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Diets, weight loss plans evaluated

Mention the word “diet” and everyone automatically thinks extreme calorie cuts.

Not so. A diet is the food we eat; our diet might be high or low calorie, full of healthful choices … or not. A healthful diet does not mean restricted calories, it means eating low-fat dairy, more fruits and vegetables, lean protein foods animal and plant sources, and whole grain foods.


Recently at Extension Family and Consumer Science training, I heard a Kansas City licensed, registered dietitian talk about healthful everyday diets and weight loss diets. He shared that US News and World Report recently evaluated healthful diets and healthful weight loss diets. He shared that the information was reliable.

U.S. News evaluated and ranked 35 healthful lifestyle diets with input from a panel of health experts. To be top-rated, a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, and protective against diabetes and heart disease. Health experts assigned scores on a scale of 1 (ineffective) to 5 (extremely effective).

The 35 best healthful lifestyle diet ranking can be found at this web site: http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-overall-diets?int=9c2508

The government-endorsed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) snagged the top spot with a score of 4.1 out of 5. Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, or TLC, is a very solid diet plan created by the National Institutes of Health in second place with a score of 4 out of 5. The next three diets rank a score of 3.9 out of 5 — Mayo Clinic Diet was third; the Mediterranean Diet was fourth; and Weight Watchers was fifth.

U.S. News evaluated and examined the research supporting — or refuting — a diet’s potential to bring both short- and long-term weight loss. Those measures contributed equally to a diet’s overall weight loss score.

To see the ranking of 37 weight loss diets, go to http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-weight-loss-diets

The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers (3.8 out of 5), according to the experts who rated the diets for U.S. News. HMR Diet scored second (3.6 out of 5); Biggest Loser was third and Jenny Craig was fourth (both scored 3.5 out of 5). The Raw Food Diet was fifth with a score of 3.4 out of 5. Other diets performed as well or better in enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.

Keep in mind that all of the evaluations done have positive and negative points shared about the diets. Some of the diets are costly; others require special foods or supplements. Just because a diet was scored, does not mean it is a safe diet to follow.

An effective weight-loss program should include guidance in maintaining a healthful weight after the weight loss phase is over. The program should teach skills that help improve dietary habits, increase physical activity, and help change lifestyle habits — the ultimate goal of long term weight maintenance.

Nancy Schuster is a Frontier District Extension agent in the agency’s Garnett office. Email her at [email protected]

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