In the century plus since industrialization made food plentiful and easy to get, human beings have been obsessed with diets. From low-carb to high fat, there's a diet for every preference and every body. But too much choice can be overwhelming. Where to start when you're searching for the diet that works for you?
Start here! In this guide, you'll find everything you need to know about the health benefits, the health implications, the rules, and the difficulties of every major modern diet. With all the information at your fingertips, you'll be able to select the best diet for you, your body, and your lifestyle.
Although most diet plans will swear up and down that they are the one that works, the truth is there is no best diet. Instead, there's the right diet — for you. And a diet that works for one person may fail for the next.
There are several things to consider when choosing the right diet for you. Taste, food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, and lifestyle will affect which diet feels best. If you work from home and have the kind of schedule that allows you the luxury of time to cook, you don't have to shy away from the more complicated diets. If you're out of the house most of the day and all you can do is fit in a 4 PM grub fest, you'll want to stick with the simpler diets.
Before reading on, consider these questions — and consider why you're switching up your diet. Are you trying to lose weight? Get more iron? Stop eating animals? All three? Knowing what you want from a diet will help you quickly recognize the right one when you see it.
Talk to your doctor! Any diet that tells you to eat copious amounts of a certain food or to meaningfully change your sleep, hydration, and activity levels could be causing undue harm. Before you dive in, ask your doctor if what the diet is instructing you to do is ultimately healthy. You don't want to find out the hard way that a diet is infringing upon your health.
How To Spot A Fad Diet
Talking to your doctor can also help you steer clear of the dreaded fad diet. Fad diets can result in the opposite of what we're trying to achieve by changing up your food intake. They can cause nausea, malnutrition, and low energy – and, because they're so hard to sustain, almost never lead to long-term weight loss.
So how do you spot a fad diet? Here are four key giveaways to help you know a fad diet when you see one.
Drastic calorie cutting
The body needs food! Specifically, it needs enough food to keep it seamlessly running. Fad diets often curb their followers at extremely low calorie amounts, leaving them tired and weak. If the calorie deficit is big enough (more than 500 cal a day), it can even be dangerous.
There is no such thing as a magic pill or a magic powder. Yes, weight loss drugs have made leaps and bounds from the days of Fen/Phen, but those drugs are prescribed by a doctor – not a random nutrition guru on the back of a book jacket. If your diet is shilling pills or powder, all you stand to lose is money.
Extreme limits on certain types of foods
The body also needs variety! Be suspicious of any diet that asks you to cut out several food groups or eat mostly one food group. Before cutting any food group out, talk to your doctor about potential consequences.
Promises of rapid weight loss
Rapid weight loss is bad for you — full stop. Any diet that claims to result in significant weight loss over a short period of time should be considered a fad diet. Stability is massively important for the body, and it will wage war in the face of deprivation – usually in the form of slowing your metabolism down so much that you gain back more than you lost.
You’ve probably heard of some of the more well-known diets before. In fact, you may have even followed a few of them yourself. These classic diets typically follow a healthy, balanced approach to optimize your health and increase weight loss.
The Atkins diet is the original low carbohydrate diet. There was a time when everyone and their mother was on Atkins. These days, Atkins is still a useful way to lower insulin levels and boost weight loss. If you have a family history of diabetes, consider the Atkins diet.
Atkins is all about protein and fat. It involves maximizing your intake of protein and fat packed foods while limiting your intake of carbs. If you can't live without bread, skip this one.
The Atkins diet allows for a variety by taking a four-phase approach. If you like to mix up what you eat, this should be a pro for you. It's also great for those who don't have time to track every meal, as the Atkins diet does not ask you to count calories.
Phase 1: Induction
The induction phase involves consuming no more than 20g of carbohydrates a day. Ideally, these carbohydrates should come from vegetables, rather than a piece of bread. Your protein and fat intake should be high.
Phase 2: Balancing
Gradually add more carbohydrates to your diet, including vegetables and fruits. Every week, you should aim for around 20-30g of additional carbs per day.
Phase 3: Continuing weight loss
Increase your carbohydrate intake by around 10g per week until your weight loss slows down.
Phase 4: Maintenance
Stick to your personalized carbohydrate goal. By this point, you should have an idea of how many carbohydrates you can eat without gaining weight.
What to eat and avoid
Obviously, carbohydrates are off the menu. That includes all bread, pasta, rice, and other refined goodies, at least for the first few weeks. You can gradually add these into your diet as you continue through the phases.
Cutting out carbohydrates so drastically can cause side effects, though. Expect headaches, fatigue, and dizziness while your body gets used to using fat as its primary source of energy.
Ideally, you should consume high protein foods, including meats and fish, plus leafy greens and low-carb fruits. You should avoid any fruits high in sugar, including bananas, mangos, and pineapple.
High-fat foods are also allowed, but you should opt for unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, oily fish, and avocados.
Here’s what a day on the Atkins diet might look like.
Breakfast: Cheesy omelet with spinach and ham
Lunch: Salmon filet and green beans
Snack: A handful of nuts/seeds
Dinner: Chicken and mozzarella bake with pine nuts and cherry tomatoes
The Mediterranean diet is widely seen as one of the healthiest ways to eat. It's high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, and fish – but very low in meat and dairy. Think of it as vegan lite. If meat and dairy is a nonnegotiable way of life for you, this diet probably won't be.
But for those without great attachment to meat and dairy, you stand to gain a decreased risk of cancer, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. The Mediterranean diet is less a weight loss plan than a comprehensive approach to your health. It's associated with lower blood sugar levels as well, so if you've got a history of diabetes, this diet may be ideal for you.
What to eat and avoid
The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and fish. You should also include other healthy fats, including olive oil.
You can consume meat and dairy in moderation, but this should be no more than twice a week. And the Mediterranean diet favors poultry over red meat. Low-fat alternatives (including dairy) are also not allowed, as these are typically high in sugar.
One thing the Mediterranean diet does allow is red wine. In fact, you’re actually encouraged to drink one glass of red wine per day, alongside other fluids like water and herbal teas.
Here’s what a day on the Mediterranean diet might look like.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with soy milk and raisins
Lunch: Tuna sandwich with wholemeal bread and salad
Snack: Portion of olives
Dinner: Salmon with roasted vegetables and a glass of red wine
The Paleo diet is based on how our ancestors used to eat. Before hotdogs and energy bars were mainstays of the human foodscape, hunter gatherers relied on whole foods, meat, and fish to nourish themselves. This diet is strongly linked to weight loss and disease prevention.
A Paleo diet is perfect for the flexible eater. Just as societies across the globe have different eating cultures, hunter gatherers were not a monolith. Some ate a diet low in carbohydrates, while others relied on whole grains as one of their central food sources. As long as you avoid foods that simply didn't exist during those times, your options are plentiful.
With the Paleo diet being so popular, many companies offer delivery services to save you from cooking up your meals yourself. Check out the 10 best Paleo meal delivery services if you want to save yourself some time.
What to eat and avoid
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains were widespread in the Paleo era and should be enthusiastically enjoyed on the Paleo diet. Meat and fish is also allowed – as long as it's not the processed version, like sausage or hotdogs.
Dairy is strictly off-limits. If you’re lactose intolerant, it could be a good option for you. Remember, you can’t eat anything from a factory, so even dairy alternatives aren’t allowed.
Legumes aren’t allowed either, since followers of the paleo diet believe these are not easily digested by the body. Stay away from processed and refined foods, too.
You are encouraged to eat nuts, seeds, and different types of oils, but only in moderation due to the high-fat content.
Here’s what a day on the Paleo diet might look like.
Breakfast: Eggs fried in olive oil with vegetables
Lunch: Chicken salad with nuts and balsamic dressing
Snack: One portion of fruit
Dinner: Steak, vegetables, and sweet potatoes
The Zone diet is designed to reduce inflammation in the body to help you increase weight loss and lower your risk of conditions like heart disease.
It involves eating a set ratio of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, which are broken down into ‘zone blocks.’ Women are allowed 11 zone blocks per day, while men have 14, split across 3 meals and a snack.
Your ratio of each macronutrient is very personalized, but as a general rule, aim for 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates.
While the diet is very flexible with no real strict rules on what you can and can’t eat, it requires a lot of tracking. It’s definitely one of the more complicated options, and it’s not designed for intuitive eaters.
What to eat and avoid
The Zone diet doesn’t exclude foods, but advises that you eat within your macronutrient ratios. That said, it does recommend healthier options, rather than processed and refined goods.
