Weight Loss Buying Guide

Last Updated April 2024

When it comes to losing weight, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you sign up for a structured weight loss program or try to do it on your own? What are you ok with giving up and what’s a deal-breaker?

There are an abundance of diet plans out there, and sometimes just trying to wrap your brain around all of the options can be enough to keep you from getting started, let alone finding a plan that’s safe, effective and will work well with your lifestyle and preferences.

We get it! That’s why we’ve created this in-depth guide to help you find the best diet plan. We’ll cover the pros and cons of the main types of diet plans, what key features to look for and what questions to ask yourself to find a plan that will truly work for you.

weight loss hero

Weight Loss Plan Basics

At the most basic level, weight loss happens when you burn more calories than you take in. This can be achieved by reducing calories from food and beverages, increasing calories burned through physical activity, or a combination of both.

Let’s start with the main elements of what makes up a good diet plan. The answers to these questions form the foundation of what a healthy weight loss plan should look like, and what results you can expect from a diet plan.

What are the Principles of Diet Planning?

A weight loss plan should be based on the six basic principles of diet planning in order to ensure that it’s safe and healthy to follow. Some of these concepts may sound a bit on the technical side, but don’t worry—we’ll break them all down into easy-to-understand explanations (because who needs more jargon in their lives? Not us!).

Adequacy 

What it means: A healthy diet is one that contains all of the recommended daily totals for fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that your body needs in order to function properly. Ideally, these nutrients are obtained through the food you eat, rather than supplements.

Balance 

What it means: A balanced diet ensures you get the right balance of the different food groups and that you’re eating those foods in the right proportions. You may have heard of eating a “well-rounded” diet—that’s what we’re talking about here. You’ll want to make sure you’re following a diet plan that includes a balance of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats like nuts and seeds.

Calorie Control

What it means: Calories are where your body gets the energy it needs to do all the things you do in a day. When you’re on a diet, it’s important to get the right amount of calories for your body, otherwise known as “calorie control.” Too many calories means you won’t lose weight, and too few calories can be harmful to your body.

Nutrient Density

What it means: Nutrient density is the ratio of beneficial nutrients to the number of calories in that food. In other words, a nutrient-dense food has more good nutrients per calorie than a non-nutrient-dense food.

Foods that are nutrient dense are important when you’re dieting because they allow your body to still get the nutrients it needs, even when you’re eating fewer calories per day for weight loss.

Moderation

What it means: “All things in moderation” definitely applies when you’re working toward a weight loss goal. Moderation means that foods higher in unhealthy ingredients, like refined sugar or saturated fats, are consumed much less often than healthy, nutrient-dense foods.

Variety

What it means: Variety refers to eating lots of different types of foods, rather than just pulling from the same go-to foods week after week. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “eat the rainbow” in reference to fruits and vegetables, it’s a similar concept: Different foods have different vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and unless you’re eating a wide variety of foods, you may be missing out on some of the essentials.

How Much Weight Will You Lose on a Diet Plan?

Buyer beware: Weight loss plans that tout a large amount of weight loss in a short period of time usually rely on unhealthy principles—like eliminating an entire food group—that leave you hungry at best, and at worst leave you with unhealthy habits and returned weight gain. These types of diets are typically referred to as “fad” diets because they’re unsustainable and don’t result in meaningful weight loss.

So what’s the magic number for maintainable weight loss? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also known as the CDC), it’s one to two pounds per week. That means a loss of four to eight pounds a month is a healthy, sustainable weight loss goal.

Bonus: Studies suggest that those who lose weight at this gradual, steady pace are more successful at keeping it off, too. And let’s be real: That’s what we really want, right?

Are Diet Plans Safe?

Successful weight loss requires a commitment to making healthy lifestyle changes in what you eat, how you exercise and other behavior habits. 

Not all diet plans are safe. As you now know, fad diets that promise unreasonable weight loss or ask you to eliminate an entire food group are not considered safe.

To find a safe diet plan, make sure it follows the key principles of diet planning, including a variety of foods from each food group. You’ll also want to look for a program that includes an exercise component and can help teach you healthy behaviors that will lead to lasting change.

