The best diet plan
If your biggest obstacle to weight loss is structure or direction, it's worth exploring the options for diet plans. Instead of guessing what you should be doing or how you should be eating, diet plans provide education and support to set you up for success.
Diet plans these days are more than tiny pre-packaged meals. Now, you can get virtual coaching, meal deliveries, and even completely customized plans. These tailored approaches not only take the stress out of meal planning, but they also help you learn healthy behaviors, like portion control, balancing macros, and healthy eating, to sustain your activity level.
If you'd like to explore new paths and try a diet plan, check out our buying guide, which includes several top plans like our favorite, Nutrisystem Diet Plan. This industry leader has expanded its robust support network and is now compatible with popular health and fitness apps.
Considerations when choosing diet plans
How diet plans work
Diet plans take the hard work out of calculating calories. While you still have to put in the effort to count them by measuring food and planning meals, the diet plan will provide tailored daily and weekly calorie goals.
That's why you're asked so many questions during sign-up: to determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR). With this number, the diet plan sets a realistic, sustainable calorie deficit that provides enough sustenance to keep you feeling satisfied and energized for your daily activities.
Diet plans place a high focus on food education to promote long-term results. You'll learn the importance of keeping track of your macronutrients or "macros" (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), as well as food pairing and moderation. Ultimately, your diet plan should provide a foundation of food knowledge so you can maintain a lifestyle of healthy eating habits on your own.
Positivity also plays a key role in your success, which is why diet plans utilize positive reinforcement, constructive feedback, and community support groups. These aspects help improve your mindset by redefining relationships with food and by promoting better body image.
Jumpstart vs. phased programs
Jumpstart diet programs help you dive right into a structured plan with big changes. These are user-friendly and help you get acclimated to the diet plan in no time.
Phased programs, on the other hand, are segmented and steady. Caloric changes are rolled out in a paced way, so your overall dietary adjustments are more sustainable. They often incorporate tweaks to help you push through plateaus to keep you on track toward your goal.
Diet plans with ready-packed meals are ideal if you're not into cooking or are short on time. These are delivered to your door, either in frozen packages or shelf-stable packaging. There are also companies that send portioned ingredients and healthy recipes, so you can do the cooking on your own -- saving you a lot of time on shopping and meal prep.
It's an understatement to say diet plans have modernized dramatically through technology. With some plans, you can video chat or message coaches. This individualized approach provides essential feedback from company-approved professionals, such as dieticians, nutritional coaches, personal trainers, or licensed therapists.
Apps and platforms
If you're tech-savvy, you'll love diet plans that offer platforms compatible with popular apps or fitness trackers. These help you log food and activity, and you'll be able to see your progress in real time. Best of all, information becomes centralized, which is a big time-saver.
Budget-friendly diet plans with basic access to recipes cost around $25. A customized plan with more access to in-person or virtual communities can cost up to $100 monthly. Deluxe diet plans with pre-packed meals and personalized support can run as much as $300 per month.
Q. What happens if I fall off the wagon with my diet plan?
A. Diet plans have countless resources at your disposal for times like these, so don't be discouraged. Connect with a coach or join fellow participants online for support to redirect your wellness goals. On the macro level, you're able to adjust your caloric intake -- in a nonrestrictive way -- to get you back on track to systematic weight loss.
Q. My activity level varies on a daily basis. Will my diet plan make the adjustments to keep up with it?
A. In your case, it's probably best to spend a little more and go with a more tailored program. Your necessary caloric intake will need to increase when activity level intensifies. Certain diet plans are better than others when it comes to these near-daily changes, especially those with interactive coaching.
Diet plans we recommend
Best of the best: Nutrisystem Diet Plan
Our take: Replete with menu options, plus many choices for those with special dietary needs.
What we like: Menu includes healthy, portion-controlled versions of classic favorites. Meals are free from artificial sweeteners and flavors.
What we dislike: Choices can be pretty high in fiber, which is important to know if you have a sensitivity to that.
Best bang for your buck: South Beach Diet Plan
Our take: Excels in flavor, and balances high-quality ingredients and low sugar. Keto-friendly.
What we like: Several meal plans including those for diabetics. High-protein shakes. Budget-friendly with frequent sales.
What we dislike: Some meals are hit or miss, but for the most part, they're all appealing.
Choice 3: BistroMD Diet Plan
Our take: Tailored meal-delivery program with restaurant-quality dishes.
What we like: Scientific approach to weight loss as the company was founded by a physician. Plans are fully customizable and easy to order.
What we dislike: Some dishes are higher in carbs than expected.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.