The Best 2018 Diets (And The Worst 2017 Diets)

Every year we start with the best intentions: “This is the year I’m going to exercise more, eat better and lose weight.” But now that we’ve rung in another new year, you might be wondering why your efforts in 2017 fell short. Whether you went Paleo, tried the Dukan Diet or cut out nearly everything that makes life worth living with the Whole30 Program, you might have found that the latest fad diets didn’t live up to their promises.

Worst Diets of 2017

The worst diet of 2017, as ranked by U.S. News, was Whole30. For 30 days you are required to avoid all sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, grains, legumes and dairy. If you follow the 30 day program to the letter, it’s highly likely that you’ll lose weight. But as an overall health and wellness strategy, it falls far short of its claims to “change your life forever.” Nutritionists have slammed Whole30 for making outsized claims with no scientific support. By avoiding dairy, legumes and grains, you are cutting out a lot of essential nutrients, such as vitamin D and calcium. It is severely restrictive, and doesn’t help the dieter build a long-term strategy for a healthy lifestyle, which is the best way to improve your health.

Following closely behind Whole30 was the Dukan Diet and Paleo. The Dukan diet was also criticized for being too restrictive with too little evidence that it actually works. With 4 different phases, the Dukan provides for a longer-term plan than the Whole30, but with so many rules, critics found it unlikely to be sustainable in the long run. In the short term, a high protein diet is probably not harmful, but in the long run it could affect your kidneys.

The Paleo diet promises to return your digestive tract to the hearty days of caveman living, by avoiding all refined sugar, dairy, grains and legumes. What’s left is whatever you can hunt or gather – meat, chicken, fish, fruits and veggies. The Paleo diet does have some research to back its claims: the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that study participants on the diet lost an average of 9 pounds and showed improved blood pressure.  But the expert reviewers still frowned on the diet for eliminating entire food groups.



New Year, New You

The best ranked diets were those that provided a simple plan for balancing healthy foods from all different food groups. While you won’t see the immediate weight-loss benefits that the restrictive crash diets advertise, you will build lifelong good eating habits that have been researched and tested to keep you happy and healthy.

The #1 ranked diet is the DASH diet, developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. DASH walks you through the steps of determining your target calorie intake and then provides a broad plan of where you should get your calories from. While not intended as a weight-loss diet, if you reduce your target calories and integrate an exercise routine, it’s easy to lose weight at a healthy pace. Both the NHLBI and the Mayo Clinic have tons of DASH-friendly recipes, so you won’t get tired of eating the same old thing.

Another option is to go Flexitarian. A Flexitarian is a flexible vegetarian who eats *mostly* vegetables, with the occasional burger or steak. The Flexitarian diet encourages you to add food groups, rather than taking them away – namely tofu, beans, whole grains, dairy, and even new sweeteners, such as agave. The focus is on increasing your intake of plant proteins rather than meat proteins. Research has shown that vegetarians, and even semi-vegetarians, tend to eat fewer calories overall, so the more you integrate the Flexitarian plan, the more likely you are to lose weight. Nutritional experts scored this plan highly on cardiovascular benefits, the potential to prevent or control diabetes, and its broad nutritional options.

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Laurie Breen

Laurie Breen is a freelance writer well-versed in research communications and grant writing. She received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Smith College and has worked previously at the University of Queensland's Centre for Clinical Research in Brisbane, Australia. Her favorite conversational topic is "antibiotic-resistant bacteria," making her a big hit at parties.