Do Diet Plans Work?

An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet every year. Many are able to reach their initial weight goal, but not all are successful at keeping it off.

A diet plan that works is not only one that you can stick to, but one that will teach you how to incorporate new habits into your daily life that promote long-term healthy eating and exercise. A good diet plan will help you lose weight and feel good in your own skin.

Bonus: You don’t have to lose that much weight to start seeing positive health benefits. Research shows that losing just five to 10 percent of your body weight may improve mental health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. 

According to studies, weight loss can greatly improve quality of life, too. It can help boost energy and sex drive, reduce joint pan caused by arthritis and improve your confidence and self-esteem.

What is the Best Diet Plan?

Ultimately, choosing a diet plan is personal—it comes down to many of your individual preferences for taste, structure and of course, budget. But no matter what, the best weight loss plan is the one you can stick to, and the one that will teach you healthy habits to keep the weight off long term.

Here are some important factors to consider when searching for the best diet plan:

Past Diets

What diets have you tried in the past? What did you like or dislike about them? Were you able to follow the diet? What worked or didn’t work for you? How did you feel physically and emotionally while on the diet?

These questions can help steer you toward a plan that will meet you where you are right now, and help you be successful in reaching your goals.

Preferences

Do you prefer to design and execute a weight loss plan on your own, or do you need the support that comes along with a structured program, such as a diet meal plan delivery? Are you a solo dieter, or do you thrive on support from a group setting? If you like group support, do you prefer online support or in-person meetings?

Considering your preferences will help you hone in on a plan that’s designed around the fundamentals that will work best for your lifestyle.

Budget

A majority of weight loss programs have a fee to join, whether it’s an app, diet meal delivery service or in-person meetings. You’ll also want to consider the cost of food you’ll need for your diet plan, as well as any other additional costs, such as a gym membership and other accessories or equipment. Math aside, finding a plan that fits your budget should be relatively easy, since there are so many options to choose from.

Health Conditions

Do you have a health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or food allergies? You’ll want to consult with your doctor before starting a new diet plan to make sure it will work with your current medications and health requirements.

Dietary Restrictions

Do you have any dietary restrictions, such as food allergies or sensitivities, a condition like celiac disease that limits what foods you can eat or a health condition with a prescribed diet, such as lowering your sodium intake? If so, you’ll want to make sure to find a diet plan that has options for you.

You may also have eating preferences, such as a plant-based diet, low-carb diet, keto diet or paleo diet that you’ll want to keep in mind as you do your research.

Height & Weight

These important factors help determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is a fancy way of saying the number of calories your body needs to perform its essential functions—or how many calories it naturally burns if you stay in bed all day.

Because everybody and every body is different, we need more than a one-size-fits-all plan with a fixed calorie intake. An effective weight loss plan will take into account your personal stats. Height and weight are the minimum a plan should factor in. Age, gender, body type and activity level all play a role in how many calories you need on a diet plan and how you’ll lose weight.

Food

Since food is at the core of most diet plans, it’s important to consider what’s going to work best for you. 

Is the food provided for you? If so, is it high quality? How does it taste? Are recipes provided if you’re required to make food on your own? Is the eating plan too restrictive to maintain?

Be honest with yourself when answering these questions. By taking the time to find a plan that you like and can stick to, you’ll have a much better chance at seeing the results you want and being able to maintain your healthy weight once you get there.

Do you have any cultural requirements or preferences regarding food? If so, be sure to keep that top-of-mind when comparing diet plans, especially programs that provide the food for you.

Best Diet Plan Reviews

Reviews are a great place to start when you’re looking for the best diet plan for weight loss. And fortunately, our team of experts has combed through the latest weight loss research and data, scoured hundreds of customer reviews and forums and even personally tested the best diet plans—so you don’t have to. Check out our list of the best diet plans s to see our experts’ recommendations and rankings for the top rated weight loss plans.

