These Are the Best Diets of 2022

Looking for a new healthy eating plan? These diets are backed by science and nutritionist-approved.

January 12, 2022
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The "New Year, New You" movement often makes nutrition professionals cringe. A flood of dieters with good intentions latch on to crazy fads only to be disappointed when their overly restrictive conquests fail. But that's not a reason to toss well-intentioned healthy eating goals out the window. All hope is not lost: U.S. News and World Report's board of health experts, which includes a gaggle of dietitians, vet all the major diet plans out there on a yearly basis to find the best ones for acheiving overall health and wellbeing based on the science and data behind them. If you're looking to make some healthy changes this year, these are the three healthiest diet plans of 2022.

The Best 3 Diet Plans

U.S. News annually scores diets, evaluating them based on a rubric which includes various aspects including safety, ease of use and ability to produce long-term weight loss. Scores are tabulated and diets are then ranked. Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet and the Flexitarian were crowned top three diets for 2022, with DASH and Flexitarian tied for second place. The MIND Diet and Mayo Clinic Diet rounded out the top 5. Below, we break down the diets.

Mediterranean Diet

Coming in at first place (for the third year in a row), with an overall score of 4.2/5 the Mediterranean Diet is a consistent contender for top diet of the year. Much like the other top diets, this plan is not overly restrictive, and emphasizes whole foods and variety with a focus on olive oil, seafood, fruits, vegetable, whole grains and legumes. Red meat and added sugar are limited, while eggs, poultry and dairy are encouraged in moderation. Wine is also allowed in moderation, aligning with the Mediterranean lifestyle. A day on Mediterranean diet might look like avocado toast on whole grain bread for breakfast, a hummus platter with whole wheat pita and crudite for lunch and salmon, couscous and salad with olive oil based dressing for dinner. Snacks would include yogurt, nuts and fresh fruit.

DASH Diet

Tied for second place with Flexitarian Diet (more on that plan below), the DASH Diet is a refreshingly reasonable way of eating. Originally designed based on research from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (part of the National Institute of Health) in the 1990s, this plan aimed to help cut sodium and reduce hypertension through a well-balanced diet. Years of scientific evidence found it was successful. This research also determined that DASH can also be beneficial for weight loss and prevention of other chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes.

DASH emphasizes hefty amounts of fruits and veggies at every meal, along with lean meats, seafoods, whole grains and low fat dairy products. Added sugars are limited but not forbidden, meat-free meals are encouraged, and herbs and spices take the place of salt to boost flavor without sodium. A day on DASH may include a veggie omelet and a small bowl of whole grain cereal with skim milk for breakfast, a green salad with grilled chicken and/or beans and piece of whole grain bread for lunch, a piece of salmon with broccoli and spaghetti squash for dinner and a smoothie made with low fat yogurt and fruit as a snack.

Flexitarian Diet

With a tie score of 4.0/5 with DASH diet, the Flexitarian style of eating continues to gain momentum with folks looking towards a more laid back approach to plant-based eating. Created by registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, this mix of mostly vegetarian foods, with the freedom to eat meat whenever you feel like it, helps inspire a balanced and sensible plan. The type of semi-vegetarian diet can also help promote heart health and weight loss. Dieters are encouraged to enjoy whole grains, plant protein, eggs, nuts and seeds, dairy or plant-based dairy alternatives and healthy plant-based fats. A Flexitarian day may include a bowl of oatmeal topped with nuts and berries for breakfast, whole grain crackers with almond butter and fruit for a snack, a bean burger with avocado for lunch and a tofu (or occasionally, chicken) stir fry for dinner.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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