Experts' Best Diet Tips for Weight Loss

Diet and nutrition experts reveal their top 10 diet tips and tricks.

From the WebMD Archives

Hoping to lose a few pounds in time for bathing suit season -- and tired of all the hype about "miracle" weight loss cures? To help you get answers about what really works for weight loss, WebMD turned to eight noted diet and nutrition experts for their own favorite diet tips.

Here are their top 10 diet tips and tricks for weight loss success:

Expert Diet Tip No. 1: Never Go More Than 3-4 Hours Without Food.

Eating several times throughout the day helps keep hunger at bay while keeping your energy up, experts say.

"Fight the battle of the bulge by filling up with smaller meals featuring protein and fiber that are spaced evenly throughout the day," says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, a nutrition consultant who has written several books on diet and nutrition.

If the mini-meal approach doesn’t appeal, plan a healthy snack between lunch and dinner so you don't get too hungry at night. "A midday snack gives you energy to finish your work day and hit the gym on your way home," says Pamela Peeke, MD, Discovery Health TV chief medical correspondent for nutrition and fitness.

And, what makes a healthy snack? "The key is to include protein and not rely on carbs alone, like pretzels and a piece of fruit," Peeke says.

Some good choices:

  • Half a turkey wrap.
  • Low-fat peanut butter on a thick multigrain cracker.
  • Non-fat Greek-style yogurt with a few ounces of nuts.
  • Two pieces of low-fat string cheese with a piece of fruit

Expert Diet Tip No. 2: Eat More Whole Foods.

"In general, the less processed a food is, the slower it takes to digest, and the longer it keeps you feeling satisfied and full," says pediatrician David Ludwig, MD, author of Ending the Food Fight.

For example, an apple is more filling than an equal amount of applesauce, and applesauce is more filling than apple juice...

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Expert Diet Tip No. 3: Don't Give Up Your Favorite Foods.

If you allow yourself occasional indulgences, you are less likely to feel deprived -- and more likely to stick with your diet.

Studies show that people who eat the healthiest overall are those who allow themselves some indulgences, says Dean Ornish, MD, author of The Spectrum and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif.,

"What matters most is your overall way of eating and living," Ornish says.

So go ahead and enjoy your favorite foods -- but do it in moderation, keeping an eye on portion size. And if you overindulge one day, just eat more healthfully the next day.

Expert Diet Tip No. 4: Avoid Late-Night Feasting.

" Late-night feasting is the Achilles heel for dieters and it often happens because workouts push back mealtimes," Peeke says.

So, 30-60 minutes before your early evening workout, have a healthy snack that will give you energy and keep you from being ravenous when you get home. Think fruit or veggies plus lean protein, like a fruit smoothie with protein powder

And, don't overdo a late dinner. "The later the time, the lighter your meal needs to be, especially if you are over age 40," says Peeke, author of Fight Fat After Forty. She suggests leaving an hour to an hour and a half after finishing your meal before going to bed to allow for proper digestion.

Expert Diet Tip No. 5: Weigh In Regularly.

Successful losers check the scale regularly to stay focused on weight control, says, James Hill, PhD, director of the University of Colorado's Center for Human Nutrition and co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry. Relying on the fit of your favorite jeans just isn't as accurate.

"Most dieters have a range of acceptable weights, and by weighing in once a week or more often they can make adjustments to their food intake and/or physical activity to counter weight creep," he says.

Weigh in first thing in the morning, after emptying your bladder, to help motivate yourself to stay on track

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Expert Diet Tip No. 6: Layer Fruit on the Bottom.

A half-cup scoop of light ice cream, yogurt, or granola makes a healthy snack. But it can look puny in a bowl, and ultimately seem less satisfying. So switch things around and layer the bottom of the bowl with a cup of cut-up, unsweetened fruit and top it with your low-fat yogurt, granola, or light ice cream, suggests Karen Collins, MS, RD, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

"If you switch from a cup and a half of ice cream to a half-cup ice cream and a cup of fruit, you can save from 150-300 calories," she says. "And, you won’t feel deprived because your eyes see a large volume and it tastes delicious."

Expert Diet Tip No. 7: Exercise for Health, Not So You Can Eat More.

Exercise makes some people hungry, and some people think they can eat all they want after a hard workout. But this isn't a good idea, experts say.

"Research suggests you'll eat back the calories you burn off and maybe more," says Ward.

Instead, exercise at a moderate pace on most days of the week to avoid feeling like your workouts justify extra food. To prevent extreme hunger, eat a small snack or meal that combines protein and carbohydrate (like hard-cooked egg or yogurt and a slice of whole-grain bread) either before your workout or immediately after. Be sure to include at least 8 ounces of water for hydration and fullness.

Expert Diet Tip No. 8: Get Enough Rest.

Getting enough good-quality sleep can help diminish the urge to overeat throughout the day, says David Grotto, RD, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.

Sleeping too little can also diminish your body’s ability to burn calories, he says. And, whenever you're sleeping, you're not eating. So aim for 8 hours a night, every night.

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Expert Diet Tip No. 9: Have Realistic Expectations.

One pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories, so you need to be realistic about how long it takes to lose fat, experts say.

The best approach is a combination of consuming fewer calories while getting more exercise, Hill says. But keep in mind that it takes a lot longer to burn off calories through exercise than it does to eat fewer calories.

A weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week is a safe rate, and helps to ensure that you're losing fat, not muscle or water weight, Grotto says.

Expert Diet Tip No. 10: Size Matters.

Experts agree that portion control is a critical strategy for weight control.

Use measuring equipment, like measuring cups and spoons or a food scale, at least once a week to keep you honest about how much you're eating, suggests dietitian and diabetes educator Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE

She suggests eating from 9-inch plates to help control portions.

When dining out, ask a dining partner to share a large meal or ask for a to-go box and put away the second portion for tomorrow's lunch before you dig in, says Warshaw, author of Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 17, 2009

Sources

Sources:

David Ludwig, MD, pediatrician; endocrinologist; founding director, Optimal Weight for Life program, Children's Hospital, Boston; associate professor in pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; author, Ending the Food Fight.

Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, diabetes educator; author, Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy, 3rd Edition.

James O Hill, PhD, director, Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado; co-founder, National Weight Control Registry.

Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH; author, Fight Fat After Forty; chief medical correspondent for nutrition and fitness, Discovery Health TV.

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, nutrition advisor, American Institute for Cancer Research, Washington.

Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, nutrition consultant; author, Expect the Best: Your Complete Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy.

David Grotto, RD, LDN, president and founder, Nutrition Housecall, LLC; author, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.

Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president, Preventive Medicine Research Institute; clinical professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco; author, The Spectrum.

© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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