Best diet? Consumer Reports weighs in on Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Atkins and more

Consumer Reports Health
Consumer Reports Health

(CBS) In the battle to beat the bulge, Consumer Reports has crowned a winner - at least when it comes to mainstream diets like Atkins, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.

Consumer Reports reviewed seven diets in all, the three above plus the Zone, Slim-Fast, Ornish and Nutrisystem. Each of the diets takes a different approach and Consumer Reports was quick to point out that the best diet is the one you stay on. So some amount of personal preference is involved in finding the diet that's right for you. 

Atkins, for example, is a high fat, low carb program that doesn't cost anything more than the price of books. The diet delivers a fairly high calorie count - 1,915 per day - but gets low nutrition marks for its big doses of saturated fats, which can potentially lead to heart disease. The company doesn't offer personal support.

Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers are the old stalwarts in the group. They both rely on a combination of personal counseling and balanced calorie-controlled meals. Jenny Craig meals are all purchased from the company. Weight Watchers allows you to freestyle based on their recently revamped point system but there is also a large market of Weight Watchers packaged products in grocery stores and online. Jenny Craig allows 1,315 calories per day, while Weight Watches is more generous at 1,865 per day.

The Slim-Fast program centers around a packaged bar or shake for breakfast and lunch plus a 500-calorie home dinner and plenty of fruits and veggies. The calorie count is pretty aggressive at just 1,125 per day. There's no real support other than their website.

The Zone is a diet plan that relies on breaking foods into fairly proportional groups - 30 percent lean protein, 30 percent fat and 40 percent low-glycemic carbs like fruits and vegetables. You can buy the books and figure it out for yourself, but there's also a packaged food plan that costs $179 every two weeks.

Ornish is a 1,525 calorie per day program that is based around a popular series of books by Dr. Dean Ornish. There are no packaged meals or counseling to buy, so it's only as expensive as the food you buy and cook. Consumer Reports was greatly impressed by the author's tasty recipes, but worried that less experienced cooks would be put off. The Ornish menu they reviewed was near-vegan with no added sugars and had so little fat that it fell below nutritional guidelines. But it got high marks for flavor and sodium control.

Lastly, Nutrisystem is a packaged food system that lets you buy all of your meals from the company's website. The costs run from $352 to $430 per month. Optional one-on-one support is available via telephone, web chat or email. The system scored well for dietary balance except for sodium.

So, who did they crown the winner and why? Check the slide show below to find out.