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What's the Best Diet in America? The Answer May Surprise You

Which diet is the best for weight loss? How about if you have diabetes or heart disease? U.S. News & World Report set out to answer these questions and more, combing through the research and corralling an impressive panel of expert consultants to assemble their Best Diets of 2015 rankings.

If you’re looking for a hot new plan to get excited about, you’ll be disappointed: The tried-and-true beat out fads. The No. 1 diet overall? The DASH Diet, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, a low-fat, low-sodium, plant-centric diet originally developed to help people lower their blood pressure. DASH has decades of research backing its health and weight-loss benefits, and shelves of books and cookbooks to help you follow it, including the latest, The DASH Diet Younger You.

Other unsexy but solid plans making the top five: the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) Diet, developed by the National Cholesterol Education Program; the classic Mediterranean Diet; good old Weight Watchers; and the Mayo Clinic Diet, developed by experts at (you guessed it) the Mayo Clinic.

Meanwhile, the totally on-trend Paleo Diet tied the French craze Dukan Diet for dead last. (Cue sad trombone.) “The Paleo diet scores poorly every year, largely because of how restrictive is,” says Angela Haupt, senior health editor for U.S. News. “Dieters will find it more difficult to stick to over the long haul. They’ll start to miss having a little sugar or some grains from time to time.”

RELATED: 14 Fad Diets You Shouldn’t Try

We shouldn’t be surprised by the results, says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and one of the U.S. News expert health panelists. “After all, the fundamentals of diet and health don’t change year to year, despite the fickleness of dietary fads and fashions,” he says.

And really, there’s no need to pick one particular diet at all, points out Dr. Katz, who last year published his own research review examining which diet is best for health. “Fads tend to emphasize the exclusivities of diets—’Here’s why mine beats yours,'” he says. “But good dietary attributes can be combined. A diet can be plant-based, and low-glycemic, and flexitarian, and so on. Wholesome foods in sensible combinations can be achieved in a variety of ways.”

Here, the top results of the U.S. News diet rankings:
Best Diets Overall

1. DASH Diet
2. TLC Diet
3. Mediterranean Diet (tie)
3. Weight Watchers (tie)
3. Mayo Clinic Diet (tie)

Best Weight Loss Diets

1. Weight Watchers
2. HMR Diet
3. Jenny Craig (tie)
3. Biggest Loser (tie)
3. Raw food diet (tie)

Best Diabetes Diets

1. DASH Diet (tie)
1. Biggest Loser (tie)
3. Vegan diet (tie)
3. Mayo Clinic Diet (tie)
3. Ornish Diet (tie)
3. Engine 2 Diet (tie)
3. Flexitarian Diet (tie)

Best Heart-Healthy Diets

1. Ornish Diet
2. TLC Diet
3. DASH Diet


5 Smart Diet and Fitness New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! For many of us, it’s time to make some New Year’s resolutions.

If they’re part of your yearly tradition, you may already have some ideas in mind. If not, you probably want to make sure that you set some realistic resolutions, especially with regard to your diet and fitness goals since they’re sometimes the hardest to keep.

That said, here are five smart diet and fitness resolutions that you should consider adding to your list for 2014!

Make a small change every day 
Creating a long list of New Year’s resolutions might seem like a good idea, but taking on too much at once can overwhelm you and discourage you if you can’t focus your motivation. If you really want to keep your resolution(s), it’s best to start off by making small changes every day to slowly work toward your ultimate goal. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, so keep things simple. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds, try non-fat milk in your latte one day and the next day, try adding 15 minutes of free weights at the gym. The more of these little changes you make in your daily life, the more likely they’ll eventually stick as a healthy habit. It’s challenging enough to change a single behavior, so taking on less will likely give you a better chance to succeed.

Do efficient workouts
Who has time to work out for two hours a day? Working out for hours and hours each day is not only time-consuming, but also boring, which can zap your motivation and ultimately prevent you from achieving your goals. Instead of a long sweat session, do shorter, high-intensity, interval workouts, such as this treadmill workout or this CrossFit-inspired workout. You’ll actually torch more calories in a quickie session than doing long, drawn-out workouts.

