Understanding America’s Most Popular Diets 2024
There are almost as many different types of diets as there are types of foods. We help you find the one that’s right for you, with healthy and delicious recipes you'll be excited to eat.
Whether you’re trying to lose a few pounds or just trying to improve your health and wellness, you’ll likely have to start by changing your eating habits. But knowing exactly what to change seems easier said than done. Experts used to say the solution was obvious: go on a low-calorie diet. These days healthy eating can look different to you than it does to your neighbor, and fad diets only confuse the matter. Should you eat according to your blood type, or go on a low-fat diet? Should you try giving up one (or more) food groups or simply change when you eat? In the end, the hunt for the best types of diets is highly individual. Knowing what diets work best is as personal as your fingerprint.
What are the different types of diets?
There are literally dozens of diet plans out there. Some will tell you precisely what to eat, while others are more about lifestyle changes, with wider guardrails. Let’s take a look at seven of the most popular diets for 2024 — how they work, what you can eat while following them, and what the research says about their effectiveness.
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Ranked for seven consecutive years as the #1 best diet overall by U.S. News & World Report, and top-rated by Forbes Health, the Mediterranean diet is more of an eating plan than a diet program. Maybe that's why it's considered one of the most popular diets right now — and one of the few truly easy diets to follow. Years ago, researchers figured out that people who live in the Mediterranean region lived longer and had lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer than we do in America. That’s because of their more active lifestyle as well as their eating pattern, which features minimally processed, largely plant-based foods.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Picture yourself at a taverna on a sunny Greek isle. What’s on the table? Odds are you’ll find dishes made with plenty of olive oil, fresh vegetables, legumes and beans, whole grains, fish, nuts and seeds, and dairy like feta cheese used as an accent. Delicious, but also high in fiber, lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants — a perfectly healthy diet. You’ll feel satisfied for longer, which helps you eat less (and lose weight), while also improving your health.
What can you eat on the Mediterranean diet?
Base your meals on nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Use extra-virgin olive oil, herbs, and spices generously, and eat seafood regularly. Have poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and red wine in moderate amounts. Save red meat and sweets for when you really have a craving. And try to avoid highly processed foods completely.
What are the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet?
Decades of research shows that the Mediterranean diet is a way to lower your risk of multiple chronic — and life-threatening — diseases. Those include cardiovascular disease, stroke, metabolic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. The diet’s large amounts of fiber and lean protein can also help with weight loss.
Who is the Mediterranean diet for?
This eating pattern works for virtually anyone. It’s especially useful if you have a history (or family history) of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes. Learn more: The Mediterranean Diet: How to Know if It's Right for You.
Who should not go on the Mediterranean diet?
This eating plan poses very few risks — there’s no reason not to try it.
Recipes for the Mediterranean diet
Want to explore the Mediterranean diet? Try these recipes:
This easy, one-bowl (and one-pan) dinner is perfectly Mediterranean. It features lean chicken breasts, plenty of vegetables like grape tomatoes and artichoke hearts, olive oil, and herbs, with just a sprinkling of salty, creamy feta for contrast. Pour a glass of red wine and you’re all set.
Meal Plans for the Mediterranean diet
Ready to go all-in with a Mediterranean diet Meal Plan? We have lots more recipes to choose from!
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. But don’t let the medical name turn you off: What began as an easy-to-follow diet for people with high blood pressure has also been proven to help with weight loss and offers numerous other health benefits. All this is why U.S. News & World Report ranked it as their #2 diet, just behind Mediterranean.
What is the DASH diet?
In the past, people with high blood pressure were told to drastically reduce their sodium intake, but the DASH diet emphasizes eating more of nutrients shown to help lower BP, like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
What can you eat on the DASH diet?
The plan is all-around wholesome, featuring plenty of fruits and non-starchy vegetables, plus moderate amounts of whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, and heart-healthy fats. You’ll cut back on alcohol, added salt and sugar, and foods high in saturated fat — that rules out many packaged snacks.
What are the health benefits of the DASH diet?
It’s great for heart health, but this eating pattern also offers much more. It can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes; improve your cholesterol levels; and reduce your odds of developing kidney stones.
Who is the DASH diet for?
Initially it was created for people with hypertension, but after 25 years of research, it’s a good option for just about anyone.
Who should not go on the DASH diet?
According to the National Library of Medicine, this diet is safe for virtually everyone, including children. The only problem you might run into is if your diet until now has been very low in fiber — suddenly eating a lot more of it can lead to, ahem, digestive discomfort.
Recipes for the DASH diet
Considering the DASH diet? Try these recipes:
Prepared pesto is the secret to this super-easy, flavor-packed dinner. Smear it on salmon — which is about as heart-healthy a protein as you can get, thanks to all those omega-3 fatty acids — and pop it into a hot oven. Put some asparagus on the sheet pan alongside the fish, and you’ve got a sheet-pan supper that’s ready in just 15 minutes.
