The holiday season is almost underway, which means festivities -- and food, lots of it -- will abound. But if you want to slim down before facing the inevitable barrage of friends and family, there are a host of great -- and weird -- diets to help you shed some pre-holiday pounds.
U.S. News & World Report enlisted the help of diet and nutrition experts to examine 32 diet plans -- and figure out which ones have the best chance of helping you slim down and manage health issues like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. We've rounded up the top ones -- plus a few strange diets that may puzzle you, while still helping you drop the pounds.
The DASH Diet
No, this one has nothing to do with the Kardashians or their clothing boutiques. DASH stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension" -- and it's No. 1 on the U.S. News list. It's aimed at lowering blood pressure, natch -- but if followed properly, it will probably help your waistline, as well.
The sensible diet was developed the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and focuses on fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts. It limits salt, sugar, fat and red meat. These guidelines help you figure out how many calories you should consume a day. For a 2,000-calorie diet, it caps sodium at 2,300 milligrams a day and calls daily for 6 to 8 servings of grains, 4 to 5 servings each of fruit and vegetables, 2 to 3 servings of low-fat dairy and 6 or fewer servings of lean meat, and 5 or fewer searvings a week of sweets.
This diet was created by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program and focuses on sharply reducing the intake of fat, especially saturated fat from meat, whole-milk dairy and fried food. It also limits daily dietary intake and emphasizes lots of fiber. Men who want to lose weight on the diet will consume 1,600 calories, while women will consume 1,200. The bottom line: No more than 7 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fat when you're on this plan.
While the diet's main goal is to cut cholesterol, you'll surely lose weight as well if you adhere to its principles. It also calls for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking.
Mayo Clinic Diet
This diet, developed at the famous clinic in Minnesota, promises to help you lose 6 to 10 pounds in two weeks -- and then continue losing 1 to 2 pounds a week until you reach your goal weight. It's based on the Mayo Clinic's unique food pyramid that emphasizes fruits and vegetables and limits sweets and fats.
Just 21 percent of your calories should come from protein on this diet, while fat should only comprise about 20 percent. The diet comes in two phases: "Lose It," which is restrictive and lasts only two weeks, and "Live It," which is a bit easier to follow once you've lost the initial pounds. You'll need to buy the "Mayo Clinic Diet" book for full details.
This system focuses on the style of eating in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, like Greece. While there's no set food plan, nonprofit food think tank Oldways worked with the Harvard School of Public Health to develop a Mediterranean diet pyramid that emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices; eating fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; enjoying poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation; and saving sweets and red meat for special occasions.
Weight Watchers Diet
There's a reason it's been around for so long -- it works. With Weight Watchers, you can lose about 2 pounds a week, as long as you stick to your daily points intake. The system assigns every food a points value, and you can eat whatever you want as long as you stay at or below your points limit for the day. Of course, foods that are the least nutritionally dense usually cost more points, and tend to fill you up less. So you're steered to make better choices in order to stay full.
Looking for something a little more unconventional? These diets may be weird, but according to Men's Health magazine, they actually help you shed pounds.
The Beer and Sausage Diet
A 44-year-old online exec from Arizona ate mostly high-quality sausage and craft ales for 30 days -- and lost 18 pounds. The catch? He limited his intake to 1,500 calories. It may not be the way to go in the long run -- you're missing a bunch of nutrients, after all. But if beer and brats are your thing, this might be the way to kick-start your weight loss.
The Bacteria Diet
Forget counting calories on this one. Stella Metsovas, CCN, author of "The 21-Day Digestive Health Diet," says you can lose an average of 21 pounds over 6 months on this diet, all without cutting calories. Instead, you focus on consuming foods that help the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract to thrive. So you'll focus on eating things like yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi. The more good bacteria in your gut, the less weight you'll gain.
The Starbucks Diet
Christine Hall, a librarian from Alexandria, Virginia, lost 75 pounds over two years by only eating at Starbucks. The real secret, though, was limiting her calories to about 1,000 per day. She said that scanning calorie data for the foods at Starbucks helped her adjust her portion sizes over time. But skip the refined flour and sugar. Hall said she wouldn't eat muffins or croissants but stuck to fiber-rich, high-protein foods, like tuna salad, cheese and crackers and hard-boiled eggs.
The Cabbage Soup Diet
The Seven Day Cabbage Soup Diet will help you lose 10 pounds. The idea is simple: You eat cabbage soup, full of green onions, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and, of course, cabbage for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week. The liquid will help you stay full, while the veggies will supply the nutrients.
The Eggs and Dessert Diet
According to a study from Tel Aviv University, people who at 1,600 calories a day that included a carb and protein-heavy breakfast, plus dessert, lost an average of 30 pounds over four months. That's the same amount of weight dieters who followed a low-carb regiment lost. Experts believe consuming more protein at the beginning of the day helps you curb cravings throughout the day.