PROS CONS
Nutritionally balanced Can be costly, depending on your current eating habits
Convenient and saves you time, since all your meals are ready to heat and eat Requires extra pantry or freezer space, depending on the pl
Structured – good for anyone who struggles with accountability or motivation Some plans may require you to add in extra food or snacks

Do-It-Yourself Diets

For the experienced dieters among us, do-it-yourself diets, or “DIY” diets, can deliver weight loss success without the cost of a diet plan food delivery program. DASH, Paleo and the Mediterranean Diet are some DIY diets you may have heard of.

But before you jump headfirst into a DIY diet plan, you should consider how comfortable you are with diet basics, self-motivation and accountability, as these weight loss programs generally don’t include a lot of support. Instead, it’s up to you to navigate most of the diet on your own.

To help you decide if a DIY diet is right for you, check out our list of pros and cons:

PROS CONS
Generally less expensive than diet plan food delivery (but you have to purchase food separately) No meal delivery – requires extra time, planning and meal prep
More freedom and variety since you get to make all your own meals Support system can be lacking
Great for people who are self-motivated and already know about portion control and diet basics Less structure – challenging for anyone who struggles with accountability or motivation

Diet Plan Apps

For those who want to take weight loss into their own hands, a diet plan app may be a good fit. Most of us use apps to make our daily lives easier, so why not let an app help make weight loss easier, too?

Diet plan apps, like Noom, are an offshoot of DIY diets. They don’t include diet meal delivery, but they do include more structure and guidance than simply creating your own diet plan or following a weight loss meal plan from a book or website. The best diet plan apps are interactive, engaging and often have some pretty ingenious features to help you stay motivated on your way to weight loss success.

While diet plan apps vary greatly when it comes to features and pricing, there are a few pros and cons that apply to all plans in this category:

PROS CONS
Less expensive than diet plan food delivery (but you have to purchase food separately) No meal delivery – requires extra time, planning and meal prep
Smart features to help keep you motivated and engaged Lack of structure may be a challenge for those who struggle with accountability
Generally easy to understand, easy to use and always at your fingertips Some apps may not be available on all devices, like tablet or desktop

What to Look for in a Weight Loss Plan

Now that we’ve narrowed down what type of diet plan is best for you, we’ll cover how to choose a weight loss plan—in other words, what are some of the most important diet plan features to consider before you make a decision.

Diet Food 

First up: The food. It’s one of the most important factors to consider, and a big differentiator between most of the diet plans on the market. The choice isn’t too complex though: You’ll simply need to decide whether you prefer food to be provided for you, or if you’d do better with guidance to prepare your own healthy meals.

If you opt for a diet meal delivery plan, be sure to check the details to find out how many meals and snacks are included. Some plans require you to add in fresh fruits and vegetables, and with others, you’ll add extra meals and snacks throughout the week. Some customers like the option to add in their own food, because it allows them to enjoy a meal with family or friends from time to time.

Be sure to check out the menu, too. You’ll want to know ahead of time whether you like the kinds of meals that are offered and if there’s enough variety on the menu to prevent you from getting bored. If you have any dietary restrictions, you’ll want to make sure that your needs are covered, too.

While you’re perusing the menu, take note of whether the meals need to be stored in the freezer, pantry or both. While some diet plans deliver weekly, others deliver monthly, so you’ll want to make sure food storage won’t be an issue.

For diet meal plans that offer recipes instead of meal delivery, make sure you’re comfortable with the cooking techniques that are required, and that you have all the kitchen tools you’ll need to prepare the recipes. You’ll also need to find out whether you can easily source the ingredients locally, and if not, whether you’re ok with ordering them online in advance.

Diet Food Nutrition

To make sure you get the most out of your weight loss plan, you’ll want to become savvy with sleuthing. Look for a plan that includes balanced nutrition—that means it has a good balance of the three macronutrients: Protein, carbs and fat, as well as fiber and plenty of vegetables and fruit, which contain countless micronutrients, otherwise known as vitamins and minerals. 

Diet Food Taste

Just because you’re taking in fewer calories to lose weight doesn’t mean that your diet food can’t taste good. Lots of diet plans are stepping up their game in the flavor department, even in the weight loss meal plan delivery market. Customers generally consider the best-tasting prepared foods to be fresh meals or fresh-frozen meals, meaning the food was prepared fresh and then frozen for transport. This preparation method locks in the freshness and flavor better than some canned or shelf-stable preparations, so if you’re worried about whether you’ll like the diet food, look for a plan with these on the menu.

