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If you've followed a fad diet, you have plenty of company. But have you been able to stay on these deprivation diets for a long time? And if you did lose weight, did the pounds stay off once you went back to your usual way of eating?

Fad diets don't help you keep off the weight in the long term. So what does work? The best diet is not a diet at all, but a way of life that includes food you enjoy, exercise, and healthy habits.

Here's some simple, straightforward advice.

Variety is Key

Just as a car needs the proper gasoline to make it run, a body needs a healthy diet to develop properly. That means the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat -- as well as a host of other nutrients.

When you go on a fad diet and exclude necessary nutrients, you're putting yourself at risk for becoming ill. Getting too little of any nutrient may not cause an immediate problem. But if it's lacking for a long time, you may find you have health problems.

Practice Portion Control

Food servings have grown larger and larger over the years. And fast-food restaurants aren't the only places you'll find supersized meals. Researchers have noted that from 1970 through the 1990s, portion sizes of hamburgers, burritos, tacos, french fries, sodas, ice cream, pie, cookies, and salty snacks increased -- whether the foods were eaten at home or at restaurants.

What does a healthy serving size look like?

  • A cup of fruit should be no larger than your fist.
  • An ounce of meat or cheese is about the same as the size of your thumb from base to tip.
  • 3 ounces of meat, fish, or poultry (a normal serving) is about the size of your palm.
  • 1 to 2 ounces of nuts equals your cupped hand.

Here are some simple tricks to scale back your portions (and calories):

  • Serve your meals on salad plates instead of large dinner plates.
  • Store snack foods in tiny sandwich bags. When ordering out, share your entrée with a friend.
  • Ask for a kids' meal or small size at a fast-food restaurant. Never go for a supersized portion.

The WebMD Diet Guide is your ally on your journey to your ideal weight -– with timely, credible healthy eating and weight loss information; unbiased reports on diet plans from A to Z; personalized tools for counting calories, assessing your diet, and evaluating portion sizes; and much more.

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Herbal Weight Loss Supplements

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Weight Loss Strategies

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Weight Loss Surgery Slideshow

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Tools and Calculators

These tools will help you assess your weight, track your food calories and activity calories burned, and learn about portion sizes. 

BMI Calculator

The BMI Plus Calculator is an innovative health and weight calculator that gives personal results on 6 different weight and fitness measurements.

Food and Fitness Planner

Set your own personal goals and WebMD's Food and Fitness Planner will help you manage and achieve the healthy weight and lifestyle you're looking for.

Calorie Counter

Find nutrition facts including calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, sugar, fiber in over 37,000 foods and beverages.

Portion Size Plate

Portion control is a critical part of successful weight loss and weight management. The WebMD Portion Size Plate gives you easy-to-understand guidelines to help you avoid some common portion-size pitfalls.

Diet Support

Get answers to your diet and nutrition questions by talking to our experts as well as to people who are trying to eat more healthfully. Also, visit other web sites that offer diet and nutrition information.

WebMD Message Boards and Blogs WebMD Message Boards and Blogs Expert Message Boards and Blogs

Looking for diet tips straight from experts and others looking to eat healthier and possibly drop some extra pounds while they're at it? You've come to the right place!

Organizations

Read through the WebMD Healthy Eating & Diet guide and still looking for more? There's a wealth of resources at your fingertips!

Healthy Recipe Finder

Browse our collection of healthy, delicious recipes, from WebMD and Eating Well magazine.

Top searches: Chicken, Chocolate, Salad, Desserts, Soup

Heart Rate Calculator

Ensure you're exercising hard enough to get a good workout, but not strain your heart.

While you are exercising, you should count between...

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