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How to Design Your Own Diet

Had it with one-size-fits-all diet formulas? Learn how to design your own weight loss plan.

Prevent Portion Distortion, At Home and Away

All foods fit on a balanced weight control plan, but proper portions are paramount. Most people rarely go overboard on carrot sticks and celery, but it's a different story when it comes to cheese, pasta, fatty red meats, and other favorite foods.

If you're uncertain what constitutes reasonable serving sizes -- and let's face it, most of us are -- invest in a reliable kitchen scale, measuring cups, and measuring spoons to determine portions at home. If exactitude isn't your style, learn how to compare correct portion sizes to everyday objects, such as a baseball, a deck of playing cards, and a light bulb.

Correctly eyeballing portions is particularly helpful when dining out. It's a useful skill to have, because it's unlikely you'll be eating every meal at home.

"On average, Americans eat six meals a week away from home," says Hope Warshaw, MS, RD, author of Eat Out, Eat Right.

Even when you're dining on reasonable portions, the calories can add up.

"Research shows that restaurant food serves up more added fat and sugar and fewer fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy than homemade food," Warshaw says.

That doesn't mean frequent diners are doomed to fail at dieting. However, it helps to limit dining out as much as possible by brining food to work and on the road, and by counteracting extra calories with physical activity.

Rely on books and the web sites of your favorite eating establishment for the calorie counts of the dishes you order. Always ask for what you need to limit calorie consumption, such as low-fat salad dressing served on the side, grilled meat and fish prepared with no added fat, and plain vegetables.

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Reviewed on December 10, 2009

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