Web MD -- Just in time for anyone stressing over upcoming holiday weight gain, a new list of ''best diets" is out. But this list focused not just on diets that help you lose weight, but diets that help you stay healthy while shedding pounds.
Five diets earned a ''best'' rating for healthy eating from an expert panel convened by U.S. News & World Report. They include the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes), the Mediterranean Diet, the Mayo Clinic Diet, and the Volumetrics Diet.
Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem, among others, also got high marks but fell short of the ''best'' rating for healthy eating.
At the bottom of the list, getting much lower marks, are the Paleo Diet, Raw Food Diet, and Atkins.
A panel of 22 experts in nutrition was assembled by U.S. News & World Report to rate the diets.
"The whole point of this ranking is to help dieters lose weight in a healthful way," says Andrea Giancoli, RD, MPH, a Los Angeles dietitian and panel member. "The ones toward the bottom of the list are less nutritionally complete."
Experts rated 20 popular diets on a scale of 1 to 5 -- 5 being best. For the ranking, they focused on nutrition and safety, Giancoli tells WebMD. Previous rankings have considered weight loss, heart health benefits, and ease of compliance.
Here, the scores of the top five and why these diets earned a best rating:
Other diets and their scores:
Colette Heimowitz, MSc, vice president of nutrition and education for Atkins, the diet that got the lowest score, said in a statement that the program ''teaches individuals to find their personal ideal carb balance. The Atkins Diet does not overly restrict vegetables, fruits, or whole grains."
The plan does restrict high-sugar fruits at the beginning, but reintroduces them, she says. The fats in the diet plan are a balance of types, including heart-healthy ones.
As for all 20 of the diets on this list, "some are clearly better than others," says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, director of nutrition for WebMD, who reviewed the findings.
"It's a great list and I am a huge fan of the top six," she says.
However, she tells dieters: "You really need to find a plan that works for you. The most important thing is matching your lifestyle, your preferences."
Plans that include continuing education or maintenance are ideal, she says.
If none of the diets on the list appeals to you, consider your own healthy eating plan, Zelman says. "Eat more plant foods, less cookies and crackers, fewer sweets, and get regular exercise," she says.
"The top five are all emphasizing plant-based diets," Giancoli says. They are high not only in fruits and vegetables but also emphasize whole grains and legumes, she says.
Giancoli's final tip for choosing a diet: "The diets that allow a little room for fun are the ones people can stick with," she says.