The Best Diets: Your Categorized Guide to the Best Diets Out There

couple eating a healthy meal


With a tremendous number of diets available, of course, it's hard to determine which one will be the best fit. Not to mention the added confusion of fad diets making false promises. In the end, counting calories in versus calories out is the golden rule, but the journey to weight loss is what determines its sustainability. People often find a diet and give it a try for a few days or weeks just to give up, concluding that it's not for them. This often happens when a diet is chosen that doesn't fit with one's lifestyle or goals. Let's clear this up here with a solid list of the best diets out there with proven results.

Our ACTIVE Reviews Team has rounded up the best diets and then categorized them based on specific wants and needs. I'll break each of them down so that you can determine which is the best fit for your life. Then we'll discuss more on how to choose the best diet and I'll answer some frequently asked questions. Let's dig in!

Why Trust Us?

The health and safety of ACTIVE's readers is of the utmost importance to us. To ensure your well-being when consuming food products, the ACTIVE.com editorial team prioritizes products that rank high in nutritional value. We've consulted with a team of nutritionists and dieticians to ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. This helps us create the most accurate, authentic review content for our readers.

Disclaimer: Always make sure to consult with your doctor before starting a new diet. Any weight lost that totals more than 1 pound per week over a long period of time is unusual and should be monitored by a doctor.

The Best Diets - Our Top Picks

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Best Overall Diet - NOOM

noom

SPECS

  • Foods included: All foods are allowed on this diet. Noom's stance is that there are no "bad" foods.

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Noom took our #1 spot of the best overall diet. We love Noom because it's unlike any other diet program. They don't believe in a one-size-fits-all approach and provide personalized meal plans and suggestions based on your needs. Noom uses science-backed psychology to create courses that educate users on food and lifestyle.

Their goal is to help users better understand their relationship with food and how this relationship impacts their choices. This is not a "lose 10 pounds in a week" program; it takes time and effort, but the amount of effort you put in is completely up to you. Noom empowers its users with the freedom to utilize the program as much or as little as they'd like. Support is provided each step of the way with a coach that you're paired with on day one, as well as access to support groups in the program.

Noom is a well-rounded program geared toward the general population that offers the knowledge and support needed to be successful with long-term behavior change.

Read more about Noom in our: Noom Review

What We Like

  • Personalized meal plans and suggestions
  • Support from a health coach
  • Science-backed psychology utilized to gain results

What We Don't Like

  • The daily lessons come in the form of articles, so this may not be the best fit for everyone
  • Because you have the freedom to be as active as you'd like on the app, self motivation is key

BUY: Noom

Best Diet for Weight Loss - Jenny Craig

Jenny Craig

SPECS

  • Foods included: There are no "off limits" foods, and all foods are allowed as long as your allotted calories are not exceeded in the day.

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Jenny Craig has won the spot as the best diet for weight loss. In existence for almost 40 years, the Jenny Craig diet is well-known and quite popular. Part of its major success is that it takes the guesswork out of preparing and cooking meals because food is provided to you as part of the plan. You'll first meet with a coach to customize a plan that fits your needs. A meal plan is given based on your food preferences and activity level. The plan includes all meals and snacks, but you are welcome to add your own fruits and vegetables.

We really like that Jenny Craig provides a personal coach to support you along your journey. You have the option to meet your coach either in person or remotely. The general goal is to lose 1-2 pounds per week, which is exactly what we want when trying to lose weight and keep it off. This slow but steady weight loss will allow for long-term success. With the help of prepared meals and an experienced health coach, Jenny Craig is a reliable solution for weight loss

What We Like

  • Support from a coach
  • Personalized meal plans
  • All meals provided as part of the program

What We Don't Like

  • May be cost prohibitive to some
  • Because all meals are provided, learning how to prepare meals and eat independently may be challenging once transitioning off of the diet

BUY: Jenny Craig

Best Diet for Blood Pressure - DASH

dash diet

SPECS

  • Foods included: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils

The DASH diet has made our list as the best diet for blood pressure. This was a very easy pick because the DASH diet was specifically created for hypertension. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet was created in 1997 by the National Institute of Health's National Heart, Lungs, and Blood Institute. The goal of this diet is to increase the number of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds consumed, all while reducing the amount of fatty meat, full-fat dairy, sugar, and sodium.