If you’re leaning toward a weight loss plan that doesn’t include prepared meal delivery, find a program that includes a variety of recipes with lots of flavor so you don’t get bored. As you acclimate to your new weight loss plan, you can also experiment with flavor on your own using diet-friendly ingredients like fresh and dried herbs, spices, salt-free seasoning blends, and for the brave: Hot sauce. Diet and weight loss recipes that tap into different cuisines can also be a great source of flavor—think Mediterranean, Indian and Mexican.

Diet Food Quality 

High-quality ingredients often come with a higher price tag than lower-quality, highly-processed foods. That’s because the U.S. government subsidizes crops like wheat, soy and corn, which are some of the most common ingredients found in “junk” foods.

Whenever possible, try to include the best quality diet foods you can fit into the budget: Vegetables, fruits, minimally-processed whole grains and legumes. When it comes to meat and dairy, look for words like organic, hormone-free, free range and pasture-fed. This will ensure you get the most nutrients possible from your diet food.

If you’re interested in a diet meal delivery plan, check out the ingredients in the meals ahead of time and opt for the highest-quality options available when you can.

Weight Loss Support

Support is a feature that varies greatly between diet plans, and ultimately, the level of support needed varies from person to person as well. We’ll give you the run-down of the different types of weight loss support offered, so you can feel confident in making a decision that’s right for you.

Weight Loss Experts

Depending on the type of plan you select, you may have access to trained health coaches, dietitians, nutritionists, weight loss counselors and fitness gurus. These experts can be extremely helpful when navigating your diet plan and the different phases of weight loss, like getting started, plateaus and challenges, what to do when you reach your goal and how to maintain your new weight.

If you choose a plan that doesn’t include food, this feature may be even more important if you think you’ll need help figuring out what to eat or finding healthy recipe ideas that work with your plan.

Community

If you thrive in social settings, you’ll want to find a weight loss plan that has a robust community or online forum for you to connect with other dieters. Here, customers share their ups and downs, support fellow members and even pass along their tried-and-true tips for success.

Digital Tools 

These days, it’s common for weight loss brands to have a digital component to their support offerings, whether it’s a full-blown app or a simple online tracking system. Some people find added motivation in digital weight loss tools, so if that sounds like you, you may want to consider an app-based diet plan like Noom or a weight loss plan with a companion app, like Nutrisystem.

Flexibility

Flexibility in a weight loss plan is important for sustainability. A flexible plan allows you to take part in events like holidays, birthdays and other social occasions without feeling isolated or deprived. It should include a variety of easy-to-find foods that you can get at your local grocery store, and shouldn’t forbid certain foods or food groups.

Finding a flexible weight loss plan will not only help you stick with it, it will help make your experience more enjoyable.

Best Diet Plan for Weight Loss

Weight loss isn’t a one-size fits-all approach. Gender, lifestyle preferences and dietary requirements are all important considerations when looking for the best diet plan for weight loss.

Best Diet Plan for Men

The best weight loss plan for men is one that follows the same principles as a healthy diet plan: Balanced nutrition, nutrient-dense foods and the right amount of calories for effective weight loss. Protein and fiber help you feel full between meals, so be sure your men’s diet plan includes plenty of both.

Many companies have designed weight loss plans specifically for men, which include more calories than women’s plans, in the form of more protein, healthy fats and carbs. That’s because guys naturally expend more calories than women throughout the day, so they need a plan that accounts for that difference.

Guys will also want to make sure they’ll like the food. Does your diet plan include foods that are hearty and filling? If it’s a diet meal delivery plan, does the menu include foods you’ll enjoy?

Men have many healthy, sustainable diets to choose from. It’s important to find one that fuels your body, isn’t overly restrictive and can be maintained long term.

Best Diet Plan for Women

Women should look for a plan that includes a good balance of all food groups. Cutting out key nutrients can be detrimental to hormone levels and can lower metabolism in women.