Marry the words “flexible” and “vegetarian,” and you get “flexitarian.” With this semi-vegetarian eating pattern you can expect to enjoy more plant-based meals and less meat, but you don’t have to give up animal protein entirely. In U.S. News & World Report’s listings, it comes in at #5.
What is the flexitarian diet?
The creator of the plan, dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, calls it an “inclusive” eating plan — rather than taking away foods, you’re adding more plant-based foods while still enjoying meat occasionally. An average day comes in around 1500 to 1800 calories, but the diet doesn’t call for watching your calorie intake, nor does it set goals for macronutrients like protein and carbohydrates.
What can you eat on the flexitarian diet?
Blatner’s official plan, found in her book The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life, focuses on eating more vegetarian foods and less meat. Expect lots of produce, whole grains, beans, and nuts, plus eggs and dairy and a little meat. Initially you’ll have two meatless days and a total of around 26 ounces of meat or poultry per week, working your way up to five fully vegetarian days and just nine ounces of meat or poultry.
What are the health benefits of the flexitarian diet?
The concept is looser than with vegetarian or vegan diets — eating some meat is hard to quantify. So there hasn’t been a ton of research on flexitarian diets, but a 2017 review of existing studies found that it can help with both weight loss and metabolic health, lowering your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. This style of eating may also help people with Crohn’s disease.
Who is the Flexitarian diet for?
If you’re curious about vegetarianism but you’re not ready to give up meat entirely, give flexitarianism a shot.
Who should not go on the flexitarian diet?
With a plan this flexible, it’s unlikely the diet poses a risk to anyone.
Recipes for the flexitarian diet
Does the flexitarian diet seem like a good fit for you? Try these recipes:
A single pound of lean ground beef stretches to serve six people in this veggie-focused meal-in-a-bowl, thanks to the addition of canned cannellini beans. It’s just the thing for a chilly day. The best part: The recipe only takes 40 minutes, start to finish.
In its 2020 Food and Health Survey of Americans, the International Food Information Council found that intermittent fasting was the most popular diet being followed. But it’s not just popular — research suggests it's a diet that works. It can help you lose weight and improve your health. What's more, it's an easy diet to follow.
What is intermittent fasting?
Have you ever had to stop eating after dinner for blood tests the next day? That’s the basic idea of intermittent fasting — you simply don’t eat for a set period of time, on a regular basis. You might eat only during certain hours every day, or eat normally most days and just one meal on others. This generally results in built-in calorie restriction, and so becomes a weight-loss diet.
What can you eat during intermittent fasting?
During the hours while you’re fasting, you’ll only have water and non-caloric drinks like black coffee or tea. When you do eat, forget about heavily processed foods or trips to the drive-thru. You’ll be choosing nutrient-dense (but still tasty) meals, and you probably won’t have to drastically change your eating habits.
What are the health benefits of intermittent fasting?
Much of the research into intermittent fasting has been performed on rats — so the findings may not fully translate for humans. But there is evidence that intermittent fasting can be as effective for weight loss as a low-calorie diet. Studies have also found that it can help control your blood sugar and your blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol levels. Research into the long-term effects is still slim, but it may also lower both inflammation and your risk of cancer.
Who is intermittent fasting for?
If you struggle with diet plans that spell out exactly what you should eat, intermittent fasting might be a good choice for you. All you really need to focus on is timing. Learn more: Intermittent Fasting: How to Know if It's Right for You.
Who should not try intermittent fasting?
Check with your doctor before starting if:
You have diabetes
You have low blood pressure
You’re on medication that has to be taken with food
You’re doing intense workouts like CrossFit or training for a marathon
You’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or trying to conceive
You have a history of eating disorders
Recipes for the intermittent fasting diet
Want to explore intermittent fasting? Try these recipes:
When you won’t be eating again for hours, you want to make sure your meal is as filling as it is delicious. These family-friendly bowls start with fiber- and protein-packed quinoa. That gets topped with roasted sweet potatoes (or another favorite veggie) and roasted chickpeas with bbq spices. Drizzle the bowl with a favorite apple cider vinaigrette, and you’ll be satisfied until the next time you eat.
Take “meatless Mondays” seven days a week, and you’ve got a vegetarian diet.
What is a vegetarian diet?
The most basic rule of vegetarianism: Don’t eat animal flesh. From there, you have choices. The lacto-vegetarian option allows for dairy products but not eggs, ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy, and the ovo-lacto option includes both.
What can you eat on a vegetarian diet?
Depending on which type of diet you choose, you can enjoy everything but meat, fish, and poultry.
What are the health benefits of a vegetarian diet?
Who is a vegetarian diet for?
The diet offers multiple health benefits, but deciding to give up meat is largely about personal preference and concern for the environment. (Livestock accounts for 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions.) Learn more: The Vegetarian Diet: How to Know if It's Right for You.
Who should not go on a vegetarian diet?
This one’s easy: Meat lovers.
