no need for Keto Fat Bombs or “Bullet Proof Coffee”!
Just a sensible, balanced, plant – based diet … “Eat Healthy, Eat Less and Move Around More“.
That’s all you need to do!
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