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The cost of different diets

Looking to tighten your belt — both physically and metaphorically? The Atkins diet might not be the right choice for you.

The Atkins diet will have you saying bye-bye to bread, and we’re not just talking about carbs. analyzed seven popular diets to find that Atkins is the most expensive way to lose weight, requiring an estimated annual cost of $4,319.66 for an adult.

A normal diet recommended by the USDA costs the average adult $3,685.50 annually, putting the annual cost of Atkins at 17% more than your standard diet. Must be all those bacon strips and bacon strips and bacon strips.

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The popular low-glycemic South Beach Diet comes in at second most costly. At an average cost of $4,074.54 a year, it’s 11% higher than the USDA’s recommended diet.

Trailing well behind both Atkins and South Beach, a vegan diet takes third place as most expensive. But it’s some 15% cheaper than the USDA recommended diet, with its diet of plant-based meals costing roughly $3,144.27 a year.

Of the diets we analyzed, a ketogenic — or keto — diet is the cheapest. At $2,444.22 a year, it’s roughly 43% less than what the Atkins diet will cost you and 34% less than the USDA recommended diet. Switching from the USDA diet to the keto diet could mean depositing an extra $1,241.28 into your savings this year.

Diet Annual cost
Atkins $4,319.66
South Beach $4,074.54
Vegan $3,144.27
Paleo $2,977.30
Whole 30 $2,621.34
Mediterranean $2,459.48
Keto $2,444.22

To compute annual costs for each diet, we analyzed ingredients from weekly recipes for each diet and translated them to result in expenses for a year. We accounted for the fact that select ingredients are likely to last more than a week.

What’s the best way to lose weight?

Far and away, the best way to shed those pounds is with the South Beach Diet, which offers an annual average weight loss of 16.0 pounds, according to our analysis. South Beach is followed by a vegan diet at 10.8 pounds and Atkins at 10.4 pounds.

Diet Annual weight loss (lb)
South Beach 16
Vegan 10.8
Atkins 10.4
Mediterranean 9.7
Keto 8.8
Paleo 5.1

We weren’t able to find a research study published for Whole 30; therefore, we excluded it from our analysis. Weight loss for Paleo was reported over a three-week study, while the Mediterranean diet was reported over a two-year study. Because weight loss for keto was provided in intervals, we used the lower end reported — or 8.8 pounds. We converted weight loss reported in kilograms to pounds for our analysis.

Looking to lose weight and save?

The keto diet appears to be cheapest at a cost of $2,444.22 a year, while the South Beach Diet may help you lose the most weight at up to 16 pounds a year. But the Mediterranean diet actually offers you the best bang for your buck.

Those following a Mediterranean diet tend to lose around 9.7 pounds a year at a cost of $2,459.48, which breaks down to about $253.55 for every pound lost. The Mediterranean diet narrowly beats the South Beach Diet, the second-most expensive way to eat but at an average $254.66 per pound of weight loss. In third place is the Keto diet at a cost of $277.75 per pound.

Diet Annual cost Annual weight loss (lb) Cost of diet per lb
Mediterranean $2,459.48 9.7 $253.55
South Beach $4,074.54 16 $254.66
Keto $2,444.22 8.8 $277.75
Vegan $3,144.27 10.8 $291.14
Atkins $4,319.66 10.4 $415.35
Paleo $2,977.30 5.1 $583.78
Whole 30 $2,621.34 N/A N/A

We weren’t able to find a research study published for Whole 30; therefore, we excluded it from our analysis of annual weight loss and cost of diet per pound.

Keeping the weight off

Losing the weight is one thing, but keeping it off is another. Staying on top of your diet and regular exercise is your window to success. If your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, compare your gym options to find the best match for your goals and budget in 2019.

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      Written by

      Jennifer McDermott

      Jennifer McDermott has been featured in Forbes, USA Today, Huffington Post, CBS and the Los Angeles Times. She is passionate about breaking down complex themes and providing actionable advice that empowers people to make better decisions about their money. See full profile

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