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Dietitians' Top 10 Diet Tips

The pros share their own strategies for eating healthfully despite life's challenges.

4. Avoid Breakfast Cereals With Fewer Than 3 Grams of Fiber

Carol Ann Brannon, RD, a nutrition therapist and food coach in Georgia, makes sure all the breakfast cereals in her pantry have more than 3 grams of fiber per serving.

"This way I get my youngest daughter to seek out cereal with fiber, and these are usually the ones lower in sugar, too," says Brannon.

5. Pump Up the Protein

Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, makes a point of eating protein at every meal and snack. She suggests trying whey, soy, or egg white protein for meal replacement smoothies.

6. Keep Score of Fruits and Vegetables

Barbara Quinn, MS, clinical dietitian at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, keeps count of her fruit and vegetable servings during the day. "If I get to the end of the day and a piece of fruit or vegetable hasn't touched my lips, then guess what we're having for dinner!" says Quinn.

One of Brannon's favorite real-life diet tips also involves the produce aisle -- she tries to include a vegetable and fruit at every meal. Gerbstadt says she also tries to add veggies to meals and snacks every chance she gets.

7. Have Alcohol Only on Weekends

"If you enjoy alcohol, be aware that the calories add up quickly -- and one way to control it is to limit consumption to the weekends," says Kathleen Zelman, RD, director of nutrition for WebMD.

So try limiting your liquor to Friday and Saturday nights -- and keep it to a drink or two each night.

8. Have an After-Dinner Drink

Following dinner with a nice, hot cup of tea or a decaf latte can help satisfy your dessert cravings and keep your hand out of the cookie jar, says Zelman. About an hour or two after dinner, many of us get the munchies -- and enjoying a no-calorie or low-calorie beverage can keep your hands and mouth busy during those times.

9. Try Pre-Dinner Produce Munchies

"Before I start cooking dinner, I cut up veggies or fruit for everyone to snack on while I'm cooking," notes Bonnie Liebman, MS, director of nutrition for the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

This keeps her family from reaching for less healthy snack foods while they're waiting for dinner and encourages healthy eating in two other ways. Liebman says  it gets a serving or two of produce into everyone before there's competition from other foods at dinner -- and people are more apt to like foods when they are really hungry.

10. Count 4 Colors in Each Meal

Jennifer Reilly, RD, senior nutritionist for The Cancer Project in Washington, D.C., makes sure each meal her family eats naturally contains at least four different colors. "Skittles don't count!" Reilly says.

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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Reviewed on March 06, 2012

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