The flexitarian diet is one that encourages a vegetarian diet most of the time, but has the option of also including animal protein like a hamburger. The Mediterranean diet focuses on whole grains, healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, and seafood, while the TLC diet, which stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, also calls for eating plenty of vegetables, whole grains, fruits and lean meats, according to Gretel Schueller, editor of US News and World Report.
Schueller said the magazine viewed the diet in its ranking as a way of eating, not a weight loss plan. She said the ranking’s new family category is a recognition that families want to eat healthy together and not follow multiple meal plans.
“Obviously you don’t want to cook multiple meals for different family members every day because it won’t last very long,” Schueller told ABC News. “We wanted to make sure the diet provided nutritional value for different caloric and nutrient needs, for example, different ages, different activity levels, different health statuses, when you have a different group of people.”
She added, “You can literally eat anything on these diets. It’s about making sure that most of your calories and nutrition are coming from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.”
Nutrition experts say there is no one diet that will work for everyone. Certain diets may be more beneficial depending on your situation. Anyone considering changing their diet should consult their doctor, experts say.
The US News expert panel that determines the annual diet rankings also considered “real-world constraints” such as budget, meal prep time and food availability when selecting the best fit diets. to families, according to Schueller.
“For example, is it easy to find the required supplement or dietary ingredient,” she said. “We also asked how adaptable this diet was for the whole family or a group of people with different cultural, religious, or dietary preferences.”
In addition to ranking at the top of the family-friendly category, the Mediterranean, Flexitarian, and TLC diets also each ranked in the top five of the Best Overall Diets category in the US News and World Report rankings.
“Any plan that cuts out an entire food group or a fruit or dairy for non-medical reasons is a red flag and that’s why the Mediterranean diet is always such a big winner,” Schueller said. “You’re eating delicious, whole foods. It’s backed by decades of research showing its health benefits for a variety of health conditions. The Mediterranean diet is healthy, sustainable, it’s a tasty way to eat, and it’s adaptable.”
She continued, “It’s not just about olives, feta and other Mediterranean foods. You can adapt the principles of this Mediterranean way of life to virtually any cuisine, any culture. “
Careful observers will notice that this year’s list of the best diets does not include some culturally popular diets like Whole30 as in the past.
US News’ expert panel – which includes top experts in nutrition, diabetes, heart health and weight loss – decided this year to focus on “quality over quantity” and ranked a total of 24 diets.
The keto diet, which focuses on eating high-fat, low-carb foods, ranked #1 in the best fast weight loss diets category, while it ranked 20th in the list of best overall diets.
“What we find is that diets that help people learn to make healthy food choices and prepare smart meals themselves are the diets that work well, while diets that are too restrictive, ‘It’s calories or whole food groups, it’s the diets that rank poorly,” Schueller said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to diets. You have to consider your personality and your lifestyle.”
Here’s a breakdown of the top five diets in US News and World Report’s overall Best Diets 2023 ranking.
1. Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, extra virgin olive oil, and savory herbs and spices. fish and seafood at least twice a week; and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation, according to US News and World Report.
It focuses on the quality of foods rather than a single nutrient or food group. People who follow a Mediterranean diet enjoy red meat and desserts as “occasional treats,” the magazine says. Red wine in moderation and with meals is optional.
“This type of low-fat diet leaves little room for the saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium that flood the standard American diet,” the magazine says. “People who follow a Mediterranean-style diet have a longer life expectancy, report a better quality of life, and are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.”
2. DASH Diet
The DASH diet, made up of low-sodium, healthy foods, was originally pioneered by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) as a diet to help lower blood pressure.
The plan focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and eliminates high-fat foods, such as fatty meats and whole dairy products, as well as sugary drinks and sweets, according to US News and WorldReport. An important element is to minimize salt intake, which lowers blood pressure.
“The DASH diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet but gives more concrete recommendations and advice on the actual amounts and limits of the types of foods eaten,” the magazine says, noting that food groups are not eliminated in the DASH diet, which provides serving recommendations. .
2. Flexitarian diet
The flexitarian diet encourages people to try other meat options, such as tofu, but leaves room for flexibility if you can’t completely give up meat. The diet was promoted by registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner in a 2009 book that says you can reap the benefits of a plant-rich diet even if you eat meat occasionally, according to US News and World Report.
This plant-rich diet focuses on adding five food groups — “new meat,” fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, sugar, and spices — to your diet instead of taking foods away.
The “new meat” food group includes tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds and eggs, according to US News and World Report, which notes that the diet’s health benefits may include a lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. .
“With a flexitarian diet — often called a semi-vegetarian diet — you don’t need to completely eliminate meat to experience the health benefits associated with vegetarianism,” the magazines state. “Instead, you can be vegetarian most of the time, but still enjoy a burger or steak when the mood strikes.”
4. MIND Diet
The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet is a hybrid of the top-rated DASH and Mediterranean diets.
Research has shown that this diet may improve cognitive function in older adults and may be superior to other diets in this regard, including those listed here.
The diet focuses on food groups known to improve brain health, including green leafy vegetables in particular, all other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine,” according to US News and World Report.
Among the diet requirements are three servings of whole grains, a salad and one other vegetable daily, as well as fish once a week and poultry twice a week. Foods like red meat, sweets and fatty cheese are limited.
5. TLC Diet
The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet was created by the National Cholesterol Education Program of the National Institute of Health with the goal of “lowering cholesterol as part of a heart-healthy diet,” according to US News and World Report. .
In addition to setting a daily calorie goal, participants aim to reduce saturated fat to less than 7% of daily calories and consume no more than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day, according to US News and World Report.
The diet calls for eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meats, and also allows for servings of breads and pastas. It is recommended to eat fatty fish like salmon and tuna twice a week, while the consumption of egg yolks is limited to twice or less a week. A high soluble fiber intake of 10 to 25 grams per day is also recommended.
This diet’s emphasis on tracking cholesterol intake in detail can make it difficult for people to track it. Additionally, more recent research suggests that dietary cholesterol does not appear to impact cardiovascular disease risk, so specific intake restrictions are no longer recommended.
Scientific advice from the American Heart Association has recommended that dietary advice focus instead on healthy eating habits, such as the Mediterranean and DASH diets, which are inherently low in cholesterol.