ICYMI, the Mediterranean diet was, for the sixth year straight, ranked as the best diet of 2023 by U.S. News & World Report. For the last 13 years, the publication has tapped a panel of health and nutrition experts to analyze and rate eating plans to determine which works well for individuals with diabetes, those aiming for weight loss, people with a family history or other risk factor for heart disease and more.
Pictured Recipe: Slow-Cooker Mediterranean Diet Stew
New this year is a category that particularly caught the eye of EatingWell dietitians: the easiest diets to follow. As firm believers that all foods fit and that we need not be on a "diet" to lead a healthy, happy and long life, we're all about a lifestyle strategy that is sustainable—rather than restrictive. And that's what the eating styles that ranked the best in this category exemplify, the panelists confirm.
After examining 24 diets, the ones that scored the highest and were selected as eating plans that more people might find success with check most or all of these boxes:
Flexible (AKA don't require special supplements or branded meals or snacks and can be adjusted to suit a variety of cultural, religious or personal preferences)
Feature nutrient-rich foods and all food groups
Adaptable to the whole family or household
The diets that fall near the bottom of the list are those that folks are less likely to find long-term health success with, the panelists believe. These "toughest" diets to follow tend to feature advice that's among the 9 outdated diet trends that need to be retired ASAP, and may:
Require rigid eating schedules or menus
Call for bland food
Tend to emphasize unfamiliar ingredients or specialty products
Involve challenging restrictions
Eliminate entire food groups or severely restrict calories
The Diets People are Most—And Least—Likely to Find Success With, According to Nutrition Experts
Ahead, the 24 diets reviewed, listed from easiest to toughest to follow for a lifetime:
1. Flexitarian and TLC (tie)
5. Mayo Clinic
10. Dr. Weil's
14. South Beach
20. Jenny Craig
22. Raw Food
As you can see, the bottom five either restrict major food groups (raw food, keto), drastically limit calories (SlimFast, Optavia, Jenny Craig) and/or promote the purchase of branded products to stick with the plan (SlimFast shakes and bars, Optavia "fuelings", Jenny Craig meals).
On the flip side, the diets that people are most likely to find success with offer general suggestions for eating less red meat, processed meat, added sugars and sodium and more seafood, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. And you might notice that the "easiest" diets call for no carb- or calorie-counting, special meal ordering or traffic light systems that moralize foods as "good" or "bad."
The Bottom Line
The diets that were rated as easiest to follow by U.S. News & World Report offer a lot of variety, are convenient and encourage foods that reduce risk for disease, support balanced energy levels and are simply fun to eat.
We're firm believers in fueling up with nutrient-packed, energy-boosting foods the majority of the time and infusing in the occasional treats, too. (🙌for sourdough and Syrah!) The best diet strategy of all is one that adds to your quality of life, rather than subtracts from it. Check out our 20 top healthy eating habits, according to a dietitian for more guidance about how to adjust your menu—no specific diet plan required.