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There are plenty of diet programs and meal plans out there, including many designed specifically for women looking to lose weight.
However, not all meal plans are equally effective when it comes to weight loss.
In fact, although many diet plans are safe, healthy, and sustainable, others can be ineffective, hard to follow, and downright dangerous.
The meal plans featured in this article were selected based on the following criteria:
- Nutritionally balanced. Plans are well balanced and provide a good mix of vitamins and minerals.
- Effective. Plans are backed by research and have been shown to promote weight loss.
- Sustainable. Plans are not overly restrictive and can be followed long term.
- Easy to follow. Plans are simple and provide clear, straightforward guidelines.
Here are 7 of the best weight loss meal plans for women.
Plant-based diets consist mostly of foods derived from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Animal products are also sometimes included in small amounts, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy.
One review found that people who followed a plant-based diet experienced less weight gain over 4 years than those who followed other diets (3).
For more information about following a plant-based diet, check out “The Plant-Based Diet for Beginners” by Alice Newman.
Low carb diets involve limiting the consumption of added sugars and foods high in carbohydrates, such as grains and starches.
A review of 17 studies found that low carb diets were more effective for short-term weight loss than low fat diets, although the difference between the two slowly decreased over time (9).
What’s more, other studies have found that low carb diets may offer other benefits specifically for women, including improvements in hormone levels and menstrual regularity (12).
However, keep in mind that very low carb diets may not be a good fit for everyone, especially women with certain medical conditions or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding (13).
If you find that a very low carb diet is too restrictive or difficult to follow, you may want to consider trying a moderately low carb diet instead.
For a more in-depth look at the benefits of a low carb diet, consider reading “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” by Jeff S. Volek and Stephen D. Phinney.
WW is a popular weight loss program originally founded in the 1960s.
It uses a points-based system, which assigns foods a certain number of SmartPoints based on their nutritional value and gives users a daily budget of points to spend per day.
It also encourages regular physical activity with various workout guides specifically for women, and offers options like group workshops and personal coaching for an additional fee.
Plus, it helps teach you how to make healthier food choices, so it may be a good fit for women seeking long-term, sustainable weight loss.
Many studies have found that WW may be effective for weight loss.
One large review of 39 studies found that people who used WW for 1 year lost 2.6% more body weight than a control group (14).
Similarly, another study showed that people who followed WW for 1 year lost over twice as much weight as those who received a self-help booklet and 5 minutes of general nutrition advice (15).
Not only that, but they also maintained a greater amount of overall weight loss than the control group, even after 2 years (15).
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is an eating plan designed to help lower blood pressure levels.
The diet encourages eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources, while red meats and foods high in added sugar or salt are limited.
Not only has the DASH diet been shown to improve heart health, but some research suggests that it may help facilitate weight loss as well (16).
One study in 293 female nurses found that greater adherence to the DASH diet was associated with a lower risk of obesity and excess belly fat (17).
In another study, older adults who followed a low calorie DASH diet for 12 weeks experienced a 6.3% reduction in body weight and a 2.5% decrease in body fat percentage (19).
You can read more about the DASH diet in “The Complete DASH Diet for Beginners” by Jennifer Koslo.
Based on the traditional diets of countries like Spain, Greece, and Italy, the Mediterranean diet is often considered one of the healthiest eating patterns.
The diet involves eating lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil.
As part of this diet, processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat, and refined grains should be limited.
Several studies have found that the Mediterranean diet could help boost weight loss for women.
For example, one large study in over 32,000 people showed that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was tied to a lower risk of obesity and belly fat (20).
Another study in 565 people found that following the diet more closely was associated with a twofold increase in the likelihood of weight loss maintenance (21).
What’s more, one study in 248 women showed that following the Mediterranean diet was linked to having lower body fat levels (22).
If you’re interested in learning more, check out “The Complete Mediterranean Diet” by Dr. Michael Ozner.
Jenny Craig is a program that helps simplify weight loss by providing fully prepared meals and snacks.
Plus, certain plans offer individual coaching with a Jenny Craig consultant to help you stay on track and reach your goals.
Several studies have found that Jenny Craig could be an effective choice for weight loss.
In fact, one review of 39 studies reported that people who used Jenny Craig for 12 months experienced 4.9% greater weight loss, compared with those who received brief counseling or printed education materials (14).
In another small study, women who followed Jenny Craig lost an average of 11.8 pounds (5.3 kg) over 12 weeks (23).
Noom is a mobile app that helps users build healthy habits to support long-lasting, sustainable weight loss.
Although no foods are off-limits with Noom, the program focuses on foods low in calories but high in nutrients, such as fruits and vegetables.
The app also offers support from a virtual health coach, access to an extensive library of nutritious recipes, and tools to help log and track your progress.
According to one study in nearly 36,000 people, approximately 78% of participants experienced weight loss while using Noom over an average period of 9 months (24).
There are a few factors that you should keep in mind when selecting the meal plan that’s right for you.
For starters, be sure to consider your personal needs and preferences.
While some may enjoy structured diet programs, others might prefer plans that are a bit more flexible.
Certain meal plans may also require more time and effort than others, which can be an important consideration for women who might not want to measure portion sizes or track their food intake.
Be sure to avoid diets that eliminate entire food groups or are overly restrictive. Not only are these meal plans more difficult to follow long term, but they can also make it much more difficult to get all the nutrients that you need.
Finally, be sure to talk with your doctor before making any big changes to your diet. This is especially important if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications.
There are a variety of meal plans for women that can help support long-term, sustainable weight loss.
When choosing a meal plan that works for you, consider your personal needs, preferences, and the amount of time and effort required.
Steer clear of overly restrictive plans and talk with your doctor before making modifications to your diet.