Popular diet plans America: A Look at the Most Popular Weight Loss Programs 
HealthWeight Management:

Popular diet plans America: A Look at the Most Popular Weight Loss Programs 

Weight Management




Losing weight is a common goal for many Americans. In fact, an estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year.1 With so many different diets and weight loss programs to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one is the best fit for you. Here is an overview of some of the most popular diet plans America today and what the research shows about their effectiveness.

Overview of the Most Popular Diets

Here is a quick rundown of 7 popular diet plans America:

  • Weight Watchers
  • Jenny Craig
  • Nutrisystem
  • Low-carb diets like Atkins and keto
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Paleo
  • Plant-based diets like vegan and vegetarian

These diets take different approaches to weight loss, ranging from calorie counting and portion control to limiting carbs, fasting, or eating like our hunter-gatherer ancestors. But they all have the same goal in mind: to help people lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way.

Weight Watchers

One of the most well-known and popular diet plans in America, Weight Watchers has been around for over 50 years.2 It uses a points-based system, assigning each food and beverage a SmartPoints value based on its calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein.

Members get a personalized daily and weekly SmartPoints budget to spend however they want. The program recently incorporated ZeroPoint foods like fruits, vegetables, eggs, chicken breasts, and fish, which don’t have to be tracked.3

Studies show Weight Watchers is effective for weight loss. In one study, people lost around 5% of their body weight over 6 months on the program.4 Research also demonstrates it helps encourage behavior changes like eating more fruits and veggies.5

Jenny Craig

Jenny Craig is another commercially available weight loss program that’s been around for years. Like Weight Watchers, it focuses on limiting calories, fat, and portions. But the prepackaged meals and one-on-one counseling take a lot of the guesswork out of dieting.

In a one-year clinical trial, people with obesity lost an average of around 7% of their body weight on Jenny Craig.6 Other studies show those who stick with the program do well at keeping the weight off long-term.7

Experts like that Jenny Craig provides structure, education, and support for sustainable, healthy eating habits.8 But the prepackaged meals can get pricey.


Like Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem takes a lot of the work and planning out of dieting. Members choose from dozens of Nutrisystem’s premade entrees, snacks, and desserts, which are delivered right to their door.

A 2015 clinical study found that people who followed the Nutrisystem program for 3 months lost around 5% of their body weight, on average.9 Other research shows Nutrisystem can help support healthy habits like eating more fruits, veggies, and fiber.10

However, some find the prepackaged meals lacking in freshness or variety after a while. Members also supplement with grocery items like low-fat dairy, whole grains, and produce.

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Low-Carb Diets: Atkins and Keto

Low-carb diets like Atkins and the ketogenic diet remain ever popular for weight loss in America. Research shows reducing carbs can boost metabolism, decrease hunger, and lower blood sugar and insulin levels.11

The Atkins diet limits daily carb intake to 20 or fewer grams during an induction phase, eventually increasing to 50 grams. One study found women following Atkins lost around 10 pounds in 6 months compared to 5 pounds on a low-fat diet.12

With keto diets, carbs are reduced to just 50 grams or less per day. This puts the body in ketosis, where it burns fat instead of carbs for energy. Research shows the keto diet can lead to rapid short-term weight loss.13

However, low-carb diets tend to restrict many fruits, veggies, and whole grains, which provide valuable nutrients. Decreased muscle mass and constipation are also common complaints.14

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) has emerged as an increasingly popular diet plan for weight loss. It doesn’t restrict what you eat, just when you eat. The most common method involves fasting for 16 hours per day but eating normally the rest of the time.

Studies suggest intermittent fasting may be as effective as traditional calorie-restricted dieting for short-term weight loss.15 It may also lead to reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol levels.16

However, IF may cause issues like headaches, constipation, and irregular periods for some people. And like other diets, the weight loss effects seem to wane over time.17

Paleo Diet

The paleo diet or “caveman diet” recommends eating only foods that were available to early humans during the Paleolithic era, like meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds. Processed foods, grains, legumes, dairy, salt, refined sugar, and vegetable and seed oils are off the menu.18

Small studies show paleo may lead to some reductions in body weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure.19 But the diet has also been associated with high cholesterol, constipation and low calcium intake.2000700-7/fulltext)

Due to its restrictive nature, paleo may be difficult to follow long term. It also eliminates entire food groups, which experts don’t recommend.21

Plant-Based Diets: Vegan and Vegetarian

Plant-based eating plans like the vegan and vegetarian diets eliminate meat, and in the case of veganism, all animal products including eggs and dairy. These diets are rising in popularity for health and ethical reasons.

Research shows plant-based diets are associated with lower body weight and body mass index (BMI).22 They also reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.23

However, vegan and vegetarian diets could potentially lead to vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies, so supplements may be needed.24 Consulting a registered dietitian can help ensure you’re meeting all your nutritional needs.

Choosing the Best Diet for You

The “best” diet is the one that fits your individual preferences, lifestyle, and health goals. Consider factors like:

  • Does it fit with your tastes and preferences? Finding a nutritious diet you enjoy is key to sticking with it.
  • Can you afford it? Some commercial diets like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem require buying pre-made meals which can get expensive.
  • Does it fit your lifestyle? Factors like family, work schedule, cooking habits, and exercise routine should inform your diet choices.
  • Have you consulted a doctor or dietitian? They can help assess any medical issues and tailor a diet plan just for you.
  • Does it provide all essential nutrients? Steer clear of overly restrictive diets cutting out entire food groups.

Healthy Weight Loss Tips

Whichever diet you choose, some strategies can boost your results:

  • Focus on whole, minimally processed foods like fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocado, olive and canola oil, etc.
  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies and fruits at each meal.
  • Portion control is key. Be mindful of overeating calorie-dense foods.
  • Drink plenty of water. Limit sugary drinks.
  • Exercise regularly combining cardio like brisk walking with strength training.
  • Get enough sleep and manage stress. Poor sleep and high stress can hinder weight loss.
  • Be consistent and patient. Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week maximum for healthy, sustainable results.

The Bottom Line – Popular diet plans America

There are many popular diet plans America to choose from for weight loss. The most effective programs focus on creating a calorie deficit by controlling food portions, limiting high-fat and sugary foods, and emphasizing whole, nutritious options like lean proteins, produce, whole grains and healthy fats. But the best diet is the one you can stick with long-term that fits your preferences and lifestyle. Working with a dietitian and your doctor can help determine the safest, most effective eating plan tailored specifically for you.


  1. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/45-million-americans-go-on-a-diet-each-year-many-do-it-the-wrong-way/
  2. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/weight-loss/a-brief-history-of-the-weight-watchers-diet/
  3. https://www.weightwatchers.com/us/article/new-weight-watchers-zero-point-foods
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3932673/
  5. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/82/1/41/4863279
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3932673/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3932673/
  8. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/jenny-craig.aspx
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25599347/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4441782/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC538279/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15632335
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/
  14. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-try-the-keto-diet
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26384657/
  16. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516560/
  18. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/paleo-diet-review
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657417/
  20. https://www.jandonline.org/article/S0002-8223(09)00700-7/fulltext
  21. https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/why-fad-diets-dont-work-and-what-to-do-instead
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4073139/
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2912628/


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