The way we think about diets is undergoing an important shift.
We thinking less about diets as being for rapid weight loss and more about for creating lifestyle changes that stick.
To help people sift through the noise and find science-backed plans that work for years rather than weeks, US News & World Report ranked 38 eating plans.
The rankings considered different criteria including how easy the diet is to follow, its effects on weight loss — both in the short and long term — how nutritional and safe the diet is, and how well it helps prevent diabetes and heart disease.
For the seventh time in a row, it named the DASH diet its No. 1 choice.
DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, or high blood pressure. While the diet focuses on a meal plan that helps lower or prevent high blood pressure, it is a diet for everyone.
In fact, the US Department of Agriculture considers it one of the best examples of a healthy eating pattern.
"The DASH diet is really a safe plan for everyone," Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor of health at US News & World Report, told Business Insider in 2016. "There's nothing exciting about it, and that's what makes it a good plan. It's not some fad diet making outlandish claims that you can't rely on."
And for people with abnormally high blood pressure, the DASH diet may, over time, help drop that blood pressure by as many as eight to 14 points.
How to DASH your diet
The distinguishing factor of the DASH diet is that it limits how much sodium you eat.
Since many frozen and prepackaged foods contain large amounts of salt, DASH dieters stick to fresh produce and lean proteins like fish and poultry.
The diet also includes a lot of whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and legumes.
The typical day on a 2,000-calorie DASH diet looks like this:
- No more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, eventually working down to no more than 1,500 milligrams. (For reference, a single slice of pizza contains about 640 milligrams of sodium.)
- 6-8 servings of grains
- 4-5 servings each of veggies and fruits
- 2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy. (Plain dairy products are much lower in sugar than flavored.)
- 6 or fewer servings (equal to about one ounce) of lean meat, poultry, and fish
- 4-5 servings (per week) of nuts, seeds, and legumes
- 2-3 servings of fats and oils
- No more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks. (A serving is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor.)
- 5 or fewer servings (per week) of sweets
For example, you could have an omelet with veggies and reduced-fat cheese for breakfast, minestrone soup for lunch, low-fat yogurt as a snack, and spaghetti squash with meat sauce for dinner.
With all the fiber-packed fruits and veggies in the DASH diet, you won't go hungry.