Recipes for a vegetarian diet
Want to explore a vegetarian diet? Try these recipes:
All the gooey, cheesy things you love about lasagna, but with no meat — and no fuss, thanks to the slow cooker. All you do is layer sauce, noodles, plenty of vegetables, and two kinds of cheese in the machine, turn it on, and go. A few hours later, you’ve got a hearty vegetarian dinner.
Take vegetarianism a few steps further and you’ve got veganism.
What is a vegan diet?
A vegan diet requires giving up more than just animal flesh. You’ll have to renounce all animal products — that includes dairy and eggs as well as additives and flavorings derived from animals. Many vegans also avoid honey, which comes from bees.
What can you eat on a vegan diet?
Any food that’s 100% plant-based is fair game in veganism.
What are the health benefits of a vegan diet?
Avoiding the dietary saturated fat and cholesterol that come with animal products can have a big impact on your health. Research shows that vegans have lower BMI (body mass index) and less prevalence of diabetes than both vegetarians and meat-eaters. And plant-based diets almost halve your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a group of chronic conditions like high blood sugar and high blood pressure, which together increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Veganism has also been shown to reduce your risk of cancer.
Who is a vegan diet for?
Following a strictly vegan diet requires quite a bit of effort, since so many products include animal derivatives. You might find whey or casein — both dairy products — in dark chocolate. Veggie burgers often contain eggs or dairy. Bread may have milk, eggs, butter, or derivatives. Gelatin comes from animal hooves, so that’s out. You’ll need to be dedicated, and willing to read labels. Learn more: The Vegan Diet: How to Know if It's Right for You.
Who should not go on a vegan diet?
Anyone who isn’t willing to do the work of sniffing out hidden animal products. And it’s relatively easy to miss vital nutrients like protein, calcium, B12, and iron (you may need to take supplements). If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, speak to your doctor and take extra care. It’s not necessarily unsafe, but you’ll need to pay close attention to your nutritional intake.
Recipes for a vegan diet
Want to explore a vegan diet? Try these recipes:
Giving up animal products doesn’t mean giving up flavor. These nutrient-packed tacos combine crispy chili powder-seasoned chickpeas and vegetables, avocado crema blended with fresh cilantro, and squeezes of lime. They're an exciting way to wrap up your day.
Meal Plans for the vegan diet
Ready to go all-in with a vegan Meal Plan? We have lots more recipes to choose from!
It’s popular, but is it safe? This high-fat, low-carb diet has spawned best-selling cookbooks, celebrity endorsements, and more than a little controversy. Of the 30 diets examined by U.S. News experts, keto ranks near the bottom — they found it hard to stick to and lacking in vital nutrients
What is the keto diet?
Low-carb diets like the South Beach diet and Atkins diet focus on protein. But if you're a keto dieter, fat provides as much as 90% of your daily calories. Most plans call for keeping daily carbohydrate intake under 50 grams (for context, a medium banana has 27 grams). The goal with keto is to force your body to use fat for fuel by depriving it of its usual source, glucose — aka sugar. Without glucose available, your body enters a state known as ketosis. The ketogenic diet was originally used as a medical treatment for childhood epilepsy, but in recent years it’s become popular for weight loss.
What can you eat on the keto diet?
Think high-fat: red meat, bacon, salmon, eggs, butter and cream, cheese, nuts, healthy fats like extra-virgin olive oil, and avocados. You can also have low-carbohydrate vegetables like broccoli, celery, cucumber, and tomatoes. But since the plan restricts you to about 50 grams of carbohydrates each day, you’ll have to give up eating many grains, starchy vegetables and fruits high in sugar, any kind of added sugar, chips, and virtually all baked goods.
What are the health benefits of the keto diet?
Other than treating epilepsy, a ketogenic diet mostly aims for fast weight loss. Proponents say it can help with obesity and type 2 diabetes. But a 2019 editorial in JAMA Internal Medicine says that “enthusiasm outpaces evidence” when it comes to its effectiveness. And while some research suggests it can help control blood pressure and cholesterol in the short term, those benefits don’t seem to last after 12 months.
Who is the keto diet for?
If you’re extremely overweight or having trouble maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, a keto diet can help kick-start changes. Some research shows you’ll lose weight more quickly than on a traditional diet, and it may help your blood glucose; talk to your doctor to see if it could be a good fit for you. Another area where the keto diet shows promise but needs more research: for people with Alzheimer disease or other cognitive impairment. Learn more: The Keto Diet: How to Know if It's Right for You.
Who should not go on the keto diet?
Because the liver and kidneys do so much of the work here, anyone with existing problems might find their condition gets worse. If you have diabetes or pancreatitis, it could be risky for you, too. Even if you’re completely healthy, you should talk to a doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist before you start a keto diet.
Recipes for the keto diet
Want to explore the keto diet? Try these recipes:
We all get a hankering for pizza sometimes. When you’re avoiding carbs, that can be tricky — unless you get clever. This easy sheet pan dinner offers all the flavors of pepperoni pizza, using simply baked chicken breast as the “crust.”
Meal Plans for the keto diet
Ready to go all-in with a keto diet Meal Plan? We have lots more recipes to choose from!
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