Be sure to avoid diets that eliminate entire food groups or are overly restrictive. Not only are they hard to follow long term, they can also make it much more difficult to get the nutrients your body needs to function properly.

The best weight loss plan for women is one that aligns with your personal preferences and needs, so it fits naturally into your life. While it may be tempting to choose a plan that advertises lofty weight claims, stick to one that delivers the recommended one to two pounds of weight loss per week to find the sweet spot of motivation and sustainability.

Fortunately, there are an abundance of healthy diet plans that meet these criteria for women—so it won’t be too hard to find a good one!

Best Diabetic Diet Plan

For most people with type 2 diabetes, weight loss can make it easier to control blood glucose and goes hand-in-hand with a host of other health benefits. 

The best diabetic weight loss plan involves eating the healthiest foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes.

Studies show that following a carb-controlled diet can help improve blood sugar management in people with type 2 diabetes, which makes a low-carb diet a good option for those living with diabetes.

But if you’re someone who prefers a more structured weight loss diet, you may want to look into a plan designed specifically for diabetes, like Nutrisystem’s diabetes plan. This type of plan has guidelines designed to help you lose weight to manage your blood sugar; it also includes diabetes-friendly meals and snacks so you don’t have to spend time figuring out a meal plan that works for you. Another benefit is the inclusion of certified diabetes educators, who you can chat with directly regarding any diabetes-specific questions you may have. This is a great option for people who are new to dieting, newly diagnosed with diabetes or anyone who needs more support with weight loss.

Best Low Carb Diet Plan

Low-carb weight loss plans are one of the most popular among dieters. This type of diet involves limiting foods with added sugars and foods with a high-carbohydrate content, such as grains and starches.

Studies have shown that low-carb diets boost weight loss and improve other aspects of both men’s and women’s health.

There are several types of low-carb diets, ranging from the very-low-carb keto diet to more flexible moderate-carb approaches. Because one of the most important factors in choosing a diet is the ability to stick with it, the best low carb weight loss plan may be a more moderate-carb approach.

Keep in mind that low-carb diets aren’t a good fit for everyone, especially women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Best Vegetarian Weight Loss Plan

If you prefer to follow a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet, there are plenty of healthy diet plans to choose from. Among the mainstream diet brands, however, especially diet meal plan delivery, it’s much easier to find vegetarian options over vegan options. For a healthy vegan diet plan, you will most likely have to go the diet app or DIY diet route.

But great news: Research strongly associates vegetarian diets with healthy body weight and weight loss, so you’re on the right track already!

The best vegetarian weight loss plan should be low in refined foods, including highly processed plant-based foods (even if they claim to be healthier than their non-plant-based counterparts!). A healthy plant-based diet includes a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and high-quality eggs and dairy products (if you’re vegetarian).

You’ll want to find a vegetarian diet plan that focuses on nutrient-dense, whole foods to ensure you’re getting the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need. As a vegetarian or vegan, you need to pay particular attention to vitamins B-12, D3 and K2, iron, calcium, omega-3, zinc and iodine. Work with your doctor to make sure your nutritional needs are met so you can thrive on a plant-based diet.

Keto Diet Plan

The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet originally used to reduce seizures in children with epilepsy. While still used for that purpose today, it’s also gained popularity as an effective weight loss diet plan.

How it works: Your body typically burns carbohydrates for energy. The goal of the keto diet, however, is to restrict carb intake so that the body turns to fat as its main fuel source. Breaking down fats for energy is called ketosis. It usually takes about three weeks of carb elimination for your body to enter ketosis.

On the keto diet, seventy-five percent of your daily calories come from fat, such as oils, nuts, butter and avocado. Twenty percent of your daily calories come from protein sources, like meat, eggs and cheese. The remaining five percent of your daily calories come from carbs, mostly in the form of low-carb, non-starchy vegetables. The keto diet excludes carb-rich foods, like grains, beans, fruit and starchy vegetables.

Due to its rise in popularity, the keto diet is available in many different formats, ranging from the DIY version to structured diet meal delivery plans.