Eat nutritiously 80% of the time 
Many weight loss expert, like Jillian Michaels, recommend making 80% of the calories you consume healthy and nutritious and saving the remaining 20% for not-so-healthy-foods. This strategy makes changing your eating habits a lot more manageable because if you cut out all of your favorite foods, you’ll feel deprived and end up binging on them later. Eliminating indulgences may initially help you lose weight, but it’s not a realistic, long-term solution. If you eat well the majority of the time, a few treats here and there won’t hurt your overall weight loss efforts and your diet will feel a lot more balanced, so you’re able to stick to it.

Schedule your workouts each week
Think you don’t have time to exercise? Try this tactic: Look at your weekly calendar and find blocks of free time (even as little as 15 minutes) to schedule some workouts for the upcoming week. If you spend a little time scheduling your workouts for the week, just like you would do with your other obligations, they’ll become appointments that you can’t miss. Would you skip a dentist appointment or a dinner date with a friend? Of course not! Treat your workouts the exact same way. Plus, when you look at your calendar and see all of your appointments it helps you stick to your resolution.

Don’t get caught up in what the scale says
The scale is a good measure of overall weight loss, but it doesn’t tell you the whole story, especially when it comes to daily weigh-in. Obsessing over the scale every morning is not a healthy habit or an accurate gauge of your progress. Water retention and hormones can add a few pounds to the reading, and if your weight-loss plan includes strength training, you may even gain weight from increased muscle mass while still losing fat. Instead of getting caught up in what the scale says, measure your weight loss in inches and how your clothes fit. Be sure to look at the big picture when it comes to weight loss progress. The scale can be helpful, but remember there’s so much more to the story!

Read Tina’s daily food and fitness blog, Carrots ‘N’ Cake.


Is Your Smartphone Making You Fat?

phone-making-you-fatCan’t seem to get in shape? The problem may be your phone. A new Kent State University study found that people who spent more time on their smartphones were less physically fit than their lower-use counterparts. “Because the cell phone is always on hand, it creates a constant invitation to sit and play,” explains study author Andrew Lepp, PhD.

It’s obvious you won’t get fit spending hours on the couch engrossed in Words With Friends. But there’s a sneakier way your phone can wreck your workout, says Andia Winslow, a New York City personal trainer. You might think that texting with your sister is a harmless way to pass the time on the elliptical, but “it’s hard to achieve an intense workout if you’re distracted,” Winslow explains. “And staring at your phone can cause you to crane your neck, slump your shoulders and disengage your core—all no-no’s when trying to attain maximum exercise results.”

What’s more, you might hurt yourself. Winslow has seen several smartphone-related gym accidents; one woman face-planted on a treadmill while attempting to run and text simultaneously.

For best workout results, leave your phone in your locker. Or use it for good: Download an app such as Gain Fitness (free; iTunes), which guides you through a series of exercises, to help yourself get a better body.

Is your smartphone making you fat?


4 Ways to Control Your Appetite


Stomach growling? Those are your hunger hormones talking. The top three—ghrelin, cortisol and leptin—signal when you’re hungry, when you’re full and even when your body is jonesing for specific snacks. The good news: They can easily be manipulated to reduce cravings and keep you from overeating.

Hit the sack
One night of poor sleep can cause ghrelin to increase, triggering hunger, according to a study from the University of Chicago. You may not always be able to get a full seven hours, but if you’re trying to eat less, make sleep a priority.

Get back on the wagon
Reach for produce instead of something fried—healthful foods can suppress ghrelin, which promotes fat storage and causes you to crave fatty foods, says Scott Isaacs, MD, professor at Emory University School of Medicine.

Eat more slowly
It takes 20 minutes for hormones to relay the message to our brain that we’re no longer hungry. So take a sip of water or put your fork down between bites and snack on foods that take longer to eat, such as unshelled nuts or peel-and-eat shrimp.

Chill out
Not only does stress zap willpower, it increases cortisol, which can lead to cravings and weight gain around the belly. When anxiety strikes, turn to exercise, deep breathing, music or a call with a friend to distract you from food.


Fruit Is Not The Bad Guy If You're Trying to Lose Weight

People trying to lose weight often banish bananas and other fruits from their diets because they’re loaded with carbohydrates and sugar. But a new review of studies shows that eating a lot of this naturally sweet produce is actually connected to lower body weight.

“You can have as many apples and bananas as you want–even if you’re on a diet,” says review author David Ludwig, MD, professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “In fact, we haven’t found evidence that fruit does anything but promote health, helping keep blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and heart disease in check.”

Want to learn more? Read Fruit Isn’t Making You Fat, and Here’s Why.