Best Commercial Diets: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Committing to a commercial diet plan

You've decided to spend your hard-earned dollars to lose some weight -- now it's real. So, do you invest in a diet book as your personal weight-loss guide or go all out with a meal-replacement program? These commercial diet plans, evaluated in the 2016 U.S. News Best Diets rankings, feature different approaches, costs and degrees of difficulty. Some plans are trendy while others are tried-and-true. See how nutrition experts ranked the 17 top commercial diets, and learn which one could work best for you.

#1 (tie) Mayo Clinic Diet

With a focus on lifelong healthy eating, the Mayo Clinic Diet tied for the top spot among commercial diets. Part 1 of the plan focuses on 15 key eating habits: some to add and others to drop. Part 2 centers on learning how to adjust servings based on the Mayo Clinic's food pyramid. Although you may spend a little more on groceries such as fruits, veggies and whole-grain products, there's no added membership fee. The essential guide, "The Mayo Clinic Diet Book," costs $26.

#1 (tie) Weight Watchers Diet

While it's been around for years, Weight Watchers -- which tied for No. 1 among commercial diets -- keeps changing. Its new Beyond the Scale program emphasizes eating healthier, adopting fitness that fits your life and "developing the skills and connection to tune in and unlock inner strength." You can spend a little money -- a $20 starter fee -- or a lot, depending on whether you want to access the chat service and online digital tools, for example, and/or personal coaching. Food is purchased on your own.

#3 Jenny Craig Diet

If a diet featuring prepacked meals, a personalized eating and exercise plan and weekly one-on-one counseling appeals to you, then Jenny Craig -- which ranked No. 3 on U.S. News' Best Commercial and Best Weight-Loss Diets lists -- might be a good fit. Studies show participants who stick with the plan achieve significant weight loss. However, between the enrollment and/or consultation fees, in addition to average food tallies of $15 to $23 a day, cost is definitely a consideration.

#4 Biggest Loser Diet

You've probably seen the reality-TV success stories of Biggest Loser contestants, who win by losing the most body weight. You can try the Biggest Loser Diet at home. Biggest Loser books include "6 Weeks to a Healthier You," which guides you through meal plans based on the diet's healthy food pyramid, and recommends different types of exercise. Books are available in paperback and e-book editions. The Biggest Loser Bootcamp program includes eight weeks of daily workout videos for $39.99.

#5 (tie) Slim-Fast Diet

Convenient and simple to follow, the Slim-Fast Diet can help you lose weight if you're OK with subbing standard breakfast and lunch foods with shakes, meals bars and snack bars. The Slim-Fast Diet allows you 1,200 daily calories, spread between its meal-replacement products, healthy snacks and a 500-calorie meal you prepare on your own, from one of the many recipes provided. Evidence suggests Slim-Fast is effective for long-term weight loss. And with an eight-pack of shakes running about $10, and five snacks at about $5, it's pretty affordable.

#5 (tie) Spark Solution Diet

Could two weeks of structured diet and exercise spark your momentum for long-term weight loss and healthier living? That's the premise for the Spark Solution Diet, which tied ninth in U.S. News' Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets. If you're a person who enjoys planning and following guidelines, the balanced, 1,500-calorie diet and daily workouts featured in "The Spark Solution" book could be for you. The detailed shopping lists provided and an initial dining-out ban should help keep your food costs under control.

#7 (tie) Flat Belly Diet

The Flat Belly Diet (not to be confused with the Abs Diet) snagged the seventh spot in Best Commercial Diets. Although expert reviewers were skeptical about the plan's ability to spot-reduce belly fat, they praised the diet's nutritional soundness and safety. The Flat Belly program focuses on foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids -- or MUFAs -- such as nuts, seed, olive oil and avocados, which are paired with fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes and fish. Costs include online membership and "The Flat Belly Diet" essential guidebook.

#7 (tie) HMR Program

If you're seeking significant weight loss, the HMR or Health Management Resources program -- which tied for first among Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets and landed second on the Best Weight-Loss Diets list-- could be a good fit. Combining meal replacements, fruits and veggies, structure, healthy lifestyle strategies and physical activity, the HMR Program offers different tracks, including HMR at Home, which delivers meals and shakes to your door. Costs include a starter kit ($294 at full price), and two-week reorder kits at $180. If you have 40-plus pounds to lose, the Decision-Free Diet, a very-low calorie, in-clinic option, might be your best bet.