Aim for lean proteins, including meat and fish, fruits, vegetables, and low-glycemic-index carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, barley, and other grains. Ideally, you should stay away from starchy foods like bread and pasta.
You should also consume healthy fats, including avocados, nuts, nut butters, and oils.
Here’s what a day on The Zone diet might look like.
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms
Lunch: Grilled chicken breast salad with quinoa
Snack: Boiled egg, fruit, and nuts
Dinner: Grilled salmon, sweet potato, and salad made with olive oil dressing
The Whole30 is all about resetting your nutritional intake to help you pinpoint problem foods. For those experiencing health problems like fatigue or irritable bowel syndrome, the Whole30 could reveal what foods, if any, are impacting your health (after speaking to a doctor, of course).
The core of the diet takes place over 30 days and involves strict rules. You'll be cutting out a whole slew of food groups and eschewing tobacco and alcohol altogether — so if you're a picky eater or unwilling to be restricted, this diet isn't for you. That includes cheat meals, which are strictly forbidden.
After the 30 days are up, you can begin to reintroduce certain foods while paying attention to how to make you feel. The hope is that, during the reintroduction process, you will discover and eliminate permanently foods that impact your health negatively.
What to eat and avoid
All meat and fish are allowed, as long as they’re minimally processed. One positive, though, is that it allows red meat and pork, which many diets cut out.
You can consume all types of fruit and vegetables, plus nuts and seeds. When it comes to dairy, only eggs are recommended. It cuts out cheese, yogurts, and all other dairy-based products completely.
The same goes for carbohydrates. All pulses, grains, and legumes should be avoided, plus sugar and artificial sweeteners, processed additives, and even soy.
Here’s what a day on the whole food diet might look like.
Breakfast: Fruit smoothie with berries and banana
Lunch: Grilled cod with mixed vegetables
Snack: Apple with peanut butter
Dinner: Chicken salad with berries, spinach, and lettuce
Some diets aim to decrease or increase your intake of one of the three macronutrients to manipulate weight loss. Usually, these diets involve high fat and low carb, or vice versa.
Unless you've been living under a rock, it's likely you're familiar with the ketogenic diet (popularly known as the "keto diet"). The ketogenic diet is hot right now, presumably for its weight loss benefits.
Advocates of the ketogenic diet posit that a body will burn fat more effectively when in a state of ketosis (meaning your body uses fat for energy, rather than glucose, which comes from carbohydrates). Like the Atkins diet, it's all about protein and fat. Also like the Atkins diet, a ketogenic diet might result in some initial fatigue and nausea as your body adjusts to cutting out carbohydrates.
Although ketogenic diets function best for weight-loss, they can also reduce blood sugar levels, increase energy levels, and reduce floating. If you're sensitive to carbs – or are simply fine living without pasta – this could be the diet for you.
What to eat and avoid
The ketogenic diet calls for no carbohydrates, which means no bread, pasta, cereal, and other starchy foods. Most fruits and all root vegetables are also restricted, so opt for leafy greens, salad, and berries.
You’re encouraged to keep your protein levels high by consuming all types of meat and fish, including red meats. And you should increase fat consumption through eggs, nuts and nut butters, oils, and seeds.
You can also eat lots of high-fat foods like butter, cream, and cheese, but stay away from any products labeled as low-fat, as these are often high in sugar.
To make the keto diet easy, you can look into various meal delivery services, like Ketogenic Diet-to-go. These save on preparation and cooking time, since everything is delivered to your door.
Here’s what a day on the Ketogenic diet might look like.
Breakfast: Egg, ham, and cheese omelet, plus a small bowl of berries
Lunch: Salmon with creamed spinach
Snack: Handful of nuts
Dinner: Chicken satay stir fry with greens (no noodles)
The lazy ketogenic diet is self-explanatory. It's the ketogenic diet with slightly fewer rules and slightly more carbs. This diet is perfect for those who are curious about the ketogenic diet but don't do well with strict rules and no bread.
Whereas the most strict version of the ketogenic diet frowns upon even fruits and vegetables with carbohydrates, the lazy ketogenic diet is more forgiving. While you will still be prioritizing meat, fish, and healthy fats, the lazy ketogenic diet allows for leafy greens and berries. It also involves less tracking, which is perfect for the lazy dieter.
Keep in mind, of course, that losing weight on a ketogenic diet is dependent upon your body entering a state of ketosis. If you're not tracking your carbs, it's possible that your body won't reach this state and the weight won't come off as quickly (or at all).
Here’s what a day on the lazy keto diet might look like:
Breakfast: Berry smoothie with peanut butter and protein powder
Lunch: Chicken and cheese bake with spinach
Dinner: Lettuce burgers with cheese and salad
The bulletproof diet aims to help you lose weight while simultaneously improving your energy levels and focus. It combines a moderate protein and high-fat diet with intermittent fasting, so that you only eat within a specific time frame.
Usually, you follow a ketogenic diet for 5-6 days a week, then have 1-2 refeed days where you increase your carbohydrate intake. The ketogenic days should be strict, with only 5% of your intake from carbohydrates.
You also have to drink bulletproof coffee every day for your breakfast, including coffee mixed with grass-fed butter. This is designed to suppress hunger and improve your focus, although essentially, you’re skipping a meal.
The bulletproof diet labels certain foods as toxic, which must be avoided. This includes pasteurized milk, oils, factory-farmed meat, raw kale and spinach, raisins, and dried fruit.
Here’s what a day on the bulletproof diet might look like.
Breakfast: Bulletproof coffee with grass-fed butter
Lunch: Avocado, eggs, and salad
Snack: Mixed berries
Dinner: Chicken thighs and greens
Carb cycling is a diet that relies on continually "shocking" the body. The idea is that, if you're eating the same way day after day, your body will come to expect the food you put into it and will adjust its functioning (specifically, your metabolism) accordingly.
On a carbon cycling diet, you keep your body guessing by manipulating the amount of carbs you eat at any given time. It's designed to promote weight loss and avoid the dreaded plateau that inevitably comes with most diets.
You've got a measure of choice on a carb cycling diet. Some people choose to eat carbs only before or after a workout. Others eat carbs one day and not at all the next. No foods are restricted, although it's recommended that you intake healthy proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes on the days you eat carbs. It's up to you — but consistency is key.
The Dukan diet focuses on limiting carbohydrates and adding 20 minutes of exercise per day to increase rapid weight loss, while still keeping you full. As with all low-carbohydrate diets, the aim is to increase your body’s ability to burn fat quickly.
It’s a four-phase diet, with each phase varying in length. The diet is supposed to be sustainable, so that you can stick to it in the long term and maintain weight loss without plateauing.
Attack phase (1-7 days): Eat as much protein as you like, alongside 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran each day, plus 6 cups of water.
Cruise phase (1-12 months): Eat high protein and alternate between adding leafy greens every other day, plus another half a tablespoon of oat bran.
Consolidation phase (5 days for every pound lost): Eat as much protein and vegetables as you like, plus some carbohydrates and fats, and 2.5 tablespoons of oat bran.
Stabilization phase (ongoing): Eat whatever you like for 6 days, and follow the attack phase for 1 day per week, plus 3 tablespoons of oat bran every day.
What to eat and avoid
Unlike typical ketogenic diets, the Dukan diet restricts carbohydrates and fats. In the attack phase, you’re limited to mainly eating proteins in the attack phase, plus a few extras with minimal calories like pickles and non-fat dairy products.
Later phases are less restrictive, but you can still only eat a maximum of one serving of fruit per day. Most high-fat meats and carbohydrates are limited to a couple of times per week, and all other high-fat products are not allowed.
Following a Dukan diet requires heavy discipline, and it doesn’t leave much room for flexibility. It’s also very low in calories, although it doesn’t require you to actually count them, which is one advantage.
The wild diet is a high fat, low carb diet for people who would like to reduce their risk of chronic disease, eat fewer processed foods, and lose weight.
Although the wild diet preaches a lot of the same rules as the ketogenic diet, it puts more emphasis on consuming whole foods over processed foods. Calorie counting is unnecessary and a limited number of cheat meals are allowed weekly – but the diet itself can still be restrictive.
Here’s what a day on the wild diet might look like.
