There are many weight-loss plans out there—high-protein, low-carb, intermittent fasting, paleo. But which one gives you the best results?

Answer: the one you stick with.

More On Healthy Weight Loss

In a 2014 study published in JAMA, researchers reviewed 58 diet studies and found very little difference in the amount of weight lost among the different plans. The researchers concluded that “the ideal diet is one that is best adhered to by individuals so that they can stay on the diet as long as possible.”

Still, some diets are better for you than others. “A healthy diet is one that focuses on whole foods instead of individual nutrients, and delivers the most nutrition for every calorie you take in,” says Amy Keating, R.D., a Consumer Reports’ dietitian.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with our own diet plan. It includes 18 healthy meals for weight loss along with 12 snacks and treats that take the guesswork out of healthy eating.

On 1,500 calories a day—1,650 for men—you’ll fuel your body and get all the nutrients you need. Pick one dish from each meal category, one snack (two for men), and one treat from the list below per day. Feel free, though, to mix up the meals—have a breakfast option for dinner, or a dinner for lunch, for instance.

Because the breakfasts have fewer calories than the lunches and dinners, if you opt to have more than one breakfast dish per day, increase the portion size slightly and add a piece of fruit. Each recipe makes one serving; double the ingredients to serve two.  

Nutty Blueberry Sweet Potato Toast on the left and Vanilla-Orange French Toast With Honeyed Ricotta on the right
Photo: James Worrell

Breakfast

Pick one (350 calories each)

English Muffin Cheddar and Tomato Melt
Top each half of a whole-wheat English muffin with a slice of tomato and half of a slice of cheddar cheese. Toast in a toaster oven until cheese is bubbly. Serve with a medium apple, sliced.

Maple Walnut Chia Pudding
Whisk together 3 tablespoons chia seeds, 3⁄4 cup low-fat or nonfat milk or unsweetened fortified soy milk, ¼ of a very ripe banana, mashed, and 1 teaspoon maple syrup. Let the mixture sit, covered, in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. Before eating, stir well and top with 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts and an additional 1 teaspoon maple syrup.

Nutty Blueberry Sweet Potato Toast
Cut a medium sweet potato in half lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Toast 2 slices in a toaster until soft, about two to three cycles. Spread 2 teaspoons peanut or almond butter on each slice, then top each with 1⁄3 cup blueberries. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste (shown above, left).

Pineapple Mango Spinach Smoothie
Blend the following in a blender on high until smooth (about 1 minute): 1 cup frozen pineapple, ½ cup fresh or frozen mango, ¼ of a banana that has been frozen in chunks, 1 cup baby spinach, 1 cup low-fat or nonfat milk or unsweetened fortified soy milk, 2⁄3 cup plain 0 percent Greek yogurt, and 1 tablespoon sliced almonds.

Tomato-Basil Omelet
Pour 2 eggs whisked with 1 tablespoon water and ⅛ teaspoon each salt and black pepper into a heated skillet. Swirl to cover the bottom; cook until almost firm. Add 2 tomato slices cut in half, 1 ounce fresh mozzarella, and chopped fresh basil to one side of the eggs. Fold over to create an omelet. Cook until center is warmed through, about 3 minutes. Serve with orange segments and chopped mint.

Vanilla-Orange French Toast With Honeyed Ricotta
Whisk 1 egg with 2 tablespoons nonfat milk, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon orange zest, and a dash of cinnamon. Soak 2 slices of whole-wheat bread in the egg mixture, flipping to coat each side. Place in a skillet with 1½ teaspoons butter and cook until browned on each side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Top with ¼ cup part-skim ricotta cheese mixed with 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon orange zest. Serve with ¾ cup berries (shown above, right).

Arugula, Orange, and Chickpea Salad on the left and Avocado Boat Tuna Salad on the right
Photo: James Worrell

Lunch

Pick one (425 calories each)

Arugula, Orange, and Chickpea Salad
Toss 2 cups arugula with ¾ cup chickpeas, ¼ cup cooked bulgur wheat, ¼ cup orange segments cut into chunks, 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds, and 2 tablespoons goat cheese. Dress with 1 teaspoon olive oil whisked with 1 teaspoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon honey, and ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder (shown above, left).