The keto diet has shown to be effective for weight loss and the high fat content may help fight hunger while dieting—but there are a few other factors to consider, too. Because of the stringent food restrictions, some people may find it hard to stick to. And since many foods are eliminated entirely on the keto diet, you’re missing out on a lot of nutrients that are only found in whole grains, fruits, legumes and starchy vegetables, which means it’s not a diet you should plan to be on long-term.

Those with pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, liver dysfunction, a history of kidney failure, fat metabolism disorders, and other rare metabolic conditions should not use the keto diet for weight loss.

Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that’s based on the traditional cuisine of countries that border the Mediterranean sea, such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece.

How it works: While there is no specific definition of the Mediterranean diet, it’s typically plant-based, with limited meats and animal products.

The main components of the Mediterranean diet plan include: 

  • Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats
  • Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs
  • Moderate portions of dairy products
  • Limited intake of red meat

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthy eating plans recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to promote health and prevent chronic disease. It’s also recognized by the World Health Organization as a healthy and sustainable dietary pattern.

However, since there are no strict definitions of the Mediterranean diet, it’s considered a DIY diet, which means it’s less structured and may lack some of the support tools other plans provide.

It’s a great option for those who have a general understanding of portion control and a good amount of self-motivation, but challenging for those who are new to dieting or struggle with accountability.

Carnivore Diet Meal Plan

The carnivore diet is based on a one-pronged approach: You eat only meat and animal products. That’s it—no vegetables, fruits, legumes or grains of any kind. The carnivore diet stems from the controversial belief that human ancestral populations ate mostly meat and fish and that high-carb diets are to blame for today’s high rates of chronic disease. This diet goes one step further than other low-carb approaches: It aims for zero carbs.

How it works: The carnivore diet works similarly to the keto diet, by eliminating carbs and forcing your body to burn your fat as its primary fuel source. 

It goes without saying that a diet this restrictive in nature is likely unhealthy in the long term. Plus, there hasn’t been any substantial research done to back up its purported benefits. 

The carnivore diet is another type of DIY diet, meaning it’s up to you to do most of the legwork, so a good understanding of diet basics will come in handy on this plan.

Atkins Diet Plan

The Atkins diet is a low-carb weight loss plan that was created by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, who published a book about it in 1972. Proponents of this diet claim that you can lose weight while eating as much protein and fat as you want, as long as you avoid high-carb foods.

How it works: Similar to the keto diet and carnivore diet, Atkins restricts carbs and pushes your body into ketosis, the state in which fat is burned as fuel in the absence of carbohydrates. There are four phases of the Atkins diet, the first of which is the most restrictive with 20 grams of carbs allowed per day for the first two weeks. Slowly you’ll add in more nuts, low-carb vegetables and small amounts of fruit and maintain this structure until you meet your goal.

The Atkins diet has been studied thoroughly over the years and shown to lead to more weight loss and improvements in blood sugar, “good” HDL cholesterol and other health markers than low-fat diets. 

Like other diet and weight loss plans that restrict or eliminate foods or entire food groups, the Atkins diet is not sustainable for the long-term and may lead to weight gain once you go back to a “normal” way of eating. 

The Atkins diet is also a DIY diet plan, but there are books and many online resources to guide you, including the Atkins website with recipes, support groups and even some packaged convenience foods like entrées, bars and shakes for sale.

HCG Diet Plan

Human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG for short, is a hormone that’s produced in large quantities in the body during early pregnancy. It’s also been used to treat fertility issues in both women and men. The hCG diet for weight loss was first promoted in the 1950s by Dr. Albert T. Simeons, who claimed that hCG caused the body to preferentially burn stored fat, especially from the stomach, hips and thighs.

How it works: hCG hormone injections combined with an ultra-low-calorie diet of 500 calories a day were claimed to be the cause of dramatic weight loss results. However, multiple studies throughout the years have concluded that the weight loss was due to the severely restricted calorie intake, and had nothing to do with the hCG hormone. 

The FDA has deemed the hCG diet to be dangerous, illegal and fraudulent. 