Breakfast: Organic fried eggs in olive oil with turkey bacon
Lunch: Chicken salad with avocado and cashew nuts
Snack: Full-fat Greek yogurt and a small handful of berries
Dinner: Salmon and roasted Mediterranean vegetables
The low-fat diet is one for the ages. It's likely your parents or grandparents have tried this one, low fat diets were wildly popular in the 80s and 90s. These days, the masses have embraced healthy fats – but that doesn't mean a low-fat diet isn't for anyone.
The central idea here is in the name. A low-fat diet is all about cutting out most fats and prioritizing protein and, to a lesser extent, carbohydrates. This means no nuts, full fat yogurt, whole milk, oil, nut butters, or cream. It also emphasizes poultry and fish over red meat or pork. If that sounds unbearable, stop reading now.
A low-fat diet has been a popular weight-loss tool for decades for a reason. With that being said, healthy fats like nuts and seeds are health promoting, so it's best to talk to your doctor before diving into this one.
Here’s what a day on the low-fat diet might look like.
Breakfast: Oats with skimmed milk and banana
Lunch: Turkey slices, tomato, lettuce, and wholemeal bread
Snack: A bag of popcorn
Dinner: Spaghetti bolognese with low-fat mince
The Dubrow diet is a combination of low-carb and intermittent fasting designed to help you lose weight, increase energy levels, and improve your overall health.
It’s divided into three phases, with specific recommendations of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates at each phase, but there’s no calorie counting. The Dubrow diet is quite rigid, so it’s great for people who like a strict plan and don’t mind not eating anything for several hours.
Phase 1 (2-5 days): Fast for 16 hours.
Phase 2 (until weight loss goal is reached): Fast for 12-16 hours.
Phase 3 (maintenance): Fast for 16 hours twice a week, and 12 hours on other days.
What to eat and avoid
Each phase is more lenient with recommended foods, but generally, it focuses on lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and dairy products.
In phases 2 and 3, you’re allowed some complex carbs, but phase 1 restricts these completely. One advantage is that in phase 3, it’s OK to have one cheat day per week, which adds some more flexibility and lets you have a little bit of what you fancy now and then.
You might be left feeling pretty hungry, though, since you need to fast for around 16 hours every day. That means you only get 8 hours to eat your meals, and it’s likely you won’t eat as many calories as you need within that time.
Here’s what a day on the Dubrow diet might look like.
Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with avocado
Snack: Greek yogurt and berries
Dinner: Baked salmon with greens
The South Beach diet is another that took the weight loss world by storm. Its focus is weight loss and heart health, achieved by lowering your carb intake.
Although it has a lot in common with the Dubrow diet, intermittent fasting is not part of its philosophy. For those scared by the thought of limiting your eating to an eight hour window, this might be the better choice.
The South Beach diet is broken into three phases:
Phase 1 (14 days): Eat 3 meals per day, including lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, and small amounts of healthy fats.
Phase 2 (once weight loss goal is reached): Focus on lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, and limited portions of grains and legumes.
Phase 3 (maintenance): Consume the same foods as in phase 2, but allow yourself a cheat day per week.
While weight loss may be the point of the South Beach diet, the encouraged consumption of fatty fish, olive oil, and nuts may reduce inflammation and contribute to a healthy heart.
Most diets are calorie-controlled in one way or another, but some diets actually recommend that you calculate and stick to a daily intake. Other diets also suggest that you should only eat at certain times of the day for optimized weight loss and added health benefits.
A macronutrient split diet is one of the most flexible options, but it can also be one of the more complicated, too.
It involves eating a set ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates every day based on a recommended calorie intake. The downside is you have to work this out yourself and plan how to split up your meals and macros.
While it is very flexible, people following the macronutrient diet have to bear in mind that 100 calories of ice cream holds a very different nutritional value to 100 calories of broccoli. It's up to you to decide what you eat and when, which might be too much flexibility for people who like a diet ‘plan’.
Typically, most macronutrient diets consist of 40% protein, 30% fat, and 30% carbohydrates. But you can change these ratios based on your goals and preference.
What to eat and avoid
No foods are off-limits with a macronutrient approach, but it’s still recommended that you eat lean proteins, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and grains and legumes, rather than processed and refined foods.
You can have cakes, candy, and sweet treats in moderation, though, as long as you can fit them within your daily calorie allowance and macronutrient intake.
Intermittent fasting is a diet that focuses less on what you can eat and more on when you can eat. Most intermittent diets start with the 16/8 method, where you consume all your nutrients for the day during an eight hour period and fast during the other 16 hours. The more extreme versions, however, can involve up to 24 hours of fasting.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. If you are the type to snack often throughout the day or generally get by on a series of small meals rather than two large ones, you may want to avoid this diet. However, this diet is perfect for someone who balks at complicated restrictions (no food is off limits in this diet) and can handle working through hunger.
An ‘if it fits your macros’ (IIFYM) diet follows the macronutrient approach, but it’s much less strict.
Although you still need to work out your set ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, you can basically eat whatever you like within those ranges.
A typical macronutrient diet emphasizes plenty of lean proteins, whole foods, and fruit and veg, but with IIFYM, anything goes. That means you can eat processed foods and refined sugars if you like.
Overconsuming unhealthy foods can damage your overall health in the long run, though. But an IIFYM diet can help dieters stay ‘on plan’ more easily, since it doesn’t feel much like a diet.
The military diet is great for quick – if not necessarily sustainable – weight loss. It takes a three days on, four days off approach, during which you are on a strict low-calorie plan for three days out of the week and can eat however you would like for the other four days.
The days you are dieting require a significantly low calorie count, coming in at 1100 to 1400 cal per day. This is far below the recommended amount and is not sustainable long-term, so don't skip out on the four days off. There's also a strict food list that you must follow during the three on days, including grapefruit, tuna, cottage cheese, and vanilla ice cream.
Reverse dieting is typically designed for bodybuilders and athletes that have already been dieting for a set period.
It involves gradually increasing calories to improve energy levels, maintain a healthy appetite, and increase fat burning without gaining too much weight.
That means no calorie deficit, so it’s not for anyone looking to lose weight.
You will need to work out your macronutrient needs to get a set ratio of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, then add a little to this every day. It usually involves an extra 50-100 calories per day for 4-10 weeks. After this time, you drop your calories again to kickstart weight loss.
There are no restricted foods, but you’re encouraged to opt for healthier options to avoid gaining extra fat. Choose high-quality protein sources, plenty of healthy fats, whole grains and legumes, plus fruit and vegetables.
Vegetarian diets have grown in popularity in recent years, but there are many variations to choose from. Some eliminate all animal-based products entirely, while others follow a more flexible and adaptable approach.
Eating vegetarian means avoiding animals, but not necessarily animal products. Meat and fish are off-limits, while eggs and cheese are fine.
There are other variations as well, like the "lacto vegetarian" diet, which also cuts out eggs (but still allows dairy).
Most vegetarians choose to eat that way to support the environment or because of their ethical beliefs regarding animals, but going vegetarian can support weight loss, as well. More than anything, however, vegetarians who replace meat and cheese with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are going to see the most benefit. But pay attention to protein intake – getting protein from soy and plant-based sources isn't as easy as getting it from meat and fish.
What to eat and avoid
Essentially, you can consume anything that isn’t meat or fish. If you’re following the stricter option, you may also have to cut out eggs and dairy products, but it’s up to you.
Fill your plate with all kinds of vegetables, grains, legumes, and plenty of healthy fats, including nuts, seeds, and olive oils. You should also add plant and soy proteins such as tofu, tempeh, and spirulina.
Here’s what a day on the vegetarian diet might look like.
Breakfast: Fruit smoothie with protein powder
Lunch: Superfood bowl with veggies, bulgar wheat, and nuts
Snack: Carrot sticks and hummus
Dinner: Tofu curry
The flexitarian diet is a more relaxed version of the vegetarian diet, where people eat vegetarian on certain days of the week or for particular meals each day.
It works well if you’re looking to add more plant-based foods and nutrients to your diet and want to reduce your intake of meat and fish.
Rather than going full vegetarian, the flexitarian diet also allows you to keep your protein intake higher, which is beneficial for avid gym-goers or people concerned about deficiencies.
Although no foods are strictly off-limits, you should opt for vegetarian options wherever possible and focus on whole foods most of the time. That means reducing your intake of meat, fish, and sometimes eggs or dairy, depending on your preferences.