#7 Nutrisystem Diet

If you don't want too much added planning, the Nutrisystem Diet takes over your meal-management chores. The diet determines portions, prepares and delivers heat-and-eat meals, and tells you when and what to eat. A basic four-week plan starts at just under $10 each day. For people with diabetes, Nutrisystem D, a diabetes program similar to the mainstream plans but with certain foods excluded, appears to help dieters lower their fasting and long-term blood-sugar levels.

#10 (tie) Abs Diet

Aimed at building lean muscle and burning fat, the Abs Diet tied for 10th place among commercial diets. You'll eat frequently -- six times a day -- focusing on the 12 Abs Diet Powerfoods, including almonds, beans and spinach. No calorie-counting is required, just a willingness to forgo unhealthy foods such as sugary cereals, cookies and crackers. Exercise is a mainstay of the six-week plan, with online membership at just under $15 per month, or about $35 for three months, plus the cost of the essential "The New Abs Diet" guidebook and other optional books.

#10 (tie) South Beach Diet

The three-phase South Beach Diet may be most useful if you're looking for quick weight loss -- up to 8 to 12 pounds a week. (It tied for seventh in Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets.) The focus is on choosing good carbs and healthy fats -- in foods like veggies, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy and lean protein like chicken and turkey, whole grains and nuts. The essential guidebook: "South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life," costs $24.95 in hardcover, with optional online membership at $5 a week.

#12 Zone Diet

Created by a biochemist, the Zone Diet looks at food like a drug -- you need to take the right dose at the right time. Maintaining proper hormone balance and stable blood sugar is key to weight-loss success, according to the diet's central theory. You'll eat three meals and two snacks throughout the day, carefully balancing colorful carbs, low-fat proteins and healthy-fat portions. A week's supply of Zone 1-2-3 foods, such as pasta and buns, costs about $70; a package of 14 shakes costs about $35. "A Week in the Zone," the diet guidebook, is about $8; online membership is free.

#13 Medifast Diet

If you enjoy ready-to-eat products and don't mind having them for five of six daily meals, you might consider the Medifast Diet, particularly for short-term weight loss. The diet features a "5+1" plan that provides 100-calorie Medifast products such as shakes, bars, oatmeal, soup or even cheese puffs, each making up a single meal. (You're responsible for fixing the sixth "lean-and-green" meal.) A two-week trial kit runs about $170 at full price. You'll slowly wean yourself off Medifast products and transition to a wider range of healthy foods.

#14 Body Reset Diet

The Body Reset Diet aims to reset your metabolism to give your body a jump-start on weight loss. You have to really, really like smoothies to survive the first five-day phase consisting of a white smoothie (milk or yogurt) for breakfast, a red smoothie (fruit) for lunch and a green smoothie (veggies) for dinner. The following two phases work solid food back in. Light resistance training and a daily 10,000 steps-worth of walking round out the plan. Extra costs are minimal -- although you may need to spring for a blender.

#15 Atkins Diet

When talk turns to low-carb eating, the Atkins Diet might be what springs to mind. One of the more-established diets, Atkins drew low ratings from expert reviewers in terms of nutritional soundness, safety and heart health. However, the popular diet earned high marks for fast weight loss, tying for third place. Costs beyond the $16 essential guide, "The New Atkins for a New You," depend on your choice of protein sources and whether you stock up on the many available Atkins products.

#16 Dukan Diet

If you like large portions and lots of rules, check out the Dukan Diet, named for the French physician who created it. The plan includes the protein-packed "Attack" phase, the "Cruise" phase that works in non-starchy veggies, the "Consolidation" phase where you can mix and match those foods and "Permanent Stabilization," which lets you eat whatever you want six days a week, with a pure-protein day on the seventh. "The Dukan Diet" guide costs $26, with optional coaching available at just under $30 per month.

#17 Whole30 Diet

The 30 in the trendy Whole30 Diet represents the number of days you go without a variety of food types in this highly restrictive diet. If you can absolutely pass on sugar (even artificial), alcohol, grains, legumes (even peanut butter) or dairy for one month, the diet is "designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract and balance your immune system," as described by its creators. Food costs depend on whether you opt for the "best" options on the Whole-30 sample grocery lists.

Lisa Esposito is a Patient Advice reporter at U.S. News. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at lesposito@usnews.com.

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