The word "diet" is loaded with negative connotations, so it's normal to cringe a little when you hear it. The diet industry has co-opted the word to mean something extreme and temporary, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Diet simply means what you eat regularly, so let's take back the word and reframe it in a positive light. Your diet, or the food you eat daily, can be delicious, non-restrictive, and sustainable. That doesn't mean it doesn't take work to create new habits and let go of behaviors that don't support your health or weight. But it does mean that your diet can be something you enjoy long-term.
Your diet is something that can be tailored to your body's needs, lifestyle, and goals. Each of us is different, and it's time to embrace that bio-individuality. Your neighbor may thrive on a vegan diet, but you feel awful without animal products—and that's ok! In fact, we should expect that there isn't a single eating pattern that is best for everyone.
Not everyone needs to label their diet—they just make food choices that work with their lifestyle—but sometimes it can help to have a little guidance to follow. So if you are ready to make long-term changes to your diet and start a healthier lifestyle, here are some of the best weight loss diets to try in 2023.
Signos' Top 8 Weight-Loss Diets to Try in 2023
There is no one-size-fits-all diet, as each person's body reacts differently to various foods and routines.
Many of these diets aren't just about weight loss—although that can be an added benefit. They also promote overall health, improved mental clarity, increased energy, and improved brain health. So without further ado, let's dive into the best healthy diets for weight loss.
Best for Brain and Heart Health
- How It Works: DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It's a pattern focused on addressing high blood pressure, but it's also effective for weight loss. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy while limiting saturated fat.
- Why It's Good: Research shows that the DASH diet can help you lose weight and reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. One study found that people who followed the DASH diet while optimizing protein intake lost weight and overall body fat, plus improved their muscle strength.¹
- Expert Take: The DASH diet is more about adding fiber, potassium and magnesium-rich foods to your diet than it is about cutting out certain food groups. Eating more heart-healthy, nutrient-dense foods can naturally help you lose weight when they take the place of processed, high-calorie foods.
- How it works: The Mediterranean diet focuses on the traditional foods of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It emphasizes whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and fish. Use olive oil in place of butter, red wine in moderation, and limit red meat to around once a week.
- Why it's good: The Mediterranean diet often gets a best-in-show ribbon because it's associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. A recent study found that people following a Mediterranean pattern were two times more likely to keep weight off—a big deal since maintenance is one of the biggest hurdles for people working on weight loss.²
- Expert Take: Many people find the Mediterranean diet easy to follow because it includes delicious foods like avocado, fish, olives, nuts, and seeds. The key to success with this pattern is focusing on the right portions for your body while limiting added sugars and processed meats. The Mediterranean lifestyle also emphasizes the social side of meals, so it's an opportunity to bring pleasure back into the kitchen.
- How it works: The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It's a combo of the DASH and Mediterranean diets and focuses on plant-based foods and brain-healthy fats. The MIND diet prioritizes green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and small amounts of wine.
- Why it's good: Research shows that this diet can significantly reduce the cognitive decline often seen with age.³ A 2022 study found that greater adherence to the MIND diet eating pattern correlates to a lower risk of developing dementia.⁴
- Expert Take: The MIND diet combines two powerful eating patterns for health but emphasizes foods known to be neuroprotective, like berries and leafy greens. It does limit sugary, processed foods, but the primary focus is on what you can add to benefit your health.
Best Plant-Based Diets
- How it works: A plant-based diet is based on eating—surprise—plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Animal products are a part of the diet, but they are consumed in much smaller quantities than most people are used to. Instead of veggies as the side and meat or poultry as the main, it's reversed.
- Why it's good: A diet primarily composed of plants encourages fiber, antioxidants, and essential nutrients—all good things for long-term health. Including small amounts of animal protein can make it easier for some people to follow compared to more strict vegetarian or vegan diets. Additionally, research shows that plant-based diets can reduce your risk of chronic diseases and promote a healthy weight.⁵
- Expert Take: Plant-based diets are not only healthy, but they can also be delicious and satisfying. There aren't any hard and fast "rules" for this pattern, making it an excellent option for those who are tired of strict diets. The key is to focus on variety and mix up the ingredients you use daily. Remember that just because something is labeled "plant-based" doesn't mean it's automatically good for your health. Prioritize fresh (or frozen) produce and unprocessed foods to benefit from this pattern most.
- How it works: A vegetarian diet excludes meat but can include eggs, dairy products, and other animal byproducts. It emphasizes plant-based foods such as grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
- Why it's good: When followed correctly—meaning plants take a starring role on your plate—a vegetarian diet is a nutrient-dense pattern. Studies show that vegetarian patterns can help with weight loss, improve overall health, and may be easier to follow long-term than other, more restrictive diets.⁶
- Expert Take: A vegetarian diet is a great way to get more plant-based foods into your diet, but it's essential to ensure you're getting enough of the right nutrients. Piles of pasta, bread, and crackers aren't good for us just because they are vegetarian. Focus on adding more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts that are higher in protein and fiber. It's also worth mentioning that a vegetarian diet is not for everyone. Even though it's high in fiber, plant-based protein can be too high in carbs for some people, so a more flexible plant-based diet may be better.
- How it works: A pescatarian diet is a vegetarian diet that includes fish and shellfish. It eliminates all other animal products from the diet and encourages the same plant-forward approach as a vegetarian diet.