Here’s what a day on the flexitarian diet might look like:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with oat milk and berries
Lunch: Tofu salad bowl with nuts
Snack: Apple and peanut butter
Dinner: Salmon, sweet potato, and roasted vegetables
A pescatarian diet is mostly vegetarian with the addition of fish, but you still avoid meat and poultry. You can decide whether to eliminate dairy and eggs.
Moving to pescetarianism can be an excellent place to start if you’re looking to reduce how much meat or animal-based products you eat.
It keeps your protein consumption high, plus increases your intake of omega-3 and other essential nutrients. However, a lot of fish can increase your exposure to mercury and other toxins found in seafood.
What to eat and avoid
You can eat all kinds of fish and seafood, and should focus on getting a couple of portions of oily fish at least twice a week.
You should also add plenty of whole foods, including grains and legumes, plus fruit and vegetables. Healthy fats are allowed, too, so add in nuts, seeds, oils, and nut butters. The only thing you can’t eat is any meat or poultry.
Here’s what a day on the pescatarian diet might look like.
Breakfast: Scrambled egg on toast
Lunch: Grilled salmon and salad
Snack: Greek yogurt and berries
Dinner: Baked cod with wholegrain rice and mixed vegetables
A plant-based diet is widely seen as one of the healthiest diets for the human body. It involves prioritizing plant-based foods and cutting down on processed products.
Although there is no strict rule against consuming meat and fish on a plant-based diet, it recommends you minimize your intake of these foods and replace them with plant-based foods instead. If you must eat meat and fish, a plant-based diet recommends that you buy and eat organic.
A plant-based diet is a great way to reduce your risk of chronic disease like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It also promotes weight loss, since plant-based foods tend to be naturally lower in calories and higher in fiber (the nutrient that makes us feel full).
What to eat and avoid
Opt for organic and sustainably-sourced products wherever possible. Focus on including plenty of vegetables and fruits, legumes, grains, and plant-based proteins such as tofu and tempeh.
You can eat meat and fish, but try to keep your intake down to a couple of times a week, or gradually reduce your consumption over time.
Avoid all processed and packaged foods, including vegan and vegetarian alternatives. And stay away from artificial sweeteners, added sugars, and fast foods.
Here’s what a day on the plant-based diet might look like.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with coconut milk, chia seeds, and berries
Lunch: Sweet potato and jackfruit curry
Snack: Handful of nuts and a piece of fruit
Dinner: Corn-fed chicken with salad and quinoa
The vegan diet is the most restrictive variation on the vegetarian diet. It's not easy, especially if you don't make room for the occasional cheat moment, but it's rewarding if you hold strong beliefs about the environment or the consumption of animal products. It can also be one of the healthiest diets out there, as long as you focus on prioritizing your protein intake.
A vegan diet means anything animal based (food, clothing, or anything else) is strictly off-limits. This includes some food items you may not have considered, like honey and Jell-O. True vegans exhaustively check nutrition information to make certain there are no animal ingredients in what they consume.
Veganism is similar to a plant-based diet, although processed food is allowed. Ultimately, you still have to be vigilant about what kind of foods you eat to get the full health benefit of this diet. Although French fries are, in fact, vegan, they aren't going to show you the same health benefits as a grilled vegetable wrap or tofu curry dish.
If you’ve followed a vegetarian or similar-style diet before, the jump to vegan might not be too drastic. But moving from an animal-based diet to vegan can be very intense, so make sure you know what’s in store before you start. You can make it easier for yourself by looking into vegan delivery services, so all the preparation is already done for you.
What to eat and avoid
Put simply, you cannot eat anything that contains any ingredients that have come from an animal. Rather than just eliminating meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, it also excludes foods you might not expect, such as honey and sweets. However, you can find many vegan alternatives.
You should eat mostly whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and plant-based proteins, including tofu and tempeh.
Although veganism limits processed foods and can benefit your overall health, it could lead to nutritional deficiencies since it cuts out so many foods. Anyone following a vegan diet should consider taking supplements, such as B12, to help reduce their risk.
Here’s what a day on the vegan diet might look like.
Breakfast: Avocado toast with tomato slices and fresh herbs
Lunch: Stir-fried tofu, vegetables, and brown rice
Snack: A piece of fruit and handful of nuts
Dinner: Portobello mushroom “burger,” wholemeal bun, lettuce, tomato, and oven-roasted potatoes
The pegan diet combines vegan and Paleo to reduce inflammation and promote healthy blood sugar levels. It can help with managing diabetes.
Although it’s mostly vegan, you’re encouraged to eat small amounts of lean proteins, including poultry and fish. Vegetables and fruit should make up the majority of your diet, with these being low-GI options to minimize spikes in blood sugar.
You should avoid gluten, refined sugar and oils, and dairy, making it beneficial for coping with digestive issues. Legumes and whole grains are allowed, but in small amounts, so it’s mostly low-carb.
Here’s what a day on the pegan diet might look like.
Breakfast: Green smoothie with apple, kiwi, spinach, and almond butter
Lunch: Mixed vegetable omelet
Snack: Homemade guacamole with carrot and cucumber sticks
Dinner: Salmon with steamed greens and quinoa
Eco Atkins is a vegetarian variation of the traditional Atkins diet, so more suited to those who want to eat less meat.
It’s still high in protein and low carbohydrate, but it focuses heavily on plant proteins and healthy fats.
You should eat plenty of tempeh, tofu, and meat alternatives like vegetable burgers.
Opt for legumes like lentils and soybeans, which will keep your protein and fiber intake high. It’s easy to eat too many carbohydrates with a vegetarian-style diet, though, so be careful not to overdo it.
Eco Atkins also minimizes intake of gluten, which might be beneficial for those with possible gluten allergies or intolerances.
Here’s what a day on the eco Atkins diet might look like.
Breakfast: Tofu scramble
Lunch: Bean chili and cauliflower rice
Snack: Apple and cashew nuts
The macrobiotic diet is largely vegetarian-based, focusing on eating raw and organic foods. It’s designed to improve overall health and help you make lifestyle changes, rather than just a quick fix.
Since it limits animal fats, sugar, dairy, and refined foods, it’s beneficial for anyone suffering from heart disease or high cholesterol.
You should eat plenty of organically grown whole grains, such as oats, corn, and brown rice, plus locally-sourced vegetables, and plant proteins like tofu and tempeh. It also allows for a few portions of fish each week, so it doesn’t cut out animal proteins entirely.
Here’s what a day on the macrobiotic diet might look like
Breakfast: Greens and berry smoothie
Lunch: Vegetable and barley soup
Snack: Celery and cucumber sticks
Dinner: Tofu ‘smash’ with brown rice and vegetables
22 days vegan means following a vegan diet for just over 3 weeks. The idea is that it takes 21 days for you to create a habit, so by the time your diet is over, you’ll likely adopt some (or all) of the eating patterns. It’s a good tester if you’re not sure if you want to make the jump to vegan or not.
The nutrient breakdown is typically 80% carbohydrates, 10% fats, and 10% protein. It’s very heavy in carbs, so it’s not suitable if you’re sensitive to gluten and other grains.
You should eliminate all animal-based products, including meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and anything else with animal-based ingredients. Focus on eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds.
Here’s what a day on the 22 days vegan diet might look like.
Breakfast: Breakfast beans with sweet potato hash
Lunch: Mixed salad with cashew nuts and avocado
Snack: Vegetable sticks and vegan hummus
Dinner: Tofu and vegetable curry with bulgar wheat
The Ornish diet is low fat, high fiber, plant-based, and aims to reduce chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
It’s essentially a vegetarian diet, but better suited to those who don’t want to cut out dairy and eggs, since you can still eat these. However, it must be low fat, and you shouldn’t eat egg yolk, only the egg white.
You should eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and grains, but you can’t eat any meat or fish. Avoid refined carbohydrates, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.
Unlike a typical vegetarian diet, the Ornish diet also restricts your intake of nuts and seeds to only a few times a week, as well as other types of fat, including avocado and olive oil.
Here’s what a day on the Ornish diet might look like.
Breakfast: Scrambled egg white, tofu, and tomatoes
Lunch: Stuffed bell peppers
Snack: Berry juice
Dinner: Lentil and vegetable stew
On the Engine 2 Diet, you should avoid processed foods and eat mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Avoid meat, fish, dried fruit, high-sugar foods, and processed vegan products.
It’s designed to improve your overall health, rather than increase weight loss, although it’s likely you’ll create a calorie deficit following the Engine 2 Diet.
