The “New Year, New You” movement often leaves nutritionists in a state of confusion. A torrent of well-meaning dieters cling to crazy fads only to be disappointed when their overly restrictive forays fail. But that’s no reason to ditch your well-intentioned healthy eating goals. All hope is not lost: US News and World Report’s Health Expert Council, which includes a group of dietitians, scrutinizes all major diet plans on a yearly basis to find the best plans for achieving overall health and wellness based on the science and data behind them. If you’re looking to make some healthy changes this year, these are the healthiest diet plans for 2022.
Annually US News scores and rates nutritional points based on an evaluation criterion that includes various aspects including safety, ease of use, and the ability to achieve long-term weight loss. The results are tabulated and then the diets are arranged. The Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the flexitarian diet were crowned the first among the three diets for 2022, with the DASH diet and the Flexitarian diet taking second place. The Mayo Clinic Mind Diet and Diet are the top 5. Below, we break down the diets.
Coming in first place (for the third year in a row), with a total score of 4.2/5, the Mediterranean Diet is a consistent contender for the best diet of the year. Much like other diets, this plan is not overly restrictive, and emphasizes whole foods and variety with an emphasis on olive oil, seafood, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Red meat and added sugar are limited, while eggs, poultry, and dairy products in moderation are encouraged. Wine is also allowed in moderation, in accordance with the Mediterranean lifestyle. Your day on a Mediterranean diet might look like avocado toast on whole-grain bread for breakfast, a plate of hummus with whole-wheat bread and crudit for lunch, and salmon, couscous, and salad with olive oil dressing for dinner. Snacks include yogurt, nuts, and fresh fruit.
The DASH diet is a refreshing way to eat. Originally designed based on research from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (part of the National Institute of Health) in the 1990s, this plan was intended to help lower sodium and reduce high blood pressure through a balanced diet. Years of scientific evidence has found that it has been successful. This research also determined that DASH could also be beneficial for weight loss and the prevention of other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
DASH focuses on large amounts of fruits and vegetables at each meal, along with lean meats, seafood, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Added sugars are limited but not off limits, meatless meals are encouraged, and herbs and spices replace salt to enhance flavor without the sodium. A day at DASH might include a vegetarian omelet and a small bowl of whole grains with skim milk for breakfast, a green salad with grilled chicken and/or beans and a whole-grain bun for lunch, a piece of salmon with broccoli and squash pasta for dinner and a smoothie made with yogurt Low fat and fruit as a snack.
With a tie of 4.0/5 with the DASH diet, the Flexitarian style of eating continues to gain momentum with people looking to take a more relaxed approach to plant-based eating. Created by dietitian Don Jackson Blatner, with the freedom to eat meat whenever you want, this blend of predominantly plant-based foods helps inspire a balanced, sensible plan. A semi-vegetarian type of diet can also help promote heart health and weight loss. Dieters are encouraged to enjoy whole grains, plant-based proteins, eggs, nuts and seeds, dairy or plant-based dairy alternatives, and healthy vegetable fats. A full-on day might include a bowl of oatmeal topped with nuts and berries for breakfast, whole-grain crackers with almond butter and fruit for a snack, a bean burger with avocado for lunch and tofu (or sometimes, chicken) stir-fry for dinner.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent, registered dietitian.