- Why it's good: A pescatarian diet is particularly beneficial for heart health and reducing inflammation because of the fish. It emphasizes wild-caught fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that people who eat more fish may have a healthier body weight and lower their risk of metabolic disease compared to those who eat other animal proteins.⁷
- Expert Take: If you've felt conflicted about eating animal products but find it hard to forgo them entirely, then a pescatarian diet could be the right choice. Fish provides a protein-rich source of nutrition with anti-inflammatory health benefits. However, plant-based proteins still play an important role in a pescatarian diet. Sadly our oceans are contaminated with toxins and pollutants, so limiting fish consumption to two servings a week is usually recommended.
Best for Keeping Things Simple
- How it works: Intermittent fasting involves alternating between eating and extended periods of not eating. For example, one popular method is to eat within an 8-hour window and not eat during the other 16 hours. Even a 12-hour fast (essentially not eating overnight) with a 12-hour eating window can be beneficial.
- Why it's good: Intermittent fasting can cut out late-night snacking and reduce overall calorie intake, which can lead to weight loss. It's also linked to metabolic health benefits like blood sugar control and improved cholesterol levels.⁸
- Expert Take: Intermittent fasting isn't exactly a diet because it's not about what you eat but when you eat—although you still want to be mindful of the food you eat during your eating window. That said, it's not for everyone, and it's possible to take it too far (no, eating one meal a day and fasting for 20 hours isn't a good idea). If you try intermittent fasting, pay attention to your body and take breaks from the practice if needed.
- How it works: The volumetric diet is based on calorie density, or how many calories are found in foods. You aren't calorie counting, but instead, Volumetrics encourages choosing foods that are lower in calories but higher in volume, like fruits and vegetables. Picture 100 calories worth of vegetables and 100 calories worth of butter, and you'll get an idea of how to think about Volumetrics.
- Why it's good: This pattern can have numerous health benefits, including weight loss because it naturally decreases overall caloric intake. It also emphasizes nutrient-rich foods, so it's easy to get all the vitamins and minerals you need while reducing overall calorie intake.
- Expert Take: The volumetric diet can be an excellent choice for someone looking to lose weight without feeling deprived of food or stuck in a restrictive eating pattern. This type of diet encourages mindful eating and emphasizes nutrient-dense foods with high water content. That said, if you are getting too bogged down with calorie counts or worried about eating higher-calorie foods that are good for you (like olive oil or avocado), it's probably not the best fit.
How to Choose The Right Diet For You
The right diet for you will depend on your individual goals and lifestyle, but ultimately it's the one that you can stick with long-term. If you start a new eating pattern and discover it doesn't feel right, there's no need to stick with it. Here are some tips to consider:
Understand Your Goal
Why are you looking to start a new diet? Is it for weight loss, better energy levels, or improved health? Understanding your goal can help narrow down the best diet for you.
Don't Restrict Foods You Enjoy Eating (or Force Foods You Hate)
If you don't like the foods that are part of the diet, chances are you won't stick with it. Instead, make sure to choose a diet that includes foods you enjoy eating, or else the diet won't be sustainable for the long term.
Consider Your Lifestyle
Do you have a busy schedule or limited access to certain foods? Make sure to choose a diet that fits your lifestyle, or it will be challenging to stay committed.
Think About What Worked (or Didn't Work) For You in the Past
What diets have you tried in the past? What made you successful or not? Use this information to help make a more informed decision.
How to Commit to A Diet
- Set realistic goals. Set yourself up for success by setting realistic goals that you can actually achieve.
- Start small. Make small changes to your diet, like adding more fruits and veggies or cutting back on sugar, rather than trying to make drastic changes all at once.
- Be consistent. Don't give up if you slip up one day; focus on being consistent and making progress.
- Get support. Find a friend or family member to help you stay motivated and on track with your goals.
- Lean on the pros. Consider talking to a nutritionist or dietitian for more expert advice on meal planning and reaching your goals.
Can A CGM Help With Weight Loss?
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) helps you monitor blood sugar levels and provide real-time data on your glycemic levels, making it easier to stick with a diet plan and track progress. When paired with the Signos app, you can also set custom goals and get personalized insights on your diet and nutrition.
Interested in learning more about nutrition, recipes, and weight-loss science? The Signos blog is an excellent resource for all of the above.
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Topics discussed in this article:
- Perry, C. A., Van Guilder, G. P., Kauffman, A., & Hossain, M. (2019). A Calorie-Restricted DASH Diet Reduces Body Fat and Maintains Muscle Strength in Obese Older Adults. Nutrients, 12(1), 102. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010102
- Poulimeneas, D., Anastasiou, C. A., Santos, I., Hill, J. O., Panagiotakos, D. B., & Yannakoulia, M. (2020). Exploring the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and weight loss maintenance: the MedWeight study. The British journal of nutrition, 124(8), 874–880. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114520001798
- Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, et al. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11(9):1015-1022. doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2015.04.011
- de Crom, T. O. E., Mooldijk, S. S., Ikram, M. K., Ikram, M. A., & Voortman, T. (2022). MIND diet and the risk of dementia: a population-based study. Alzheimer's research & therapy, 14(1), 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-022-00957-1
- Wright, N., Wilson, L., Smith, M., Duncan, B., & McHugh, P. (2017). The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutrition & diabetes, 7(3), e256. https://doi.org/10.1038/nutd.2017.3
- Tran E, Dale HF, Jensen C, Lied GA. Effects of Plant-Based Diets on Weight Status: A Systematic Review. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2020;13:3433-3448. Published 2020 Sep 30. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S272802
- Liaset, B., Øyen, J., Jacques, H., Kristiansen, K., & Madsen, L. (2019). Seafood intake and the development of obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Nutrition research reviews, 32(1), 146–167. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954422418000240
- Vasim, I., Majeed, C. N., & DeBoer, M. D. (2022). Intermittent Fasting and Metabolic Health. Nutrients, 14(3), 631. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14030631