Paleo Diet Worst, DASH Diet Best in U.S. News & World Report Rankings


Once again, U.S. News & World Report has released its rankings of the best and worst diet plans. For the third year in a row, the DASH diet topped the best diets list, followed by the TLC Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, Weight Watchers and the Mayo Clinic Diet. The Paleo diet was named worst overall, followed by the Dukan diet and the raw food diet. This year’s report also includes, for the first time, an independent ranking of plant-based diets.

But what does it mean? That’s what we were wondering when we discussed the upcoming diet rankings in an editorial meeting last week. Who chooses the best and worst diets? What are the evaluation criteria? What’s even considered a “diet?” Read on. I poured through the billion different pages of the online report so you don’t have to. [If you don't care what it all means and just want to see some best and worst lists, jump to page two.]

How many diets were evaluated?

For 2013, the U.S. News & World Report panel looked at 29 diets. Some of these are what you might consider fad diets; some are popular commercial diet plans such as Weight Watchers; and some are less “diets” in the weight-less sense of the word that many people think of and more patterns of eating, (i.e., “traditional Asian diet”).

Who did the evaluating?

The diets were judged by an independent panel of 20 health and diet experts, including registered dietitians, nutrition professors, physicians, nutritionists, researchers and public health scholars. You can see the whole list here.

What criteria were diets evaluated on?

Each diet was evaluated on seven factors, including nutritional completeness, weight loss potential, safety, heart healthiness and ease of compliance. Once the experts submitted their ratings, U.S. News & World Report assigned scores from 5 (highest) to 1 (lowest) for each diet on each factor. The Best Diets report actually includes eight different rankings: Best Diets Overall (which combines panelists’ ratings in all seven categories), Best Commercial Diet Plans, Best Weight-Loss Diets, Best Diabetes Diets, Best Heart-Healthy Diets, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, Easiest Diets to Follow and Best Plant-Based Diets.

Best Diets Overall combines ratings in all categories, though all categories were not equally weighted. Short-term and long-term weight loss were combined, with long-term ratings getting twice the weight, and safety was double-counted, “because no diet should be dangerous.”

Best Weight-Loss Diets combines short-term and long-term weight-loss ratings, weighting both equally.

Best Diets for Healthy Eating combines nutritional completeness and safety ratings.

• Easiest Diets to Follow averages panelists’ judgments about each diet’s taste appeal, ease of adjustment, ability to keep dieters feeling satiated and specialized requirements.

• Best Plant-Based Diets uses the same approach as Best Diets Overall to rank 11 plans that emphasize minimally-processed, vegetarian foods.

Now that we’ve covered that, here’s a brief look at some of the best and worst diets within these categories.

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    • Hempista

      There’s some major bias (sniff sniff.. food corporations?) also – The highly rated Mediterranean plant based diet is incredibly close to a raw foods plant based diet, so why the extremes in the rating? weird.

      • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

        I was surprised to see Weight Watchers topping so many of the rankings.

    • Claudia Gilbert

      Well my husband lost 25 kgs this year, following a Paleo diet. He followed a low fat, high fibre diet for many years, and got gall stones, lost his gall bladder, and has been sick for years. After I discovered the Paleo diet, without changing anything else, (personal trainer three times a week for the last seven years) he has lost 25kgs in 6 months. He’s the healthiest he’s ever been, and looks great. Big food companies poo poo the Paleo diet, because they can’t make money from it, it’s all basic foods, out of a garden or part of an animal, of course there will be backlash! The world needs to change!

    • Maria Roche

      this makes no sense… and I’m pretty open minded! Raw food diet made it to both best and worst diets….

      • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

        Yeah, there’s definitely some weirdness; I think some of it is that diets considered healthy or that promote weight loss well are also considered “hard to stick to” or manage and therefore lose points in that category …

    • Kelsey Meyers

      What a joke.

    • Tim Swart

      Paleo the Worst?? You’re insane. Oh well, what else do we come to expect from mainstream media who has not a single clue on how to do research. I CURED my type 2 diabetes living a Paleo lifestyle. So If that’s the worst, then the best is yet to come for living this way the REST OF MY LIFE!! PALEO FOR LIFE!! PERIOD. EXCLAMATION POINT!!! if you wish to be educated and stop being lied to by such insanely stupid articles like this one.

    • bc

      yeah id need to see who had input. this reeks of Monsanto,FDA and every other major “FOOD” producer. Next.

    • Roger Bird

      I am going to lose a lot of sleep worrying about what US News and World Report thinks. [sarcasm] I am going to guess that their standard is the standard American “healthy” diet of plenty of wheat, dairy, and carbs.

    • Wayne

      What a joke! Robb Wolf did a great job showing how factually incorrect their write up on paleo is.

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