Consumer Reports Rates Nine Popular Diets

Posted on June 23, 2005

Consumer Reports (CR) examined nine popular diets in its June issue. CR said they calculated the diets� calorie counts and nutritional composition, checked whether they conformed to U.S. dietary guidelines, and evaluated their effectiveness with a comprehensive review of clinical research. Here are some of CR's findings:
  • Weight Watchers received the highest overall rating. A nutritionally balanced diet, plus weekly meetings and weigh-ins for behavioral support, give this large commercial weight loss program the highest long-term adherence rate of any diet studied. This plan doesn't exclude any food group and its point system encourages consumption of low-fat, high fiber meals.
  • Slim Fast, which received the second highest overall rating, is recommended for people who don't like to cook�branded bars and drinks replace part of breakfast and lunch�and dieters need to prepare only one full meal a day. People on the Slim Fast plan lost the most weight in six months using products like 180-calorie shakes.
  • The Zone is high in protein and includes copious amounts of high-fiber vegetables. Many companies offer home delivery of "Zone favorable meals." It is recommended for those who want a short-term high protein diet plan.
  • Ornish offers ultra low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian meals, which provide fairly large portions for the low calories.
  • Atkins Induction and Atkins Ongoing Weight Loss are appropriate for people who want a short-term high protein diet plan. The Atkins diet worked very well in the short term, with results at least as good as our other top-rated diets. But its nutritional deficiencies�too much fat, and too little fiber and too few fruits�depressed its overall Rating and may have a negative effect on some people's health.
  • CR said several other popular weight-loss plans -- eDiets, Jenny Craig, South Beach, and Volumetrics -- are all low enough in calories to produce weight loss. But CR said they could not rate them for this report because these diets lacked data from large, long-term, published clinical trials.

    CR said there are four ways to a winning diet:
  • Eat high-bulk, low-calorie foods: This is a promising strategy for curbing hunger while keeping calories down. Such foods include fruits, veggies, and other water-filled foods such as soups.
  • Control blood sugar: One way is to stay away from starchy, easy-to-digest carbohydrates, such as refined flour, white rice, and potatoes, and avoid added sugar.
  • Eat plenty of high-fiber carbs, such as whole grains, fruits and veggies.
  • Measure portions and seek encouragement.