These Are the Best Diets of 2023
Looking for a new healthy eating plan? These diets are backed by science and nutritionist-approved.
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 achieving 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 2023.
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 2023, with DASH and Flexitarian tied for second place for the second year in a row. The MIND Diet and TLC Diet rounded out the top five. Below, we break down the diets.
Coming in at first place (for the fourth year in a row), with an overall score of 4.6/5 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 crudité for lunch and salmon, couscous and salad with olive oil based dressing for dinner. Snacks would include yogurt, nuts and fresh fruit.
One of the best features of the Mediterranean style of eating is that the principles can be modified other cuisines or cultures. For example, the emphasis on fruits and vegetables may lead to consumption of different types of produce depending on what part of the world you reside, and the benefits of eating more fruits and veggies is universal. Elements of the Mediterranean lifestyle have been observed in the Nordic Diet and the Asian Diet with subtle changes such as the use of more canola oil than olive oil in the Nordic style and more carbohydrates from rice and sweet potatoes in the Asian Diet.
Mediterranean Diet Recipes 35 Photos
Incorporate more fish, whole grains, plant-based proteins and olive oil into your routine with these healthy (and flavorful) Mediterranean diet-inspired recipes.
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 Institutes 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 was also ranked the #1 Heart-Healthy diet on the list. Karman Meyer, Registered dietitian and author of The Everything DASH Diet Meal Prep Cookbook supports the benefits of following this lifestyle plan in accordance with your physician.
“The DASH Diet is ideal for anyone who has just been diagnosed with high blood pressure or for someone who has been living with it for years. Studies show that the DASH Diet can help lower blood pressure in just two weeks!” she says. The lifestyle changes can have a big impact. “For some individuals who have taken medications for years to manage blood pressure, they can see an improvement in blood pressure numbers by following the DASH Diet lifestyle changes," adds Meyer.
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. Meal preppers will love flexibility of DASH and most of the recommended meals are easy to make in advance.
With a tie score of 4.4/5 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.
Other Good-for-You Diets
Other honorable mentions include the MIND Diet (#4) and TLC Diet (#5). MIND combines concepts of Mediterranean and DASH with an emphasis on improving brain health. TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Change and like DASH, was created in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, this time targeting lowering cholesterol levels. Tied for sixth was Mayo Clinic Diet and Volumetrics Diet . Tara Schmidt, M. Ed., RDN, LD is a lead registered dietitian nutritionist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. She points out the appeal of Mayo plan’s flexibility. “The Mayo Clinic Diet meets the needs of those who want flexibility, but with guidance. The Mayo Clinic Diet pairs learning about healthy eating and behavior change with tools like recipes, virtual support, a food tracker, and scientifically backed education,” says Tara Schmidt, M. Ed., RDN, LD, a lead registered dietitian nutritionist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. The Volumetrics Diet focuses on high water-content foods like fruits and vegetables at every meal to help dieters feel full and satisfied while taking in fewer calories.
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.