Although it may have been somewhat predictable to include "lose a few pounds and take better care of my health" among your New Year’s resolutions, that doesn't mean you shouldn't fulfill them now that the festivities are over and the hour of real work has come. No fear: help has arrived in the form of U.S. News & World Report's Best Diets for 2014. The magazine, which highlights a “News You Can Use” brand of journalism, evaluated 32 of the most popular diets by first separating them into appropriate categories, including “best diet for weight loss,” and then letting its panel of nutrition and health experts decide which is most effective. After scoring each diet for individual categories, the panel then graded them overall. So which diet won the top spot?

The DASH Diet, created by the National Institutes of Health, is described as a balanced diet constructed around the most familiar diet advice: eat your fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy, while avoiding foods that are high calorie, high fat, or high salt. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or high blood pressure, which can trigger heart disease) and studies prove the diet can lower blood pressure. DASH also provides evidence of increasing “good” HDL cholesterol while decreasing bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat that has been linked to heart disease. Despite its many merits, including being easy to follow, DASH is not the top diet for losing weight as that particular honor goes to Weight Watchers.

Losing the Pounds

Weight Watchers, which began in the early 1960s, combines the best of group therapy and scientific weight management. Yes, real doctors guide the espoused weight loss plan and continually update the information but the heart of the program is community. After all, the diet began when its founder, Jean Nidetch, who once described herself as a fat wife with a fat husband surrounded by fat friends, began inviting friends and neighbors over to her house once a week to discuss how best to lose weight. Today, the diet continues its merry way with a tricked out website filled with, among other features, apps, blogs, message boards, demos, and a meeting search page that allows a dieter to find a group in her or his own community. For 40 years, the Weight Watchers' message has persisted strong and clear: losing weight is a way of life that includes not only food but people.

For this reason, it would be safe to say that no other diet builds community as well as Weight Watchers but that may not be every dieter's need... or top concern. For this reason, U.S. News has established other categories, such as Best Diabetes Diet, Best Heart Healthy Diet, and Best Plant-Based Diets, its newest category that focuses on plans that are not only good for you but also good for the environment. Top spot in that category goes to the venerable Mediterranean Diet, a healthy and safe diet, according to the magazine’s expert panel. Finally, U.S. News evaluated three new diets in 2014: The Fast Diet, Acid Alkaline Diet, and the Spark Solution. Despite the fact that none achieved a top spot in any of the categories, their appraisal is important for dieters who might be tempted to try them. After all, why waste time on a less effective diet, when another might be more effective?