Engine 2 is also very low fat, limiting your intake of nuts, seeds, nut butters, and vegetable oils. It can be difficult to follow and take some getting used to if you don’t usually cut out so many food groups, but it’s heavy in nutrient-dense foods.
Here’s what a day on the Engine 2 Diet might look like.
Breakfast: Overnight oats with soy milk and strawberries
Lunch: Vegetable soup with cucumber and bell pepper sticks
Snack: Portion of fresh fruit
Dinner: Red lentil curry with brown rice
Not every diet is designed for weight loss. Some diets are needed to increase health and alleviate symptoms of conditions, especially food allergies and intolerances. These diets typically involve eliminating one or more ingredients to help with digestive issues.
Everyone knows someone gluten-free these days. Sometimes, cutting out gluten is necessary, especially for those with celiac disease. For other people, going gluten-free is an experiment in response to frequent bloating, gas, and headaches directly after eating carbohydrates.
Going gluten-free means cutting out rye, wheat, and barley. This means no cereal, pasta, bread, or the kind of refined carbohydrates you find in cakes, cookies, and other baked goods. Gluten can also be found in crackers, chips, certain sauces, and most beer right now.
Going gluten-free can be a life changer for those who experience symptoms of gluten intolerance. But that being said, if you're lucky enough not to experience this kind of intolerance, there's really no reason to cut out gluten.
What to eat and avoid
You should avoid all foods containing wheat, rye, and barley, so most carbohydrates aren’t allowed. Many supermarkets offer gluten-free alternatives, including bread, pasta, and cereal, so you can try these substitutes.
There are no restrictions on other foods, though, so you can eat as much protein, fats, vegetables, and fruits as you like, as long as you remember to check the labels to look for any hidden ingredients.
The dairy-free diet eliminates lactose, a type of sugar found in milk. But it’s also found in many other dairy products, including yogurts and cheese.
It’s designed for anyone suffering from lactose intolerance, which often causes stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, and nausea. Skin issues and spots are also common signs of lactose intolerance.
Removing lactose from your diet can alleviate these side effects and help you cope with digestive issues.
What to eat and avoid
Swap all dairy products for dairy-free alternatives, including butter, milk, cheese, ice cream, and cream. You can still eat eggs, since these do not contain lactose.
All other foods are free from lactose, including meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes, which easily fit into a dairy-free diet.
Remember to check labels to see if any products include casein or whey, as these ingredients can also trigger an allergic response for those with lactose intolerance.
You should also pay attention to convenience foods such as ready meals, processed meats, and refined baked goods. Many of these products contain lactose, even if you wouldn’t suspect it.
The DASH diet is primarily designed for preventing and treating high blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. It’s also beneficial for preventing types of cancer and reducing the risk of obesity.
It involves eating lots of fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, while minimizing your fat and salt intake.
While low salt is beneficial for heart health, too little salt can also create other health problems such as insulin resistance, so it’s perhaps not best for anyone at-risk of diabetes.
What to eat and avoid
You can eat lean meats and fish, including poultry and white fish, but you should limit your intake of red meat and oily fish such as salmon and mackerel. Any dairy should also be low fat.
The DASH diet encourages you to fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. It actually recommends that you have 4-5 servings of each food group every day.
You can eat some refined carbs and sugary foods in moderation, so it’s a more flexible option for people who don’t want to follow a rigorous diet.
Here’s what a day on the DASH diet might look like.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with skimmed milk and berries
Lunch: Tuna sandwich with low-fat mayonnaise and wholemeal bread
Snack: A portion of fruit
Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, mixed vegetables, and brown rice
The MIND diet combines aspects of the DASH and Mediterranean diet, to improve brain health and prevent dementia.
While the DASH and Mediterranean diets emphasize eating lots of fruits and vegetables, the MIND diet is very specific in eating berries over any other kind to increase brain function.
You should aim to eat whole grains, legumes, lean proteins, green vegetables, and nuts (but only a few times a week). It also recommends drinking one glass of red wine per day.
Foods you should steer clear from include red meat, butter, fried food, and all pastries and sweets.
All high-fat dairy is restricted, so it’s not your perfect diet if you like to eat yogurts, cheese, and milk. However, you can choose low-fat alternatives.
Here’s what a day on the MIND diet might look like.
Breakfast: Low-fat Greek yogurt with mixed berries
Lunch: Grilled chicken pita with salad
Snack: Slice of wholemeal toast with almond butter
Dinner: Grilled salmon, mixed salad with olive oil dressing
The Nordic diet was extensively designed to reflect the food consumption of Nordic countries like Norway and Denmark. Those countries tend to eat sustainably farmed food and very little processed foods.
The Nordic diet mandates that everything you eat should be locally sourced, so adherents of this diet aren't going to be able to rely on big brand grocery stores. Convenience is out the window with this one, so unless you live in an area with farmers markets or small food markets that sell local fare, the Nordic diet may not be for you.
The Nordic diet consists of nutrient dense food that supports low blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduces chronic inflammation.
What to eat and avoid
The Nordic diet cuts out a lot of meat, recommending that you eat mostly fish and seafood. However, you can consume meat in moderation, but aim for lean proteins such as chicken, rather than red meat.
You should also load up on vegetables, berries, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and swap olive oil for canola oil. Opt for low-fat dairy rather than full fat cheese, yogurts, and butter.
You can’t eat anything that’s been processed, including refined carbs, added sugars, and sweetened foods.
Here’s what a day on the Nordic diet might look like.
Breakfast: Blueberry, strawberry, and almond butter smoothie
Lunch: Tuna salad with olives and canola oil dressing
Snack: Low-fat Greek yogurt with raspberries
Dinner: Grilled salmon with spinach and leafy greens
The Mayo Clinic diet aims to teach you healthy eating habits and behaviors, help you lose weight, and find a diet that you can stick to long term.
It follows a two-phase approach, with the first being all about dropping fat, and the second being for maintenance.
You should avoid eating added sugar, stop snacking, avoid too much meat and full-fat dairy, and don’t eat in front of the TV or dine out.
You’ll need to exercise for 30 minutes daily, alongside eating a diet rich in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, high-fiber carbohydrates, and healthy fats. The focus should be on eating as much fruit and vegetables as possible, and supplementing your meals with the other macronutrients.
Each day, you should aim for 8+ servings of fruit and vegetables (combined), 5 servings of carbohydrates, 4 servings of protein and dairy, and 3 servings of fats.
While the Mayo Clinic diet encourages a healthy diet, it also cuts out some nutrient-dense foods, including egg yolks. Plus, no snacks might be too much for some people who need to eat regularly to stay full.
Here’s what a day on the Mayo Clinic diet might look like.
Breakfast: Apple pie oatmeal with skimmed milk and flaked almonds
Lunch: Large mixed salad, grilled chicken breast, parmesan, and lean bacon
Snack: Wholegrain crackers, peanut butter, and mixed vegetable sticks
Dinner: Prawns, wholewheat pasta, peas, zucchini, and tomato sauce
The volumetrics diet loads up on fruits and vegetables to increase your fiber intake and keep you full, while helping you lose weight.
It focuses on low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, which should make up most of your plate. You can then add some lean proteins and grains or legumes alongside your meal.
The volumetrics diet groups foods into different categories based on their calorific content. Foods higher in water content typically have lower calories, which means you can add more to your meal, including most vegetables and fruits.
You also have to exercise for between 30-60 minutes a day to help weight loss.
What to eat and avoid
Every meal should include plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, and there are no restrictions on the kinds you can eat. This can help with satiety levels due to high fiber and water content, but this is usually only short-term.
Add in lean proteins such as fish and poultry, plus grains and legumes. Healthy fats aren’t allowed, so that means no avocados, olive oils, nuts, seeds, or nut butters. And stay away from all processed and refined foods.
Here’s what a day on the volumetrics diet might look like.
Breakfast: Green smoothie with apples, kiwi, and spinach
Lunch: Chicken sandwich with tomato and lettuce on wholemeal bread, plus an extra side salad
Snack: Boiled egg with carrot sticks
Dinner: Cod with brown rice and mixed greens
Low FODMAPs is primarily an elimination diet designed to alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
It involves cutting out foods high in FODMAPs such as carbohydrates, sugars, and dairy for 3-8 weeks, then slowly reintroducing them to assess your body’s response. If you suspect a gluten or lactose intolerance, a FODMAPs diet can help you identify possible digestive issues.
