Most Popular Diets in America Right Now
With New Year around the corner and the start of the busiest month of the year for diet-seekers, we turned to Google Adwords and Google Trends for insights on dieting patterns and trends.
This year alone, Americans made over 180 million diet-related searches on Google, according to data from Google Adwords (Jan-2021 through Nov-2021), with January being typically the busiest month of the year.
Clearly, if you’ve ever thought about starting a new diet at the beginning of the year, you’re not alone. Much of the world sees New Year’s Day as a time to make lifestyle changes or commit to new practice, and the proportion of Google searches dedicated to diet and nutrition on New Year’s Day can be nearly double that during the last week of the preceding year.
Overall, interest in dieting steadily drops as each year progresses, until the next New Year’s Day comes around.
Google Adwords data shows that in 2021, interest in dieting in America was at its lowest for the past four years. The number of diet-related searches dropped by 12% compared to 2020 and by 14% compared to 2019.
Google data confirms several reports published early in the pandemic that Americans dropped their diets and turned to comfort foods, a natural response during times of high stress. Indeed, Google searches for pizza, mac & cheese, cake, and other comfort foods were at an all-time high in 2021.
If we were to make our predictions for 2022, it’s very likely for this trend to continue. Diet-related search data for November 2021, the last month for which data is currently available, shows little change in people’s diet interest. Diet-related searches in November 2021 were down by 3.5% Y-o-Y, and by 9.7% compared to 2019.
America’s 12 Most Popular Diets Right Now
We analyzed November 2021 Google search data for a couple of dozen popular diets and ranked the 12 most popular based on their search popularity.
Our research took into account all related keywords for a diet. For example, for the ketogenic diet, we report on all keto-related keywords including keto recipes, keto meal plan, keto for beginners, etc.
We also analyzed the popularity of each of the top 12 diets over the past four years to assess which diets are rising in popularity and which are declining. In line with the general trend, all but one individual diet are losing popularity when compared to the prior year and 2019.
Without further ado, here are the most popular diets in America right now.
1. Ketogenic Diet
Keto remains the undisputed number one diet in America, despite taking a plunge in popularity over the past couple of years.
There were almost half as many keto-related searches in 2021 compared to two years ago, and the number of new people starting a keto diet is also shrinking fast. Searches for “keto for beginners”, a great indicator for keto newcomers, dropped from 330,880 in January 2018 to just 144,050 in January 2021.
2. Vegan Diet
Chef’s Pencil has reported on several occasions about the huge rise in popularity of veganism, but we were still surprised to see the vegan diet ranking second among America’s most popular diets.
However, Google data provides a more nuanced picture. In the first months of the year, veganism was outranked in popularity by intermittent fasting and the weight watchers’ diet. But veganism is more than a diet, it is a lifestyle. Therefore veganism-related searches tend to stay consistently high throughout the year compared to other diet plans.
3. Intermittent Fasting
While popular since 2012, intermittent fasting really took off in 2018 and became America’s second most popular diet in 2020, according to Google Adwords data. However, its popularity seems to have peaked last year.
There were fewer people searching for intermittent fasting this year. While searches for “intermittent fasting for beginners” were at an all-time high in January 2021, by November 2021 they had dropped below the levels seen in the same month last year.
4. Weight Watcher’s Diet
The Weight Watcher’s diet remains one of America’s most popular diet programs. While the program slipped in popularity compared to 2019, according to Google Adwords data, November’s 2021 data was actually higher than the same month last year.
5. Vegetarian Diet
Vegan’s diet cousin, the vegetarian diet follows a similar pattern to veganism, and it is less susceptible to seasonal trends as other diets. Google data shows that once people start a vegetarian diet, they stick with it for months, if not years.
However, Google Trends shows that veganism has become much more popular and talked-about than vegetarianism, despite being substantially more restrictive in food choices.
6. Mediterranean Diet
Hailed for its health benefits, the Mediterranean diet has become very popular over the past three years. It is one of the few diets that recorded a four-year high last November (on a year-over-year comparison basis) and it seems like its popularity will continue to grow in 2022.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the few diets that’s unanimously regarded as being good for you. Eating well and taking good care of both your body and mind is especially important during the cold months, and can even help beat those dreaded winter blues.
7. Paleo Diet
Paleo continues to have a sizable number of followers, but it’s a far cry from its best days. However, Paleo retains a high number of hardcore fans, according to Google Adwords data.
8. Optavia Diet
The optavia diet is among the few diets out there that saw its popularity rise to an all-time high in 2021. There were 281,120 optavia diet related searches in November 2021, up 33% Y-o-Y.
9. DASH Diet
A very popular diet a few years ago, the DASH diet’s popularity is now in free fall. There were almost three times less Google searches related to the DASH diet in January 2021 compared to January 2018.
10. Atkins Diet
Similar to Dash, the popularity of the Atkins diet has sunk over the past few years, though it still has enough fans to make it into the top 10.
Cities with the highest concentration of diet-related searches
We turned to Google Trends to find out where dieting was most popular in 2021. We analyzed searches in the Diet (Nutrition) category, which comprises all diet-related searches made in the United States in 2021.
Google assigns a score for each location (broken down by region and city) that represents the level of interest in a given topic by comparing searches made for that topic to all Google searches made in that particular location.
Among large cities, Raleigh scored highest in 2021, followed by Phoenix and New York.
While fewer are searching for diet programs, weight loss searches are as popular as ever
Diet searches in Google are at their lowest levels for four years. But the same cannot be said about people searching for weight loss and related terms. There were over 5M searches for weight loss and related terms in November 2021, the highest volume for any November in the past four years.
Perhaps fewer people associate weight loss with being on a diet. And some popular diets such as the vegan and vegetarian diets are definitely not centered on weight loss.
While research shows that short-term programs may not be beneficial to either body or psyche if we can’t commit to long-term lifestyle changes, by far the most popular weight loss search term is “how to lose weight fast”. Other highly popular weight loss terms were about Adele’s weight loss, Chrissy Metz, and losing belly and face fat.
While diet programs have dropped in popularity, losing weight was still very much on many people’s minds in 2021 and will probably continue to be through 2022 and onwards.
Chef’s Pencil has analyzed Google search data for more than a dozen popular diets in America. Data was gathered from the Google Adwords platform and Google Trends. Google Adwords data represents the sum of all searches related to a particular diet. For example, keto-related data includes searches for keto, keto meals, keto recipes, keto for beginners, is keto safe, etc.
Featured image credit: Practical Cures