Because of the increased amount of fruits and vegetables, you'll take in much more potassium and magnesium, two minerals known for reducing blood pressure. This diet, initially intended to reduce blood pressure, has done that and much more for people. It has also been shown to increase weight loss and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and death regardless of the cause. If you are looking for a well-rounded, nutritionally complete diet that you can follow on your own terms, the DASH diet might be a great option for you.

What We Like

  • Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables allowing for higher vitamin and mineral content
  • Proven reduction in weight and blood pressure, as well as other ailments
  • The diet is free of charge and requires no membership

What We Don't Like

  • Increased mineral consumption such as potassium and magnesium may not be appropriate if you have other health issues, such as kidney disease
  • Self guided program, in which there is no health coach for support

Best Plant-Based Diet - Vegetarian Diet with Purple Carrot

Vegetarian Diet with Purple Carrot

SPECS

  • Foods included: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, and dairy products

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Not quite as restrictive as the vegan diet, the vegetarian diet allows for eggs and dairy in most cases. We like that the diet provides a bit more wiggle room when it comes to recipes and meal plans. The vegetarian diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer (1), as well as lower overall body weight (2). This is likely because plant-based meals are naturally lower in calories when compared to their meat alternatives.

Additionally, the vegetarian diet has a lower environmental impact and is associated with better physical health (3). Shall I say more? Transitioning to a vegetarian diet can, however, be challenging. Using a meal service like the Purple Carrot makes it easy because all of their meals are plant-based and delicious. You have the option to receive meal kits in which you'll get all of the ingredients but do the cooking yourself, or you can receive fresh, already prepared meals to your door. The vegetarian plant-based diet has solidified itself as a top contender in the health and weight-loss zone. One thing to note: Because vitamin B12 is commonly found in animal-based products, many recommend supplementing with vitamin B12 while on a vegetarian diet.

What We Like

  • Not as restrictive as the vegan diet
  • Associated with lower body weight
  • Naturally lower in calories
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and cancer

What We Don't Like

  • There may be some difficulty transitioning to a plant-based diet when meat has been a staple
  • Risk for vitamin B12 deficiency

BUY: Vegetarian Diet with Purple Carrot

Best Diet for Variety - Mediterranean Diet with HelloFresh

Mediterranean Diet with HelloFresh

SPECS

  • Foods Included: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, some poultry, olive oil, and a moderate amount of red wine

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The Mediterranean diet has won the next spot on our list as the best diet for variety. Even less restrictive than the vegetarian diet, the Mediterranean diet has demonstrated many positive health benefits (4). This diet is based on the natural diets consumed by those living along the Mediterranean Sea. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, and olive oil, with a moderate amount of red wine consumed, as well. The Mediterranean diet has demonstrated a decrease in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. There's even some evidence of an association between the Mediterranean diet and improved mental health (5).

Due to the allowance of olive oil and healthy fats, many report feeling very satisfied with the diet. Although low in meats, fresh fish is encouraged to increase omega-3 consumption. If creating meals using this new meal plan seems overwhelming, Green Chef has you covered with a Mediterranean diet meal delivery service. You can choose your weekly meal plan by viewing their menu and simply placing an order. They take the thought and stress out of regularly creating meals to stay on track.

What We Like

  • Less restrictive than a plant-based diet, allowing for more variety
  • Associated with decreased risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes
  • More healthy fats allowed, leading to increased palatability and meal satisfaction

What We Don't Like

  • Diet must be learned and understood prior to starting
  • If weight loss is the goal, this diet may not completely satisfy because weight loss may be slower than other diet options

BUY: Mediterranean Diet with HelloFresh

Best Diet for Balance - Weight Watchers (WW)

Weight Watchers (WW)

SPECS

  • Foods included: All foods in moderation.

