Some people go on diets to lose weight, others for specific health conditions - but what if you just want to be healthy? U.S. News asked 22 experts in nutrition and dieting to rate popular diets for nutritional "completeness" and safety. Each diet was given a 1-to-5 score, with safety double-weighted - because while you can make up for some nutritional deficiencies, you can't make an unsafe diet safe.
Which diet proved healthiest? Keep clicking to see what U.S. News has to say...
20. Atkins diet
Way too much fat and too few carbs, in the view of the experts, who questioned whether dieters can build a nutritious and safe diet with the severe restrictions imposed on veggies, whole grains, and fruits. Absent long-term safety data that might indicate otherwise, the panel put Atkins at the bottom of the pack. Click here for the full review.
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19. Raw food diet
Because the raw food diet could come up short in calories, calcium, and vitamins B-12 and D, just a handful of experts scored it higher than 2 for nutritional completeness. As for safety, the experts felt the risk of food poisoning from raw or undercooked ingredients was all too real. Click here for the full review.
18. Paleo diet
Slapping the diet with many 1s and 2s, experts couldn't accept that entire food groups, like dairy and grains, are excluded, making it hard for dieters to get all the nutrients they need. It's one of the few diets that experts actually considered "somewhat unsafe" and, on nutrition, only "somewhat complete." Click here for the full review.
16. Vegan diet
Veganism can conform with a healthful eating plan, but it takes work, and the risk of missing out on key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, zinc, and iron is real. That worried experts a bit, but they still gave the diet a respectable 3. Click here for the full review.
16. Medifast diet
It doesn't perfectly align with the government's guidelines for healthy eating, experts concluded, because it provides a little too much protein and too few carbs. At 800 to 1,000 calories a day, it also dips low for many dieters. The experts found it "moderately" safe. Click here for the full review.
15. Eco-Atkins diet
Although it outperformed traditional Atkins, experts felt that Eco-Atkins is too heavy on fat and light on carbs. Still, dieters needn't worry about malnourishment or overly rapid weight loss. It manages a middle-of-the-road 3. Click here for the full review.
14. South Beach diet
Experts had enough reservations to send South Beach toward the lower end of this list, but most don't consider it extremely nutrient-deficient or unsafe. It's a little heavy on fat in phase 1, short on carbs during phases 1 and 2, and low in potassium throughout. Some experts were concerned it might be too high in protein for those with kidney problems, too. Click here for the full review.
11. Zone diet
Not the best but not awful healthiness-wise. Although the diet doesn't supply sufficient carbs, and possibly not enough fiber, potassium, calcium, and vitamin D, either, the experts concluded that Zone isn't overtly risky. Click here for the full review.
11. Slim-Fast diet
Getting just 1,200 calories a day on Slim-Fast didn't sit well with some experts. They thought the amount was on the low side, especially for dieters under 18, who are still growing. Still, the company's products are nutrient-fortified and dieters have one homemade meal each day, so the consensus was that Slim-Fast is mostly nutritious and safe. Click here for the full review.
Credit: Consumer Reports Health
11. Glycemic-index diet
This diet received fairly average ratings in safety and nutrition. Considering the nutrients it can provide, the GI approach is reasonably complete, the experts decided. You probably won
10. Nutrisystem diet
How much potassium and vitamins B-12 and D are supplied by the Nutrisystem Diet is unclear, but the U.S. News panel deemed the packaged meals, supplemented with snacks of fresh produce, nonfat dairy, and protein sources, generally nutritious and safe. Click here for the full review.
9. Vegetarian diet
Going vegetarian doesn't automatically make for a healthy or safe menu. When the U.S. News expert panel analyzed a vegetarian menu adapted from U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, with meals like buckwheat pancakes, vegetable soup, and tofu stir fry, they found the approach nutritious and "very" to "extremely" safe. Click here for the full review.
8. Ornish diet
Provided you limit what doctor Dean Ornish calls "group 5" foods that are loaded with saturated fat and instead stick with groups 1 through 3 at the other end of Ornish's spectrum - fish, plants, whole grains - your menu will stay in line with the government's recommendations and you won't risk your health. Click here for the full review.
7. Jenny Craig diet
Dieters on Jenny Craig get appropriate amounts of fat, protein, and carbs, with lots of fiber and calcium. The program is "scientifically sound and safe," said one of the experts. It garnered 3s, 4s, and 5s in both nutrition and safety categories. Click here for the full review.
Credit: Jenny Craig
6. Weight Watchers diet
All-you-can-eat fresh fruits and veggies? It's got to be healthy. Dieters are allotted daily points that are devoured if they choose fatty foods like sweets. Weight Watchers promotes a healthy, balanced approach to eating, concluded the experts. They didn't have many worries that dieters would miss out on nutrients or lose weight too quickly, and that makes it a safe plan. Click here for the full review.
4. Volumetrics diet
A diet that's also based on low-energy-dense foods, Volumetrics menu items are large in volume but low in calories. That's thanks to a whole lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy, and lean meat. Volumetrics manages to meet or come close to recommendations for the majority of nutrients you need, making it a safe, healthy-eating approach. Click here for the full review.
4. Mayo Clinic diet
You're in good hands with this diet developed by the high-profile medical center. The experts liked the plan's unique eating pyramid, which promotes foods with low energy density (you can eat more but take in fewer calories) like fruits and veggies. It took home all 4s and 5s, save for one 3, in both safety and nutrition categories. Click here for the full review.
3. Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean buffet will showcase foods like whole-grain pita and hummus, salads, fresh fruits and veggies, salmon, and beneficial fats like olive oil. Dieters can drink to each others' health - a glass or two a day of red wine is encouraged. The diet meets the government
2. TLC diet
Developed by the National Institutes of Health, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet nearly matches the DASH Diet for healthiness, panelists agreed. Doling out all 5s and 4s, experts approved of the fiber and calcium it generously provides as well as the saturated fat it doesn't. Click here for the full review.
1. DASH diet
Panelists applauded the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) plan for its nutritional completeness and safety - it racked up lots of 5s and 4s in both categories. Endorsed by the federal government's Department of Health and Human Services, the diet is packed with produce and light on saturated fat and salt. Click here for the full review.