Just in time for New Year's resolutions, dieters have a new list of easy ways to shed pounds or kickstart healthy eating habits.
U.S. News and World Report released the 2012 edition of its annual rankings of Best Diets, this year adding a list of easiest diets to follow.
Weight Watchers took the top spot on the new list, followed by Jenny Craig, the Mediterranean Diet, Slim-Fast and Volumetrics.
An independent panel of 22 experts, including nutritionists, dietitians, cardiologists and diabetologists reviewed 20 popular diet profiles that were developed by reporters and editors at U.S. News and World Report. Categories were then created to rate the nutrition plans, including Heart-Healthy Diets, Weight Loss, Diabetes Diets and Healthy Eating.
For the Easiest Diets list, programs received points for convenience, ease of initial adjustment, fullness and taste.
Dr. David Katz, co-founder of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and one of the panelists judging the diets, said ease is an important factor in determining how well a diet will work.
"It's one thing to go on a diet for a week, but how confident do you feel you could do this for the rest of your life?" Katz said, noting that he judged a diet plan's ease based on its restrictiveness and any support and guidance the program offers to dieters.
Weight Watchers Takes the Cake
The much-publicized diet program took home the prize for the easiest diet, earning 3.7 out of 5 points in the category. The report touted the program's many tools for monitoring food intake and the freedom dieters have to balance healthy choices with the occasional guilty pleasure.
"It's very user friendly, and allows people to go out to eat and live like a human being," said Keith Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "It's got enough flexibility to be tailored to the kind of person you are."
Weight Watchers, which is built on a points system accompanied by weekly group meetings, weigh-ins, recipe suggestions and behavioral counseling, has garnered praise from diet and nutrition researchers before. A 2011 study found it was the most effective program for helping dieters lose weight.
In the Best Diets 2012 rankings, Weight Watchers also slipped into the top spots of the Best Weight-Loss Diets and Best Commercial Diet Plans lists, prizes the program garnered in the 2011 rankings too.
"Weight Watchers one of the big winners here. It has so many good attributes," Katz said. "It's easy, they make the monitoring easy, and it is a structured program. You don't have difficulty finding right foods and the program also lends you support."
Prepackaged Foods Mean Convenience
A number of the programs on the Easiest Diets list emphasize certain doses of prepackaged foods.
The Jenny Craig diet offers its own brand of food, including single-serving entrees, snacks and desserts, which are sent to dieters' homes. Prices vary, but the cost of the food can range between $400 and $600 per month. The Slim-Fast program prescribes twice-daily shakes to its dieters, costing about $35 for a 24-pack of shakes. Weight Watchers also sells its own line of frozen meals and snacks to its point-counting participants.