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Taking our spot as the best diet for balance is Weight Watchers (WW). This is one of the original guided weight-loss programs and has been time-tested. We like that WW encourages you to choose foods to include in your diet based on your personal likes and lifestyle. Weight Watchers was originally an in-person-only program in which every week you'd meet with a group, get weighed in, and discuss topics such as healthy eating, recipes, and common struggles, all while receiving group support. Nowadays, WW gives you options. They offer a Core program that is solely based on their app. There, you receive support as needed through coach chat and a members-only social media group. If you'd like more support, they offer a Premium membership that provides in-person or virtual workshops with a Weight Watchers coach.

As a dietitian, I like that this program teaches participants to create healthy meals on their own using the points program to track and determine portions. In doing so, individuals learn about balanced eating, portion sizes, and begin to compile healthy recipes. Over time, these healthy habits will become more permanent. And when they decide to leave the program, they'll take along a wealth of knowledge and skills to continue their weight maintenance journey independently.

What We Like

  • Comprehensive app that includes recipes, workouts, and sleep tools
  • Group support provided in person or through social media
  • Coaching support
  • Balanced eating habits learned through creating meals and snacks

What We Don't Like

  • Premium support may be cost-prohibitive for some
  • Counting points can become tedious over time

BUY: Weight Watchers (WW)

Best Diet for Convenience - Diet-to-Go

Diet-to-Go

SPECS

  • Foods included: Most foods, but it varies based upon the diet selection.

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Diet-to-Go took the spot of the best diet for convenience for obvious reasons. With personalized plans and easy delivery, Diet-to-Go makes calorie reduction as easy as possible. You can choose from four different diet options ranging from Keto to Vegetarian. They even have a diabetes-friendly menu. From there, you'll choose to receive 5 or 7 days' worth of meals each week, and 2 or 3 meals each day. There are two daily calorie options to choose from 1,200 and 1,600 calories per day.

Although this is a great jumping-off point, even the higher range of 1,600 calories a day for men might not be enough to meet nutrient needs. Of course, there's always the option to add your own snacks throughout the day to boost calorie intake slightly. Regardless, the meals are delicious, chef-inspired creations that couldn't be more convenient. Simply place your order, receive your shipment in a few days, and turn on autopilot as you lose weight without the hassle of food preparation.

What We Like

  • Personalized meal options
  • Ease of not having to prepare meals
  • 4 diets to choose from
  • Chef-inspired meals

What We Don't Like

  • Meals can become costly
  • Only 2 options for total daily calorie intake (1,200 and 1,600)

BUY: Diet-to-Go

Best Diet for Heart Health - Mayo Clinic Diet

Mayo Clinic Diet

SPECS

  • Foods included: All foods are allowed except during the "Lose It" phase which takes place in the first 2 weeks. During this time, alcohol and refined sugars are to be avoided.

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The Mayo Clinic Diet is our chosen winner as the best diet for heart health. This is not just a diet, it is a program that requires membership and is well worth the price. We really like that science is at the heart of this plan with an emphasis on habit change. The program has a "habit optimizer," which is a tool to assist you in making lasting behavior changes.

After you sign up, you will have access to a 12-week course intended to teach the foundation of healthy eating for life. You will enter into an optional two-week "Lose It" phase. This phase is intended to jumpstart weight loss, see quick results, and motivate the individual. Although this is the most restrictive phase, it only lasts two weeks and then you can choose your preferred meal plan. You will also have access to the Mayo Clinic Diet's social media page for group support. It's no surprise that the long-trusted Mayo Clinic has created a well-rounded diet program providing education, support, meal plans, and recipes.