Low Cholesterol Diet Plan

For those diagnosed with high cholesterol, a low-cholesterol diet plan may be a good option to get you back on track. 

How it works: The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to less than six percent of daily calories and minimizing the amount of trans fat you eat. This means limiting intake of red meat and whole-milk dairy products. Skim, low-fat or fat-free dairy products are recommended. 

You’ll also want to eat a heart-healthy diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts and nontropical vegetable oils like olive, avocado and canola, while minimizing red meat, processed meats, fried foods, sodium and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages.

Many diets fit this general description. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute as well as diets suggested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association are heart-healthy approaches. They’re all flexible diet plans that can be adapted to your cultural and food preferences, too.

When following a low-cholesterol diet plan, it’s best to work closely with your doctor to monitor your progress over time. There are lots of online resources to help you follow a low-cholesterol diet plan on your own, and some diet meal delivery plans can be customized to fit these specifications as well.

Vegan Diet Plan

A vegan or plant-based diet is one that excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs. Due to a rise in popularity, vegan diets have been studied extensively over recent years—and with exciting results. Plant-based diets have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer, prevent type 2 diabetes, minimize risk of stroke, contribute to weight loss and improve cholesterol.

How it works: Cut out all meat and animal products, such as dairy and eggs and build your meal plan around vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruit, nuts and seeds.

Since vegan diets have become so popular, you have options if you want to start a plant-based diet. There are vegan diet meal delivery plans, vegan meal plan apps, books and a plethora of online resources if you want to go the DIY route.

If you choose to follow a vegan diet, make sure that it’s truly plant-based, meaning that you focus on whole foods and limit intake of highly-processed vegan foods like faux meats, cheeses and snacks.

1200 Calorie Diet Plan

A 1,200-calorie diet plan is a structured eating plan that restricts daily caloric intake for weight loss. Following a low-calorie diet typically means consuming around 1,200 for women and 1,500 calories for men per day. 

How it works: The science for a low-calorie diet plan is simple: Take in fewer calories from food than you burn each day, and you will lose weight.

Just because the science is simple doesn’t mean that following a low-calorie diet plan is easy. It’s restrictive and requires a lot of discipline.

A low-calorie diet isn’t for everyone. People who have active jobs or a high activity level, like construction workers and athletes, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding naturally require more calories to sustain their daily lives. 

While there isn’t one official 1,200 calorie diet plan, there are plenty of options available, including weight loss meal plan delivery, diet apps and online resources. Regardless of the direction you take, seek out a plan that’s nutritionally balanced to ensure you get adequate nutrients at a reduced calorie level. Experts recommend that women do not dip lower than 1,200 calories and men don’t go below 1,500 calories, so check with your doctor before starting a low-calorie diet plan to make sure it’s right for you.

Gluten Free Diet Plan

For anyone diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet is recommended in order to manage the side effects associated with consuming gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

A gluten-free diet is also popular among people who haven’t been diagnosed with a gluten-related medical condition. The claimed benefits of the diet are improved health, weight loss and increased energy, but more research is needed.

How it works: On a gluten-free diet, all foods that contain gluten, such as breads and other baked goods, crackers, pastas, some sauces and beer, are eliminated from the diet.

While a gluten-free diet is necessary for some people, the foods that are excluded from a gluten-free diet provide important vitamins and other nutrients. So unless your doctor recommends a gluten-free diet, it’s best to follow a diet that includes all food groups, in healthy proportions.

Gluten-free diets are generally considered DIY, but many prepared foods are now being marketed as gluten-free, so it’s much easier to find options in your local grocery store these days. 

GERD Diet Plan

If you’re experiencing heartburn or other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chances are good that your doctor will recommend changes to your eating habits—and a GERD diet is a good place to start.

How it works: To reduce GERD symptoms, you’ll avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, garlic, onions, spicy foods and fried foods. 

Your doctor may also ask you to change some eating habits, including eating smaller meals, eating slowly and avoiding snacking when possible. 

GERD diets are typically recommended by a doctor, and if this is the case for you, you can find online resources to help support your diet plan, including food lists, recipes and even a service that will create GERD-friendly plans for weight loss customized for you, with a meal plan, shopping list and recipes each week.