Almond Butter and Fruit Wrap
Spread 1 whole-wheat tortilla with 1½ tablespoons almond butter. Top with ½ banana, sliced, and 1⁄3 cup sliced strawberries. Roll up. Serve with 4 ounces plain 2 percent Greek yogurt mixed with 1 teaspoon honey and cinnamon to taste for dipping.

Avocado Boat Tuna Salad
Scoop some of the flesh out of half an avocado, enough to widen the bowl area. Mash the removed avocado in a bowl along with 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon fresh dill (or ¼ teaspoon dried). Add 2 ounces canned white tuna, drained and flaked, 2 tablespoons chopped celery, 2 tablespoons diced apple, and 1⁄3 cup white beans. Scoop the tuna into the avocado bowl. Serve with half of a 6-inch whole-wheat pita (shown above, right).

Balsamic Lentil Tomato Salad
Toss 1 cup cooked lentils with ¾ cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half, 1 cup chopped baby spinach, 2 tablespoons chopped red onion, 2 tablespoons pine nuts (or almonds or walnuts), and 2 tablespoons chopped basil. Dress with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar whisked with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon honey, and a dash of salt and pepper.

Peanut Noodle Salad
Whisk together 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, ¾ teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce, ½ teaspoon honey, ½ teaspoon chopped fresh ginger (or 1⁄8 teaspoon dried), 1⁄4 teaspoon minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon warm water. Toss sauce with 1 cup cooked buckwheat (soba) noodles, 3 ounces shredded chicken breast, 1 cup shredded purple cabbage and ½ cup shredded carrot. Top with chopped cilantro if desired.

Picnic Lunch
Pair 1 hard-boiled egg with ¾ cup grapes, 7 woven whole-wheat crackers, 2 tablespoons hummus, ½ ounces cheddar cheese, and a cucumber-tomato salad made with ½ cucumber (sliced) and 2 tomato slices (quartered) dressed with 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Cumin Chicken With Kale and Baked Fries on the left and Steak With Tomato-Zucchini-Quinoa Salad on the right
Photo: James Worrell

Dinner

Pick one (425 calories each)

Cumin Chicken With Kale and Baked Fries
Rub a 4-ounce skinless chicken breast with ¼ teaspoon each salt and ground cumin and ½ teaspoon olive oil. Place on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Add a medium russet potato cut into ¼-inch strips tossed with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Bake at 425° F for 10 minutes. Flip fries and cook about 15 minutes more, until chicken is cooked through. Meanwhile, sauté 2 cups roughly chopped kale in ½ teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon juice and ⅛ teaspoon each chili powder, cumin, and salt (shown above, left).

Pizza Quinoa
In an oven-safe skillet, sauté ¼ cup chopped onion and ½ cup sliced cremini mushrooms in 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil and 3 ounces ground turkey breast, ¼ teaspoon oregano, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, and 1⁄8 teaspoon salt. Sauté until turkey is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Add mushrooms and onions back to the skillet and stir in ¼ cup marinara sauce and ½ cup cooked quinoa. Top with 1 tablespoon shredded part-skim mozzarella, and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan. Broil on low until cheese melts.

Quick Vegetable and Chickpea Green Curry
Sauté ½ teaspoon chopped garlic and ½ teaspoon chopped fresh ginger (or 1⁄8 teaspoon dried), in 1 teaspoon olive oil until fragrant. Add ¼ cup chopped onion and continue to cook until soft. Add 2 teaspoons green curry paste and stir into onion mixture for 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup canned coconut milk, ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth, ½ cup diced eggplant, ¼ cup diced red pepper, and 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce. Stir and simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Serve over ½ cup cooked quinoa and top with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil.