What We Like

  • Created by the trusted brand that is the Mayo Clinic
  • Habit optimizer
  • Access to group support via the closed social media group
  • Food tracker with large database to choose from

What We Don't Like

  • Pay-for-use program which may not be accessible to everyone
  • Without having regular contact with a coach, the participant must be self motivated

BUY: Mayo Clinic Diet

Best Diet for Fasting - Intermittent Fasting with DoFasting

Intermittent Fasting with Do Fasting

SPECS

  • Foods included: There are no off-limits foods

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Our top spot for the best diet for fasting goes to intermittent fasting with DoFasting. Let's start at the very beginning. Intermittent fasting refers to abstaining from food for an extended period of time, usually between 12 to 16 hours a day. During the remainder of the time, you are welcome to eat as needed. This results in a calorie deficit but is somewhat different from calorie restriction. The thought is that eating this way more closely mimics human eating patterns as they were originally. When I first learned of intermittent fasting many years ago, I rolled my eyes at yet another fad diet getting ready to take over. However, to my surprise, as the research began to roll in, so did the benefits and positive reviews.

Intermittent fasting is associated with a decrease in weight, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure(6). It has also been shown to reduce the impacts of aging and improve longevity(7). If you are new to intermittent fasting or have tried it in the past and would like to give it another go, DoFasting offers a membership program to help you fast safely. The program provides you with a personal digital assistant, fasting options to follow, meal recommendations, a workout plan, and a progress tracker. When signing up, you'll be asked a few questions and will then receive your plan. This is a great way to jumpstart your intermittent fasting journey. Of course, it's always best to seek medical advice prior to starting a new diet, as intermittent fasting is not suitable for everyone.

What We Like

  • Proven improvements in cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Superior weight loss
  • Positive effects on aging
  • DoFasting plan offers many support options including fasting plans, a personal digital assistant, meal recommendations, and a progress tracker

What We Don't Like

  • Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. You should be cleared by your physician prior to starting
  • Without guidance, this diet can often be followed incorrectly

BUY: Intermittent Fasting with DoFasting

Best Diet for Inflammation - Pescetarian Diet with HelloFresh

Pescetarian Diet with Hello Fresh

SPECS

  • Foods included: All foods except for meat and poultry

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The pescatarian diet through HelloFresh has gained our top spot as the best diet for inflammation. A pescatarian diet avoids all meat and poultry and relies on seafood as the primary source of protein. Most pescatarians also include eggs and dairy in their diet. We chose this diet in relation to inflammation because of the high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids have been strongly associated with an anti-inflammatory response (8) in the body. For this reason, consuming a diet high in healthy fish will, of course, increase the total omega-3s consumed, which will help fight inflammation. As an added bonus, a pescatarian diet has also been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (3).

HelloFresh offers a customized pescatarian diet meal delivery service. They provide fresh, pre-measured ingredients as well as a step-by-step recipe to create a delicious meal within 30 minutes. You also won't get bored because you can choose from a variety of new recipes each week. Choosing to eliminate most meat can reduce your total calories and saturated fat intake. It's also a move in the right direction to reduce inflammation and improve your general health.

What We Like

  • Increased omega-3 fatty acid consumption
  • Decreased greenhouse gas emission
  • Fresh, easy to create meals and recipes provided
  • New recipes to choose from each week

What We Don't Like

  • Cost may be prohibitive to some
  • Restricting the diet to only fish may become tiresome over time

BUY: Pescetarian Diet with HelloFresh

How to Choose the Best Diet for You

Lifestyle

Take a personal inventory of your lifestyle prior to choosing a diet. For example, do you enjoy exercising regularly? If so, a significantly calorie-restricted diet might not be enough to meet your physical needs. Are you someone who likes to eat throughout the day and feels hungry first thing in the morning? Well, intermittent fasting might not be the best fit.

By stopping to take a good hard look at your lifestyle, you'll be able to eliminate many diet options and find a few solid plans to choose from. Remember, it's very hard to reach long-term success when you find yourself in a plan that simply doesn't fit.

Weight Loss vs. Health

Are you simply looking to lose weight to fit into certain clothes or look good on your next vacation or are you hoping to make a lasting impact on your health? There's not necessarily a wrong answer to these questions, but the answer can guide you into a diet that's suitable for your end goal. A simple calorie-restricted diet might get you to your goal of weight loss, while a Mediterranean diet will include healthy fats and important antioxidants for long-term health.

