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Add Years to Your Life: The Bonus Years Diet
Expect to keep the weight off and increase your longevity on The Bonus Years Diet, coauthored by Ralph Felder, M.D. (G.P. Putnam's Sons), by filling up on the following: red wine (5 ounces daily), dark chocolate (2 ounces daily), raw fruits and vegetables (4 cups daily), fish (three 5-ounce servings weekly), garlic (one clove daily) and nuts (2 ounces daily). "These foods are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids and phytochemicals, all of which can help reduce your risk of heart disease by 76% by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation throughout the body," says Dr. Felder. The rest of the diet? Totally up to you.
What's on the menu: Try delicious dishes like these: mixed baby greens in a roasted garlic vinaigrette, pears poached in red wine with chocolate and baked spinach and smoked salmon frittata.
Potential pitfall: Repetitive regimens can be boring and hard to stick with long term, so make sure you prepare the six foods in lots of different ways. "Variety is essential to healthful eating and reaching a goal weight," says Milton Stokes, R.D., a dietitian at the University of Connecticut.
Dig in: Because this isn't a plan that promises dramatic results, choose it if you love wine and chocolate, and are looking to maintain a goal weight and reduce your risk of disease.
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Make it a Team Effort: The F.A.S.T. Diet
The Deans (Sheila, Mike and their six kids) were a typical family in Omaha-until they overcame a lifetime of weight problems and lost a total of 500 pounds in one year. It began when Tony, the family's oldest son, was inspired by the camaraderie he witnessed on TV's weight-loss show The Biggest Loser. After doing some online research he had family members calculate their basal metabolic rate (BMR), an estimate of how many calories an individual needs to function for one day. The BMR formula for women: [655 + (4.3 x current weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches)] - (4.7 x age). The Deans then limited their daily calorie intake to 500 below their BMR numbers in order to drop about one pound per week. Tony required them to log everything they ate, meet for weekly weigh-ins, exercise every day and report to one another when they were tempted to binge. The family also encouraged 100 others in Omaha to lose more than 1,400 pounds in five weeks. Their success caught the eye of Good Morning America and then Harmony Books, which published The F.A.S.T. Diet (Families Always Succeed Together), written by Tony.
What's on the menu: Strive to eat meals made of 60% carbs, 20% protein and 20% fat. The plan focuses less on what to eat and more on how much to eat. You can occasionally spend lots of calories indulging in a burger or a slice of cheesecake, as long as you eat low-cal foods the rest of the day.
Potential pitfall: Since calorie counting is essential, unknowns like a piece of Aunt Peggy's birthday cake or some restaurant meals may be out of the question.
Dig in: Join if you have family members, friends or co-workers who are willing to meet once a week. "Any number of teammates will do," says Tony.
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Squeeze it in to Your Hectic Life: The Busy Person's Guide to Permanent Weight Loss
If you're pressed for time, consider The Busy Person's Guide to Permanent Weight Loss, by Melinda B. Jampolis, M.D. (Thomas Nelson), which offers creative tips on how to order better-for-you menu items at restaurants, pack healthy on-the-go snacks and get more exercise in less time. You'll follow guidelines regarding what kinds of foods to buy and what serving sizes are best, but you choose the foods to eat.
What's on the menu: Since you never know what food you'll encounter when, say, stuck at an airport, focus on creating healthy eating habits that can be used anywhere, advises Dr. Jampolis. For example, before heading out the door you'll eat a satisfying breakfast and carry either a protein bar, small bag of nuts or piece of fruit with you at all times. The key is planning: "If you're going to a dinner party, cut back on your starches and fat during the day by having a salad for lunch," suggests Dr. Jampolis. "And just before you go, eat a high-fiber snack to take the edge off your appetite."
Potential pitfall: There aren't many recipes, so it's not ideal if you love to cook.
Dig in: Restaurant-lovers will enjoy the "around-the-world eating options." For instance, when at an Italian place, you're advised to start with a bowl of minestrone soup, have bread or pasta (not both) and then opt for marsala or marinara dishes over anything with parmigiana, Alfredo or pesto in its name.
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Slim Down Fast: The Fiber 35 Diet
The Fiber 35 Diet, coauthored by Brenda Watson (Free Press), is strict, but if followed correctly, it can help you shed 8 pounds in the first month, and then 1 pound each subsequent week. During phase one, slash a whopping 1,000 calories from your typical daily intake for one month (just don't dip below 1,200). From then on trim just 500 daily calories until you reach your goal weight. The key is to eat a total of 35 grams of fiber daily. "Fiber is a natural appetite suppressant," says Watson, a certified nutrition consultant in Dunedin, Florida. In other words, you'll eat less but feel fuller.
What's on the menu: Chow down on 2 to 3 servings of lean protein, like chicken or fish, daily, as well as 6 to 8 servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, like apples, broccoli, beans and oats, to meet the fiber requirement.
Potential pitfall: Any sudden boost in dietary fiber can lead to bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and other tummy troubles, says Roberta Anding, R.D., a dietitian in Houston, Texas, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. So protect yourself by gradually increasing your fiber intake and drinking lots of water-half of your body weight in ounces, to be exact. If you weigh 144 pounds, that's 72 ounces (nine glasses). Can't live without milk, cheese and yogurt? Look elsewhere; this plan is low in dairy.
Dig in: If you're prone to bingeing on empty carbs like potato chips and cookies, this diet will teach you how to tame hunger pangs with nutrient-dense foods.
Originally published in the October 17 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.