You’ll need to restrict all dairy, including milk, butter, cheese, and cream, as well as legumes, and most carbohydrates. The FODMAPs diet also calls for very little sugar, so that means eliminating many fruits, honey, and additional sweeteners.
You can eat proteins, low-FODMAP grains, including brown rice and buckwheat, nuts, seeds, and certain fruit and veg, such as blueberries, spinach, Brussel sprouts, and kiwi.
Here’s what a day on the low FODMAPs diet might look like.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with lactose-free milk and blueberries
Lunch: Salad with grilled chicken, strawberries, and walnuts
Snack: Carrot sticks and peanut butter
Dinner: Omelette with spinach
An anti-inflammatory diet is designed for anyone looking to reduce chronic inflammation in their body. This can increase your risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver disease.
It focuses mainly on reducing your intake of all processed and refined foods, including sugary drinks, sweet treats and baked goods, processed meat, certain oils, and alcohol. You should also limit your intake of dairy and meat.
Instead, you should eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats. However, it does allow for up to 140 ml of red wine every day.
The nutrient-dense diet can help you improve your overall health, and there’s no calorie counting, but cutting out dairy and meat might be too restrictive for some.
Here’s what a day on the anti-inflammatory diet might look like.
Breakfast: Oat and chia seed bowl with oat milk and berries
Lunch: Sardines on wholemeal toast with a side salad
Snack: Bell pepper strips and homemade guacamole
Dinner: Fish curry with brown rice and vegetables, plus a glass of red wine
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet aims to reduce inflammation, although it focuses specifically on rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and celiac disease.
It works by eliminating foods that can cause a ‘leaky gut’ and can lead to brain fog, dizziness, headaches, and nausea, which are common side effects of these conditions.
The AIP starts with an elimination phase, cutting out foods like grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, nightshade vegetables such as potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes.
You also can’t eat eggs and dairy, and even certain herbs and spices aren’t allowed if they’re from a seed.
You should gradually reintroduce these foods to explore possible side effects, while still aiming for a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, and probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut and pickles.
Here’s what a day on the auto-immune protocol diet might look like.
Breakfast: Mixed fruit salad
Lunch: Turkey breast with salad and pickles
Snack: A can of tuna
Dinner: Sweet potato hash with lean steak
The Pritikin diet combines a low-fat, high-fiber diet with a set daily exercise routine, to decrease your risk of heart disease and help you lose weight. It’s a lifestyle change rather than just a diet, so ideal for anyone looking to improve their overall health.
You should avoid fatty foods such as red meat, processed oils, full-fat dairy, and fried foods. You’re encouraged to eat lean proteins and fatty fish, but these should be consumed only once a day. Load up on complex carbs, vegetables, and fruit instead.
As for exercise, you’ll need to do 30-90 minutes of cardio per day, plus some strength training, and at least 10 minutes of stretching every day.
Here’s what a day on the Pritikin diet might look like.
Breakfast: Low-fat Greek yogurt and fruit
Lunch: Grilled chicken and tomato pasta (wholewheat)
Snack: Rice cakes and almond butter
Dinner: Vegetable stir fry
The Alkaline diet aims to improve your health by limiting your intake of acid-forming foods that alter the pH of your body, such as meat, fish, dairy, grains, and alcohol.
It’s more suitably designed for vegetarians or anyone that wants to limit their intake of animal-based products.
You can eat neutral and alkaline foods, such as natural fats, starches, sugars, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. But you still have to research the acidity levels of every food you eat, so it can be quite time-consuming, and there are lots of rules to remember.
Here’s what a day on the Alkaline diet might look like.
Breakfast: Chia and quinoa bowl with fruit
Lunch: Avocado salad with nuts
Snack: Spinach and berry smoothie
Dinner: Kale pesto ‘pasta’ with zucchini
If you thought veganism was restrictive, you've probably never heard of the raw food diet. With this diet, the rules are in the title – it's based on the belief that consuming only foods in their raw form will improve your health and result in your body getting more nutrients.
Although it's got vegetarian elements, this diet takes everything to the next level. It's not enough to simply eat vegetables – you've got to eat them raw. Because processed and cooked foods are off-limits, this diet has no room for dairy, meat, and other animal-based products.
Although you can't heat anything over 118°F, you are allowed to dehydrate, juice, or blend your food. Supplements are also off-limits, which may compromise your health since this is a diet that restricts and cuts out so many food groups. Be aware of signs of nutritional deficiencies before starting this diet so that you can recognize it in yourself.
Here’s what a day on the raw food diet might look like.
Breakfast: Fresh fruit and vegetable juice (homemade)
Lunch: Raw zucchini with tomato sauce and basil
Snack: Carrots and raw hummus
Dinner: Raw tuna sushi with salad
The lectin-free diet aims to reduce inflammation and alleviate digestive issues by cutting out foods that commonly contain lectin, particularly legumes and grains. You also can’t eat nightshade vegetables and most dairy products.
You can eat all types of proteins, as well as plenty of healthy fats, including avocados, nuts, and olive oil. However, some nuts contain lectin and will need to be avoided, especially peanuts, so you must do some research first.
Although the lectin-free diet can reduce digestive symptoms, it cuts out many nutrient-dense foods, including certain vegetables.
Here’s what a day on the lectin-free diet might look like.
Breakfast: Berry smoothie
Lunch: Baked cod with salad and olive oil dressing
Snack: Apple and almond butter
Dinner: Chicken and sweet potato curry with white rice
Celebrities are huge influencers in dieting, and many of these well-known diets have grown in popularity due to the number of famous faces that follow them. These diets adopt more of a community-based approach with support groups, books, and meal delivery services.
WW – formerly known as Weight Watchers – is a diet that uses points to keep track of consumption throughout the day. Foods are given a point value based on their calorie count and the amount of sugar, fat, and protein. WW is first and foremost a weight loss plan, although in recent years the company has brought health and wellness into its marketing.
WW allows its participants to eat anything, as long as it adds up to under your daily point allowance. Participants must track every meal. For those who prefer to err on the side of convenience, WW branded frozen meals with the points pre-calculated can be found in most grocery stores.
SlimFast is the diet for those without time to diet. This diet is made up of meal replacement milkshakes and snacks, alongside one home-cooked meal per day. Your home-cooked meal should be heavy in vegetables, proteins, and grains to make up for the nutrients that the shakes and snacks lack.
This diet is on the more expensive side due to the SlimFast branded foods you'll have to buy but it's undoubtedly convenient for busy dieters. The SlimFast shakes and snacks are high in protein and fiber to keep you full for longer – but they lack essential nutrients and aren't for sustainable long-term weight loss.
The 5:2 diet is a variation of intermittent fasting, which involves eating only 500 calories a day for 2 days each week. For the other 5 days, you should remain in a calorie deficit but eat healthily.
It’s designed to help you lose weight without being too restrictive. There are no lists of recommended foods, but you’re advised to make healthy choices rather than opting for processed and refined foods.
Your 500-calorie days can be hard to endure, though, and you might be left feeling very hungry. You can opt for nutrient-dense, high-water foods such as vegetables to help with satiety levels and keep your fiber intake high.
Always have a high calorie day in between your fasting days, and be sure to drink plenty of water.
Jenny Craig was a weight loss program built around convenience. The diet included three meals, two snacks, and a dessert per day, delivered directly to your door.
Following the program was easy but involved an investment beyond what most people were willing to pay. Jenny Craig meals made up the bulk of what you would consume on this diet, but you could subsidize your caloric intake with fresh fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
Jenny Craig is currently out of business as of May 2023.
Nutrisystem is another meal delivery service, offering pre-packaged, low-calorie foods to aid weight loss.
It’s very similar to the Jenny Craig diet, with six meals a day, including three full meals and three snacks, over a four-week program. If you want to see how Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig stack up against each other, check out our detailed comparison.
The meals are all nutritious and low in fat and sugar but can be costly in the long term. In addition to the on-plan meals, you should opt for lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy, whenever eating out or cooking for yourself.
The Special K diet is another weight loss program that places convenience above all else – including key nutrients. It involves replacing two meals a day for two weeks with Special K cereal and skim milk. You're also allowed to eat Special K brand snacks (they've got cereal bars and milkshakes on many grocery store shelves), fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy.
Obviously eating Special K for two meals every day is unsustainable, but this diet could be useful for those looking to lose weight quickly — and, likely, temporarily. You should prioritize getting as many nutrients as possible from your one home-cooked meal every day. There are no hard and fast rules regarding what you can eat for that meal, but you will likely want to use it as an opportunity to eat vegetables, protein, and healthy fats.