How Much Does a Diet Plan Cost?

Diet plans that include meal delivery will definitely cost you more than DIY diet plans or a diet plan app. But to get the true picture of what a weight loss plan will cost, you’ll want to break out the calculator. Find out the average of what you spend per week on food, and compare it to the price of the diet plan per week. Be sure to factor in the cost of any extra food that your weight loss plan requires.

To see a breakdown of diet plans by price, check out our best diet plans review.

The Best Time to Start a Weight Loss Plan

Fun fact: Researchers believe that making a change in one area of your life sometimes has the power to set off a chain reaction of change in other areas of your life as well. It’s true—studies have shown that it’s during periods of intense change that people are most open to branching out and trying new things. So if you’re starting a new job, moving to a new home or beginning another new venture in life, you may be more receptive to incorporating new healthy lifestyle changes, like starting a weight loss plan.

There will always be reasons to delay the start of a diet plan, like travel, houseguests or an upcoming holiday or event. That said, if you wait for the “perfect” time to start a diet, it might not happen.

While there’s certainly no convenient time to make lifestyle changes, the best time to start a weight loss plan is when you feel motivated, are ready for a fresh start and have the budget for it.

Before you pull the trigger on a diet plan, here are a few last points to consider, which may affect when you’ll want to get started:

Diet Plan Concerns

Are there any unknowns about the weight loss plan that you should consider? Is the plan new to the market and still ironing out benefits or potentially harmful effects, or does it have a proven track record of safety and efficacy? Does the diet plan have any contraindications to be aware of, such as diabetes, liver or kidney disorders, pancreatitis, heart conditions, stroke or pregnancy?

If these or any other red flags come up when looking for a diet and weight loss plan, consult with your doctor to make sure there are no concerns with regards to any health conditions you may have or other variables, like age, weight, blood pressure, blood type, height or current weight.

Other Considerations

Outside of diet food, what else is recommended with the weight loss plan? Does it call for starting a new exercise regimen? If so, check with your doctor to get the green light and make sure you’re comfortable with following the routine on your own. If you need extra support in this area, you may want to look into scheduling a few sessions with a personal trainer to ensure your safety while you learn the basics. 

Does the diet plan recommend any supplements? You’ll also want to clear any extras like this with your doctor to make sure there are no negative side effects or interactions with any medications you may be taking.

Weight Maintenance

After you’ve reached your goal, are there additional considerations, like foods you would always have to avoid, or a certain way you’ll have to eat to ensure you don’t gain the weight back? You’ll want to carefully weigh the pros and cons of a plan that prescribes a lifestyle that may be difficult to maintain in the long run.

Finding a diet plan with a weight maintenance program can increase your chances of keeping the weight off as you ease back into a post-diet life.

Let’s Do This: Your Diet Plan Checklist 

Now that you know the basics of weight loss, what type of plan will suit you best and what features you need, it’s time to start your search. 

To make things easier for you, we compiled this handy checklist that you can use to make sure your plan has everything you need to succeed:

  • Is it a nutritionally balanced plan with all food groups represented?
  • How much weight can I expect to lose on this diet?
  • Is there research and science to back up any weight claims?
  • Does it include proper amounts of nutrients and calories for safe and effective weight loss?
  • Can this diet accommodate my travel or dining out patterns?
  • Will I be able to stick to the timing and recommended number of meals and snacks?
  • Will it work for my family?
  • How limited are the food choices? 
    • If it’s a meal delivery plan, does the menu sound good and include enough variety?
    • Can I easily find any necessary foods in my local grocery store?
    • Does it accommodate my dietary requirements?
  • Does it fit my lifestyle preferences?
  • What types of support are offered with this plan?
  • Is regular physical activity part of the plan?
  • Will it help me learn healthy habits to support my weight loss?
  • Is there a maintenance program to help keep the weight off?
  • What is the total cost, including any extra foods that are required?

It’s official: You’re ready to set off and shop confidently for the best weight loss plan for you. Cheers to reaching your goals and living your best life!