Mistake No. 2: Being confused about carbs.
A national fascination with low-carb diets has many Americans eliminating carbohydrates from their eating plans in record "grams." But before you reconstruct your personal nutrition pyramid, there's something you should know.
"There are carbs that are very, very good, and some that are less good, but your brain and body must have some carbohydrates every day," says Heller.
Moreover, because complex carbohydrates (those rich in whole grains and fiber) keep you feeling full longer, they also help you to eat less -- and lose more!
But eliminating this important food group isn't our only carb-related mistake. According to dietitian Rachel Brandeis, MS, RD, just as troublesome is the belief that all no-carb or low-carb foods are healthy, or that you can eat them in any amount.
"Much like the low-fat diet craze, where everyone thought that if a meal had no fat, it had no calories, similarly people have come to believe that if it has low carbs you can eat as much as you want and not gain weight," says Brandeis. "And that is simply not true." Eat enough of anything, she says, and you'll gain weight.
The solution: Experts say you should never cut any food group out of your diet -- including carbohydrates. Equally important, says Heller, is to learn which carbohydrates give you the biggest bang for your nutritional buck.
"It's a lot harder to run amuck when you are including carbohydrates like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains in your diet," says Heller.
Mistake No. 3: Eating too much.
Whether you're filling your plate with low-fat, low-carb, or even healthy, nutritionally balanced foods, overestimating how much food your body needs is among the most common mistakes, experts say.
"Many people believe they should feel not just satisfied after a meal, but stuffed," says Heller. "I think many of us have lost touch with the sensation of having had enough food."
Adds Taub-Dix: "People also tend to believe that they can eat larger portions if all the food on their plate meets the guidelines of their current diet -- such as low-carb or low-fat -- and that, of course, is also not true."
The solution: Remain conscious of portion sizes. Weigh and measure standard portions, at least at first, so you'll know what the amounts should look like. And, says Brandeis, "never use restaurant portions as your guide -- they super-size everything."