There are plenty of other tried and tested diets out there, although you may never have heard of them.
More obscure diets tend to introduce unusual rules and restrictions on food groups, or suggest adding in a certain food to help with weight loss and health. However, these diets can be risky if not followed correctly, and some are just risky altogether.
A carnivore diet consists of eating purely meat and animal-based products to boost weight loss and improve overall health.
You should only eat meat, fish, eggs, and certain dairy products. But it doesn’t encourage you to eat any vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds.
Bone broth is another staple on the carnivore diet, plus plenty of water, though you can’t drink any coffee, tea, or other beverages.
It’s very low carb and is high in protein, which can be beneficial for weight loss. However, it cuts out a lot of food groups and essential vitamins and minerals, and can be high in cholesterol.
Here’s what a day on the carnivore diet might look like.
Breakfast: 3 scrambled eggs
Lunch: Small glass of heavy cream, salmon, and sardines
Snack: Tin of tuna and hard boiled egg
Dinner: Chicken, turkey slices, and cheddar cheese
As the name suggests, the hard boiled egg diet consists of mainly eating hard boiled eggs, alongside lean proteins, low-carb fruits, and non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens.
Depending on which variation of the diet you follow, you’re also allowed some low-fat dairy, including skimmed milk and low-fat yogurt.
It’s primarily for boosting weight loss through a high-protein, low-carb diet that’s low in calories. However, it’s very restrictive as it eliminates many food groups, and it’s not sustainable for a long-term diet.
Here’s what a day on the hard boiled egg diet might look like.
Breakfast: 2 eggs and a portion of berries
Lunch: 2 eggs, chicken breast, and leafy greens
Snack: Low-fat Greek yogurt
Dinner: 2 eggs, lean steak, and leafy greens
A fruitarian diet is mostly vegan, eliminating all animal-based products, including meat, fish, and dairy.
You can eat vegetables, nuts, and seeds in moderation, but most of your diet should come from fruit. Aim for around 400g of fruit per day.
Most legumes and grains are restricted, as is any cooked food. Dried fruits are allowed, but you can’t eat any boiled, baked, or cooked fruits.
The fruitarian diet is very restrictive, and while you may get added nutrients from eating more fruit, you have to cut out many food groups and other important vitamins and minerals. And fruit is high in sugar, whether natural or not.
Here’s what a day on the fruitarian diet might look like.
Breakfast: Freshly squeezed lemon, orange, and ginger juice
Lunch: Mixed salad with lettuce, avocado, strawberries, and mixed seeds
Dinner: Fruit salad with any five fruits of your choice
The rainbow diet is all about eating every color of the rainbow. For this eating plan, you'll want to prioritize fruits and vegetables of every shade — beets, carrots, kale, butternut squash, etc. it's a well-known fact that foods of different colors carry different nutrients, and this is a diet designed to ensure you don't miss out on any of those nutrients.
Although this diet is all about going hard on fruits and vegetables, you can also eat protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Lean fish and whole grains are a great way to round out your colorful plate of fruits and vegetables.
Here’s what a day on the rainbow diet might look like:
Breakfast: Greek yogurt bowl with mixed berries, banana, and kiwi
Lunch: Chicken curry with red peppers, sweet potato, and green beans
Snack: Green smoothie
Dinner: Goats cheese salad with beetroot, lettuce, mixed pepper, tomatoes, and cucumber
The sirtfood diet is a low-calorie diet that involves adding sirtfoods into your daily meals to increase weight loss by raising your metabolism.
You have two phases that last three weeks in total. During these weeks, you should add in foods like capers, chili, cacao, red onion, soy, strawberries, turmeric, garlic, and walnuts, wherever possible.
You must also drink the recommended green juice each day, following a set recipe. It works out at around 1,000 calories per day at first, gradually increasing to 1,500, though even that is very restrictive for some people.
You’re free to create your own meals or follow the sirtfood diet recipes, outside of the recommended ingredients and juice, which adds some flexibility.
Here’s what a day on the sirtfood diet might look like.
Breakfast: Sirtfood green juice
Lunch: Garlic grilled chicken salad with buckwheat and strawberries
Snack: Sirtfood green juice
Dinner: Soy and chili-baked cod with mixed greens
The shokuiku diet is the Japanese version of intuitive eating. It preaches putting down your fork when you feel 80% full — never eating your way to 100%.
Calorie counting has no place in the shokuiku diet, and that's why it could be a good fit for people who are triggered by tracking their intake or simply don't feel like calculating the calories for everything that enters their body. There are also no rules about what you can and cannot eat.
The shokuiku diet, like intuitive eating, encourages you to listen to your body instead of relying on external instructions for what and what not to eat. With that being said, the Japanese are known for having healthier eating habits than most Western countries, so this diet works best when you take a page out of Japan's book.
Fad diets are usually short-term, quick-fix diets that encourage rapid weight loss. But that also means they’re not sustainable and can be particularly damaging for your health. And most of the time, they don’t actually work.
The M diet is a 14-day meal plan involving replacing a meal a day with a mushroom-based meal.
You can consume mushrooms any way you like, which at least creates some variety. For example, you could have grilled mushrooms, a mushroom soup, or baked mushrooms.
Other than that, there are no recommended foods, so you can eat whatever you like for your other two meals and snacks.
It’s simple to follow and easy enough to stick to, but there’s no real science to prove it works.
On the taco cleanse diet, you should eat tacos with every meal. You’re also encouraged to eat plant-based side dishes, so you should stay away from meat, fish, and even dairy.
Opt for soy proteins, vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. But most importantly, eat tacos. You can make these from various tortillas, but one of the rules is that you must be able to hold the taco in one hand, so size matters.
You should eat more nutritious foods, and the taco cleanse diet at least keeps your carbohydrate intake high, but it’s likely to get very boring. Some recommended foods are processed, fried, and full of extra calories.
The grapefruit diet encourages you to eat or drink grapefruit alongside every meal. Aside from that, you should eat mostly high protein, and limit your intake of fats and carbohydrates.
Most meals contain lean protein with a side of grapefruit, although you can eat bacon.
You’re only supposed to follow the grapefruit diet for 2-3 weeks, but it can be difficult to stick to even during that time. Some variations suggest keeping your calorie intake to 800 calories per day, which is very low.
It’s thought that grapefruit contains fat-burning enzymes to create rapid weight loss, but there’s no real evidence to support this.
Juice cleanses are supposed to be a detox diet that clear your body of all toxins, reset your body, and help you lose weight.
Despite all the promises, though, they’re dangerously low in calories and only really offer short-term health benefits through increased veg and fruit intake.
You should eat (or drink) only juices for every meal every day, with usually five or six juices in total. All other foods are completely restricted.
The amount of time you follow a juice cleanse varies, but it can be anywhere between one week and a month.
Detox teas are designed to cleanse your body and promote weight loss through fat-burning properties.
You can basically eat whatever you like, as long as you drink a set amount of detox teas per day for around 7-14 days. Usually, this is a form of green tea or another herbal tea that contains a laxative to create short-term weight loss.
Drinking too much green tea can reduce your body’s ability to absorb iron, which might lead to deficiencies. And any weight loss is usually just a result of the laxative effect.
The cabbage soup diet promises to help you drop 10 pounds in a week by following a diet consisting mostly of cabbage soup.
It shouldn’t be followed for any more than 7 days, but it’s supposed to help you drop as much fat as possible before you try a more sustainable, long-term diet.
You can eat 1-2 other low-calorie foods per day, although this mostly involves skimmed milk, fruit, and vegetables. Other than that, you have to follow the set cabbage soup recipe. The amount you can consume is unlimited, though, which might help keep you full.
The five bites diet allows you to eat whatever foods you like, but you can only have five bites of any meal. It’s a typical fad diet designed to create rapid weight loss.
There are no recommended or eliminated foods, but you should skip breakfast and drink a black coffee instead. Your other two meals can include any foods you like, but of course, you’re limited to 10 bites a day in total.
It’s severely low in calories, which naturally causes quick weight loss. But you’ll likely experience nasty side effects such as fatigue, headaches, nausea, and even dizziness as a result.
On the apple cider vinegar (ACV) diet, you should consume ACV with each meal (or 2-3 times a day). This can be in the form of a shot, a hot drink, a dressing, or something else, so you can choose.
