Skip to main content
food for thought
Open this photo in gallery:

Assortment of fruits and vegetables.carlosgaw/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

If you’ve started the new year with good intentions to improve your diet, consider modelling it after the Mediterranean diet, an eating style that emphasizes a daily intake of whole plant foods.

For the seventh year in a row, it scored top spot in the U.S. News and World Report’s annual January ranking of best diets, beating out 29 different plans.

The gold standard diet also earned first place in six other categories: best diets for diabetes, best heart-healthy diets, easiest diets to follow, best diets for bone and joint health, best family-friendly diets and best diets for healthy eating.

It wasn’t the only well-performing diet, though. Here’s what to know.

2024 best overall diet rankings

To determine the 2024 rankings, a panel of 43 leading experts – including doctors, dietitians and nutrition and weight-loss researchers – carefully evaluated 30 diets across 11 categories.

For the best overall diets category, the panelists judged nutritional completeness, health risks and benefits, long-term sustainability and evidence of the diet’s effectiveness. They also considered each diet’s strengths and weakness, along with the specific health goals it may be most effective at addressing.

Runner-up to the Mediterranean diet was the DASH diet, an eating plan well-known for its blood-pressure-lowering properties. (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.)

The MIND diet, a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH approaches, which also includes specific foods for brain health, earned third place.

Also among the top 10 best overall diets were the Mayo Clinic diet, flexitarian diet, WeightWatchers, the volumetrics diet and Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet.

Among the losers

The raw food diet took last place. This plan recommends eating foods that haven’t been cooked, processed, microwaved, irradiated, genetically engineered or exposed to pesticides or herbicides.

Herbalife Nutrition (ranked 29 overall), the Dukan diet (ranked 28), SlimFast (ranked 27), Atkins (ranked 26), and the keto diet (ranked 25 overall) were also poor performers.

These low scorers lost points for their restrictiveness and difficulty to follow long term. Nutritional inadequacy was another concern.

Best diets for weight loss

For the best weight-loss diets category, top marks were given to plans that promoted a safe rate of weight loss (one to two pounds a week) and helped maintain it over time.

WeightWatchers, the Mediterranean diet and the volumetrics diet came in first, second and third place, respectively.

The volumetrics diet categorizes foods based on their caloric density. Followers are encouraged to choose foods that are low in calories and nutrient-dense (for example, non-starchy vegetables, fruit, non-fat dairy, broth-based soups and lean proteins).

Nutrisystem, the Zone diet, the Dukan diet, Herbalife Nutrition and the raw food diet scored in the bottom five.

Finding a healthy eating plan that’s right for you

There’s no one-size-fits-all diet. Each person needs to factor in their personal health goals, lifestyle and cultural food preferences. There are, however, some common themes that can help guide your choice.

The top-ranked diets are nutritionally complete and include a wide variety of foods, with a focus on those that are whole and minimally processed.

They emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats while limiting added sugars and saturated fats. And they’re evidence-based.

It’s well established that such an eating pattern helps guard against several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension and certain cancers.

Among the top 10 best overall diets, nine of them also ranked in the top 10 in two other categories: easiest diets to follow and best family-friendly diets. That’s important.

If you’re considering a certain diet, ask whether you can see yourself eating that way for the long term. If your goal is successful weight loss, a short-term approach or an overcomplicated or restrictive plan won’t help you keep the pounds off.

Ask, too, if the plan promotes a way of eating that’s good for your kids. If it’s not healthy for them, it probably isn’t for you.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe