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'D' word: What are the most popular and effective diets?

January 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight, even obese. Yet at the top of many New Year's resolution lists is the dreaded "D" word: "Diet." Which ones are the most popular? A Consumer Reports survey shows which diets people like the most.

Terry Voltaggio stays fit with the help of her smartphone app MyFitnessPal. It's an easy way to track calories.

"All I have to do is find the food I've eaten, select the number of servings, and it goes right into my calorie count for the day," said Voltaggio.

MyFitnessPal was among the top rated in a Consumer Reports survey of its subscribers who were asked about their real-life experiences with 13 popular ways to lose weight.

"People who used MyFitnessPal said it made them very aware of how many calories they were eating and how much they were exercising," said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor, Consumer Reports. "They also liked how it helped them maintain their weight loss."

MyFitnessPal has useful features like a barcode scanner that automatically enters the amount of calories per serving. You can also track how many calories you burn exercising. And on its website you can get encouragement from others using the program.

"Besides the do-it-yourself diets like MyFitnessPal, we also rated commercial diets, which you generally have to pay to join and in some cases buy their prepackaged food," said Metcalf.

Nutrisystem was the lowest-rated commercial diet. More than a third of those surveyed who tried it didn't like the plan's food.

"Among commercial diet plans, Weight Watchers scored much higher, higher than Jenny Craig," said Metcalf. "It works a bit differently. You don't have to buy their food, and you can eat whatever you want within their points limit."

You can attend Weight Watchers meetings and track your diet online.

However, Terry Voltaggio is happy with MyFitnessPal, which is free. "I'll lose 10 pounds easy. It's a great tool for me," said Voltaggio.

The Paleo Diet also did well in the Consumer Reports rankings. That's where you eat like a caveman: fish, meat and produce, avoiding grains and dairy. But US News and World Report had 22 experts look at this diet and they gave the Paleo Diet a near-failing grade.