It’s thought that ACV kick starts your metabolism and suppresses your appetite. Taking it in the morning before you eat anything is supposed to be best, although there’s no solid scientific evidence. And it can be damaging to your stomach as it’s very acidic.
You can eat whatever you like outside of your ACV shots, so there’s no guidance on other foods. It doesn’t teach you much about healthy eating habits.
The baby food diet is one of the more obscure fad diets. You should replace all meals and snacks with baby food, apart from one.
Your last meal of the day should be a balanced, nutritious meal, consisting of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Aside from the fact the baby food diet is low in calories and severely lacking in nutrients, it’s also not the nicest to follow. Baby food isn’t unhealthy, but it’s not designed for adult nutrition. The only real benefit is the one nutritious meal you get to eat each day.
HCG is a hormone that’s produced during pregnancy. Followers of the HCG diet take HCG injections to increase weight loss, while following a diet of around 500 calories per day for 3-6 weeks.
Your 500 calories should come from high fat, high protein foods, plus vegetables and fruit, although you won’t be able to consume much with that allowance.
Elevated HCG levels in the blood can cause headaches, fatigue, and depression, despite claims that it suppresses appetite. And dropping your calories that low for an extended time is not beneficial.
The Beverly Hills diet consists of eating mostly fruit for a 35-day introduction phase, then reintroducing foods in a specific order.
You can only eat proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in a certain combination. For example, protein can be eaten with fat, but not carbohydrates.
There are lots of rules to follow, despite no real restrictions on the actual foods you eat. You might lose weight, but only because it’s so low in calories.
There are also a handful of other, less well-known diets that stick around. These diets are more aimed at eating behaviors and approaches, sometimes with unusual rules.
Intuitive eating means being mindful of portion sizes and listening to hunger cues, rather than following a specific ‘diet plan.’
It can benefit portion control and develop a good understanding of what your body needs and when. And it can teach you the difference between emotional eating and physical hunger.
However, there are no guidelines on what to eat or avoid, so you’re left to your own devices. It’s very flexible, which can be an advantage and disadvantage for some.
On the Scandi sense diet, you’re encouraged to use your hands to portion your foods. However, you can choose any foods you like.
It’s designed to encourage mindful eating and teach you about portion sizes, which naturally leads to calorie-controlled meals. It’s not flexible with these portion sizes, though, so it doesn’t consider whether some people may need more or less.
The only real rules you should follow are eating 3 meals per day, avoiding snacking, and sticking to 4 handfuls of food per meal.
You should eat 3 tablespoons of fat and 10 ounces of dairy at each meal. Other than that, use your common sense to choose healthy foods, opting for a mix of lean proteins, grains, and legumes.
Here’s what a day on the Scandi sense diet might look like.
Breakfast: A handful of oats, berries, 10 ounces of skimmed milk, and 3 tablespoons of chopped nuts
Lunch: A handful of chicken breast, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 handfuls of vegetables
Dinner: A handful of wholewheat pasta, handful of grilled salmon, handful of peas, and 10 ounces of cream
A supercarb diet follows a macronutrient approach, balancing your intake of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
It focuses on the types of carbohydrates you eat and when you eat them. You should eat the most carbohydrates in the morning, and gradually decrease them throughout the day.
Opt for whole grains, such as wholewheat pasta and bread, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and bulgar wheat, rather than white bread, pasta, and rice. Plus, you have a set protein intake and fats to keep things balanced.
Here’s what a day on the super carb diet might look like.
Breakfast: Overnight oats with low-fat yogurt, berries, and nuts
Lunch: Large grilled chicken salad with sweet potato wedges
Snack: Low-fat Greek yogurt and peanut butter
Dinner: Harissa chicken with bulgar wheat and mixed vegetables
The 80/20 diet encourages you to eat ‘clean’ 80% of the time, while saving the other 20% to eat any foods you like, including cheat meals.
It’s primarily for long-term weight loss, following the idea that a more flexible diet is easier to stick to and more sustainable over time.
You should opt for healthy foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, lean proteins, and healthy fats the majority of the time. Then allow yourself refined, processed, sugary, and fatty foods (if you like) for each week’s remaining meals.
While it might stop you falling off the bandwagon, it can encourage an unhealthy relationship with food by labeling foods as good and bad, so beware.
Here’s what a day on the 80/20 diet might look like.
Breakfast: Two slices of wholemeal bread with eggs
Lunch: Tuna salad with homemade croutons
Snack: A chocolate bar
Dinner: Lean fillet steak with peppercorn sauce, greens, and wedges
Following a body type diet means eating a set ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates based on the shape of your body.
It’s thought that different body types process macronutrients in different ways, so it can help you optimize performance and enhance weight loss. For example, some people have a higher or lower metabolism, or may hold fat in specific areas.
No foods are excluded, but you should opt for mostly whole foods, with plenty of lean proteins, fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, and healthy fats.
It’s certainly one of the more flexible and personalized diets, and one of the more effective ones for weight loss. However, it does require a lot of planning and preparation, and you have to track all of your food intakes.
Rather than eating for your body shape, the blood diet recommends you eat a specific diet based on your blood type to optimize your health.
Here’s the breakdown.
Type A: Eat mostly vegetarian following a plant-based diet and avoid red meat.
Type B: Eat plant-based foods plus meats other than chicken and pork, plus some dairy. Avoid a specific list of foods such as wheat, corn, and tomatoes.
Type AB: A combination of the A and B diets. Eat fish, plant-based proteins, dairy, beans, and grains, but don’t eat any chicken or beef.
Type O: Follow a high-protein diet rich in meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables, but stay away from dairy, grains, and legumes.
Any one of these diets is healthy and balanced, so it’s likely to reduce your risk of certain diseases no matter your blood type. There’s no real scientific evidence linking your diet to your blood type, though, so it’s really just a matter of personal preference.
The 5-factor diet involves eating 5 meals per day, each containing 5 ingredients to regulate your blood sugar levels and improve your energy throughout the day.
Every meal must contain a protein, complex carbohydrate, fiber source, healthy fat, and a sugar-free drink.
You should load up on foods such as meats, fish, fat-free dairy, vegetables, fruits, low-GI carbohydrates, grains, legumes, olive oil, and nuts.
You can modify this diet no matter your preferences, making it easy to follow for vegetarians and pescatarians, as well as meat eaters. But it does require quite a bit of planning to make sure you hit the 5-factor ingredients every time.
Here’s what a day on the 5-factor diet might look like.
Meal 1: Overnight oats with low-fat yogurt, fruit, nuts, and protein powder
Meal 2: Grilled steak, sweet potato, mixed vegetables, and diet soda
Meal 3: Peanut butter with apple sticks and protein shake
Meal 4: Pesto salmon, asparagus, brown rice, and sparkling water
Meal 5: Low-fat Greek yogurt, peanut butter, protein powder, sugar-free granola, and blueberries
The vertical diet is designed to improve performance and recovery, and optimize gut health, especially for bodybuilders and power athletes.
It involves eating plenty of easily digestible foods and avoiding foods high in FODMAPs such as onions, broccoli, and brown rice. A large bulk of the diet comes from red meat and white rice to keep carbohydrate and protein intake high, so it’s best for meat eaters.
You’ll need to work out your daily caloric intake and change this to suit your goals, adding more calories as needed – this is the ‘vertical’ aspect. For this reason, it’s probably more suited to experienced dieters.
Here’s what a day on the vertical diet might look like.
Breakfast: Whole scrambled eggs with feta, spinach, and mixed peppers
Lunch: Grass-fed steak with white rice and mixed vegetables
Snack: Greek yogurt and strawberries
Dinner: Sirloin beef cooked in stock with white rice and carrots
Choosing a diet is never easy. With so many to choose from, it can become overwhelming fast. Regardless of whether you prioritize health, weight loss, convenience, or cost, remember to talk with your doctor or qualified nutritionist before starting on any diet that meaningfully changes the kind of nutrients you currently consume.
It's also important to keep in mind that, while rapid weight loss may sound good, it's not sustainable or healthy. If you are in the diet game to lose weight, you would do well to choose a diet that preaches slow and sustainable weight loss.
If you’re worried that switching it up might add extra dollars to your weekly grocery bill, we’ve rounded up the best easy ways to eat healthily on a budget. Dieting can be fun, budget-friendly, and sustainable, as long as you choose wisely.
The Zone Diet