By Kristin Sidorov
During the holidays, keeping track of schedules, planning travel, and buying presents can be stressful enough. Throw in your diet and fitness goals, and you may need a little help staying organized. We've ranked the top online diet websites and apps out there: from recipes and calorie counters to expert info and support, they can help you can stay on track and celebrate the New Year feeling great.
The New Atkins Diet
The New Atkins diet is a more flexible version of the classic low-carb, high-protein diet that focuses on healthy and nutritionally dense foods and portion control. While no app is currently available, the Atkins free online tool offers forums, blogs, support, recipes, and tools for tracking your diet, weight loss, and personal experiences. Although this 4-step diet program is a bit more restrictive than others, the website is easy to navigate and provides lots of Atkins-specific helpful tips. There's no tedious calorie counting either, which is a huge bonus, and though some might find the limited menu a bit monotonous, some of our favorite foods (like avocados, cheese, and lean meats) are in abundance. A New Atkins for a New You Cookbook with expanded recipes-including ones suited to vegetarians and locavore habits-is out later this month.
South Beach Diet
Backed by science, the South Beach Diet emphasizes weight-loss through long-term changes and focuses on healthy, wholesome foods. Both the program's site and app are easy to use and offer expert feedback, and support, including one-on-one counseling (for an extra fee), message boards, and discussion forums. Tools include a grocery-shopping planner, a dining-out guide, and an extensive recipe archive. The 3-step program is health-based (not just weight loss-based), but requires some initial diet restrictions, including grains, sugar, and fruits, which can be intimidating and problematic for some.
Your Complete Food Counter
This brand new app helps users make healthy eating decisions anywhere, anytime-shopping, dining out, eating in, or grabbing a snack on the go. By creating a personal profile, users can customize eating habits and set nutritional goals easily. Its user-friendly database includes thousands of foods and provides not only the caloric content for each item, but also key nutrient information. It also provides tailored recommendations to suit your personal nutritional goals so that you can be healthy and lose weight the right way.
The 17 Day Diet
Initially created to specifically avoid holiday weight gain, now might be the perfect time to try out the 17 Day Diet. With 4 cycles, it aims to reset your metabolism while developing better eating habits based on clean, healthy foods. The diet's website gives access to Before and After stories, a BMI calculator, a calorie counter, and recipes. And although it doesn't yet offer online support (plans are in the works), it can definitely help get you though the holidays-and the rest of the year-with your diet intact.
By allotting points based on weight, age, and activity level, this program gives users a bit more flexibility and control over the types of foods they can eat. Time-tested (many of our mothers followed it) and popular the world over, Weight Watchers has a very extensive community and support system. Its online presence still gives users a comprehensive experience, with message boards, progress reports, points trackers, recipe archive, and (minimal) fitness tips. The program may not be ideal for those who need a more structured plan, and others might find counting points too time-consuming. But its flexibility lets users avoid too many restrictions-a big plus during the holidays-and set realistic goals for the long-term.
My Fitness Pal
A fantastic resource for busy individuals on the go, this free site and app allows users to input diet goals, caloric intake and exercise on the go with ease. Its huge food and exercise database allows you to add new info and items as needed, and even remembers your frequently consumed items, a great time saver. It provides a calculated goal weight and optimal caloric intake for each user, as well as progress reports and estimates of future success. Users who are looking for a bit more content might be chagrined by its "plug and go" interface, but during the busy holiday months, it might just be the ticket to a healthier you.
Free and chock full of tips, blogs, and information, Diet.com is a great tool for individuals not looking to join a specific program. The site provides an introductory questionnaire that tailors meals and advice to your eating style and personality. Open forums allow users to talk to health experts, take part in weekly live chats, and offer a buddy system that will pair you with a fellow dieter for support. The site also includes fitness tips, workouts, videos, and recipes.The site might be a bit overwhelming for those looking for a cut-and-dried diet plan, but it's hard to be disappointed by so much helpful healthy-living info.
This free site offers tons of specific meal-plan options, from vegetarian to low-cholesterol. With what is probably the most active online community out there, users have access to forums, discussion boards, motivational guidance, an extensive recipe collection, and more. It also has a huge fitness component, with customizable plans and workouts. The program is split into 4 stages, and includes food and fitness trackers and progress reports. Spark is best for those who struggle to stay motivated, offering new challenges, goals, and great tips. And while the site has a bit more structure than others, this much information might cause an overload for newcomers.
Tell Us: Do you use online tools or apps to help achieve your diet and fitness goals?
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