Every year U.S. News & World Report releases its top diet recommendations for the year, and for the sixth year in a row a 5,000 year-old diet took the top spot. The Mediterranean diet maintained its number-one ranking for 2023 with a 4.6 out of 5 score. This year the panel of expert reviewers ranked 24 different diets (that number went down from 40) to analyze their overall effectiveness and ease of which to follow and these are the ones they say will make the most impact in the year to come. While the Mediterranean diet is a tried and true standby, the low carb days of Atkins, paleo and keto may now be passé as newer methods like MIND and the Flexitarian approach represent the future of meal plans.
The Mediterranean Diet
Part of what makes the Mediterranean diet a top pick is its sustainability factor, as healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein take center stage. Managing editor of health at U.S. News & World Report Gretel Schueller told Today, “It’s healthy. It doesn’t cut out any food groups or specific foods. So, it allows it to be sustainable.” One major takeaway about this approach is that it’s not the amount of fat consumed that matters most, but the type of fat.
The DASH Diet
Tied for second with the Flexitarian diet, the DASH diet was created to help lower blood pressure and is promoted by the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The plan promotes eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry and low fat and fat-free options while limiting the intake of foods high in saturated fat, fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils. Sugary drinks are a no-no, too.
The Flexitarian Diet
Almost vegetarians rejoice—the diet that lets you keep one foot in or out of the vegetarian pool made the list this year. The Flexitarian way stems from registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner’s book, “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life.” The idea is that you can eat a more plant-based diet, include more non-meat proteins, consume less meat and have a flexible approach instead of a strict one. Blatner told U.S. News & World Report, “There is a bigger push to be clear this is a ‘lifestyle,’ not a traditional ‘diet.’”
This diet was created to help promote brain health and fight dementia. MIND stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay,” and focuses on foods that boost brain function like leafy greens, berries, grains, vegetables, nuts, fish and even wine. There is a limit to the servings of red meat and sweets one can consume, but they aren’t totally off the table. The plan was created in 2015 though a study funded by the National Institute on Aging. Study results showed a 35% decline in Alzheimer risks in those who followed the plan.
Sometimes the best plan is listening to your body and redirecting your cravings, and the TLC diet is perfect for those who don’t want to be limited by a more structured approach. The goal with the TLC diet is to cut saturated fat by 7 percent, limit dietary cholesterol (sorry, cheese) and eat fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins. On the list of what to avoid is added sugars, full-fat dairy, alcohol, red meat and processed foods.