Making this distinction will allow you to choose the most appropriate diet for you.

Tastes

Here's an obvious one. Please pick a diet that you can literally (and figuratively) swallow. I have counseled so many people over the years who desperately want to be a vegetarian but can't tolerate a vegetarian diet every day because they simply don't like it. If you have experienced this before, it's OK to choose differently. There are many other healthy diets out there. If you can't stomach fish, a pescatarian diet is not going to be for you regardless of the benefits of increased omega-3s. Just pick a diet that you'll want to eat.

Tips for Following a Diet

Once you've chosen the best diet to fit into your lifestyle, consider these tips to best follow your diet:

  • Gather support. Support from family and friends can be a great way to start a diet and keep you on track.
  • Avoid keeping saturated fat and sugar-laden foods at home. Of course, this is not always possible with other family members residing in the home, but do your best.
  • Variety is the spice of life. Include a wide variety of meals in order to keep things interesting and refrain from getting bored.
  • Plan ahead for curveballs. There are always surprises in life, and it's important to have a back-up plan in place. An example of this would be to make sure you have a few meal ideas on hand just in case you can't make it to the grocery store after work.
  • Keep track of your progress. By continuing to monitor your improvements while on the diet, you'll also maintain motivation and gain momentum to keep you moving in the right direction.

FAQs About Diets


How do you start a diet?

Start a diet by first choosing the best diet that will fit your lifestyle and jump right in. Avoid waiting for the "right time," because motivation often decreases significantly, while weight continues to creep up.

What are the most effective diets?

The most effective diet is the one you will stick to. You might think that diets claiming fast weight loss are the most effective, but don't be fooled. More often than not, you'll gain more weight than you initially lost in the first place. Choose a diet that is a good fit for you and follow it for an extended period to create a lifestyle change and lasting results.

Are diets healthy?

There are many diets that are not healthy and can cause nutritional deficiencies as well as metabolic consequences. When in doubt, think about balance. A balanced diet, including many food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, is a great starting point to ensure the diet you choose is healthy.

References

  1. Dinu, M., Abbate, R., Gensini, G. F., Casini, A., & Sofi, F. (2017). Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: a systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57(17), 3640-3649.
  2. Tran, E., Dale, H. F., Jensen, C., & Lied, G. A. (2020). Effects of plant-based diets on weight status: a systematic review. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity: targets and therapy, 13, 3433.
  3. Hargreaves, S. M., Raposo, A., Saraiva, A., & Zandonadi, R. P. (2021). Vegetarian diet: an overview through the perspective of quality of life domains. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(8), 4067.
  4. Martini, D. (2019). Health benefits of Mediterranean diet. Nutrients, 11(8), 1802.
  5. Ventriglio, A., Sancassiani, F., Contu, M. P., Latorre, M., Di Slavatore, M., Fornaro, M., & Bhugra, D. (2020). Mediterranean diet and its benefits on health and mental health: a literature review. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health: CP & EMH, 16(Suppl-1), 156.
  6. Vasim, I., Majeed, C. N., & DeBoer, M. D. (2022). Intermittent Fasting and Metabolic Health. Nutrients, 14(3), 631.
  7. Longo, V. D., Di Tano, M., Mattson, M. P., & Guidi, N. (2021). Intermittent and periodic fasting, longevity and disease. Nature aging, 1(1), 47-59.
  8. Calder, P. C. (2017). Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man. Biochemical Society Transactions, 45(5), 1105-1115.

About the Author

Bryee Shepard, MS, RD

Byree is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition. Bryee is fascinated by food science and biochemistry but also enjoys simple recipe creations as she loves breaking down evidence-based info into digestible guides.

See More from Bryee

Byree is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition. Bryee is fascinated by food science and biochemistry but also enjoys simple recipe creations as she loves breaking down evidence-based info into digestible guides.

See More from Bryee

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