Steak With Tomato-Zucchini-Quinoa Salad
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add ½ teaspoon chopped garlic, ½ cup chopped zucchini and ½ cup halved grape tomatoes. Sauté until zucchini and tomatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove vegetables from skillet and toss with 2⁄3 cup cooked quinoa. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper on one side of a 3-ounce top sirloin steak. Sauté steak in 1 teaspoon olive oil, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until cooked to desired doneness. Remove from pan, turn heat to low and add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring to remove any browned bits from the pan. Remove from heat and stir in 2 teaspoons dijon mustard. Slice steak and serve with quinoa and mustard sauce (shown above, right).

Walnut-Crusted Salmon With Vegetables
Sprinkle a 4-ounce salmon fillet with ⅛ teaspoon each salt and black pepper and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Spread 1 tablespoon crushed walnuts mixed with 1 teaspoon chopped parsley evenly over fish; press in. Toss 1 cup broccoli and 1 cup baby potatoes in 2 teaspoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon honey, and ⅛ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Place on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400° F. Transfer salmon to a plate when cooked through (6 to 8 minutes). Continue cooking potatoes and broccoli until tender, about 7 minutes longer.

White Bean, Spinach, and Garlic Pasta
Cook 2 ounces of whole-wheat spaghetti. Drain, saving 2 tablespoons cooking water. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté 1 teaspoon minced garlic in 1 teaspoon olive oil about 1 minute. Stir in a pinch of red-pepper flakes. Add ¼ cup chicken broth, 2 tablespoons dry white wine, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and reserved pasta water. Bring to a simmer. Melt in 1 teaspoon butter. Add 4 cups baby spinach and 1⁄3 cup white beans. When spinach is just wilted, add pasta; toss to coat. Top with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan.

Snacks

Women should have one per day; men should have two.

If these options don’t appeal to you, swap in a 150-calorie snack of your choosing.

Avocado and Tomato Toast
Layer one slice of toasted whole-wheat bread with a quarter of an avocado, sliced, and 2 slices tomato. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper.

Broiled Grapefruit
Drizzle ½ teaspoon honey and cinnamon to taste over two grapefruit halves. Broil for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden. Top with 2 ounces of 2 percent Greek yogurt and ½ teaspoon honey.

Edamame in the shell, 1 cup.

Maple Yogurt With Coconut and Almonds
Mix 2⁄3 cup (6 ounces) plain low-fat yogurt with 1 teaspoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon shredded coconut and 1 tablespoon sliced almonds.

Nutty Banana Cacao Bites
Cut a small banana into 4 even pieces, and spread with a total of ½ tablespoon almond butter and 2 teaspoons cacao nibs.

Parmesan & Pepper Popcorn
Toss 3 cups of air-popped popcorn with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1½ tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, and black pepper to taste.

Treats

Pick One (150 calories)

If these options don’t appeal to you, swap in a 150-calorie treat of your choosing.

Grilled Peach With Vanilla Ice Cream
Slice a peach in half and remove the pit. Brush one peach half with ½ teaspoon maple syrup and a dash of ground ginger. Brush a grill or grill pan with 1 teaspoon coconut oil. Grill the peach half for about 10 minutes over medium low heat, or until the flesh is tender but not mushy. Top with 1⁄4 cup vanilla ice cream and 1 teaspoon chopped pecans.

Ice Cream and Berries
½ cup chocolate or vanilla ice cream (140 calories or
less per half cup) and ½ cup berries.

Iced Cocoa-Vanilla Latte
Whisk 1½ tablespoons cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, and 2 teaspoons honey into 1 cup low-fat milk or unsweetened fortified soy milk until honey is dissolved. Add ice and 4 ounces cold black coffee, if desired, and shake until well combined.

PB and Chocolate
Spread 2 teaspoons of peanut butter on a ½-ounce piece of dark chocolate.

Potato chips, 1 ounce.

Tortilla chips, 1 ounce, and 2 tablespoons salsa.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the June 2017 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.