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Updated: Jul 9, 2022

There are words we like to discourage using. Particularly troublesome are the four-letter words. One that folks really hate using is the “Diet” word. As a matter of fact, research from the NPD Group shows that in 2012, only 23 percent of women say they were on a diet. When women were surveyed in 1992, 34 percent said they were dieting. Now this is not to say folks don’t need to diet, but attitudes have changed.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines dieting as “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight, to go on a diet.” Now there are many diets—the Grapefruit Diet, South Beach Diet, Weight Watcher’s Diet, Fast Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, Chocolate Diet, and on and on. Researchers who established the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which tracks the habits of more than 6,000 people who have lost a minimum of 30 pounds and kept it off for more than 12 months, found that dieters in the group are most successful focus on the dieting plan that works best for them. Comparison “shopping” and adopting the plan that worked for someone else may not be the best choice for you.

In recent years, as indicated by the NPD’s survey, many have steered away from diets, some in favor of eating in moderation—a familiar mantra from The Nutrition Planner. But what do I really mean when I share this advice? Eating in moderation is not overeating; it’s eating the number of calories your body needs to function properly. Now the number will vary depending on sex, age, and activity levels. For example, men and women who are very active need more calories than those of the same age who are sedentary. Teenagers and student athletes need more calories to fuel still growing bodies participating in competitive sports.

Whether you choose moderation or dieting, the key is to commit to adjusting your lifestyle for a long-term sustained approach. The following tips will help you stay on the road to a better you.

  • Start the day with breakfast; folks who eat breakfast tend to consume fewer calories during the day.

  • Eat every three to four hours or five to six times a day; this prevents you from becoming so hungry that you eat what you see. Hunger is a sure way to sabotage the best laid plan.

  • Drink plenty of water –eight to ten glasses a day will keep you hydrated. Thirst is an indicator of dehydration, and sometimes when you’re thirsty, it is confused with hunger. If you enjoy more flavorful beverages, that’s okay too. Try adding frozen grapes, lemon, lime, mint or cucumber to your water. Soft drinks with low- or no-calorie sweeteners are also a good option.

  • Eating protein with a carbohydrate will help you stay full longer. Some of my favorites include mozzarella string cheese and an apple; hummus and pita chips; nut butters and whole grain crackers; and instant oatmeal with sunflower seeds.

  • Summer is peak produce season and time to grill. Enjoy flavorful fresh fruits and vegetables which will boost your fiber intake, making you feel full.

  • Clean and dry assorted salad greens. Tear into bite-size pieces and keep the bowl of ready-to-use greens in the refrigerator. This is timesaving and makes it extra easy to prepare a fresh salad.

  • Choose side dishes that are lower in calories. Try potato salad or coleslaw with vinaigrette dressing in place of the traditional mayonnaise, sour cream or salad dressing.

  • For dessert, consider angel food cake with a topping of fresh blueberries, raspberries or strawberries.

  • Make slider-size patties to create a portion-control option that helps save on calories.

  • Choose hearty whole grain buns and consider an open-face burger served with one-half bun.

  • Top your burger with fresh salsa, roasted mushrooms or chopped cucumbers or pickles.

  • Have a plan when faced with something that is not on your diet. For example, eat half the dessert to avoid offending the hostess. If breakfast includes whole grain waffles, substitute fruit for syrup and butter.

  • And last but not least, keep it moving! Have fun by playing in the sun and sand, or how about a friendly game of beach volleyball for that balancing act?

Take Away: You don’t have to go on a strict diet. When you are choosing your meals, remember that all foods and beverages can fit with moderation and portion control. The plus factor is you are committing to making changes to live a better life.

Michelle J. Stewart is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator better known as the Nutrition Planner who has been leading the way to a healthier you for more than 25 years. Michelle is a Certified Wellness Coach whose motto is “EAT LESS MOVE MORE”. She is a consultant for the food and beverage industry, formerly with The Coca-Cola Company, and offers expertise in corporate wellness, weight loss surgery, menu and product development. All opinions expressed are her own.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

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