Choosing diet plans

There are hundreds, so choosing from the diet plans on the market means you need to consider your aims and objectives. Some are targeted at those who desperately want to lose weight, while others can help you to improve the way you eat for health reasons.

With the huge amount of media interest in this area, diet plans tend to come in and out of fashion - a quick look at the best-sellers' list in the past few years will show that everything from Atkins to the Zone has had its moment in the sun.

When comparing diet plans, it's important to look at what is involved - you have to find the one that's right for you, rather than simply following something that worked for someone else. For example, a vegetarian is never going to take to Atkins, whereas for a confirmed meat eater it might sound great.

Similarly, while some people need the control and discipline of a program that involves careful weighing and measuring of portions, for others such a rigid approach would never work.

However, whichever of the many diet plans you decide to follow, it's important to be sure that it is healthy. Many diets are actually quite unhealthy - this is because they either over-restrict the foods you can eat, or else emphasise one type of food to the exclusion of others. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

The basis of good nutrition is to eat a healthy mix of foods, while the bottom line in any diet is to reduce your total overall intake of calories. These are not incompatible.

Whatever kind of eating plan you decide to follow, the following should form the core of anyone's diet:

Water - Drinking plenty of water is one of the keys to good health. However, for dieters, there are additional benefits. Firstly, water can help fill you up, so you eat less. In addition, it is a vital part of the process of fat metabolization, so drinking water helps your body to burn fat.

Fresh foods - Any healthy diet must include a good mix of fresh fruit and vegetables, low fat meat and fish, and whole grains. Again, there are additional benefits for dieters in eating lots of fruit and vegetables. Because they contain lots of fiber, the body has to work hard to digest them, which burns extra calories.

If these are the things you should eat, what should you avoid? The simplest rule is to eliminate or limit your consumption of processed foods - as a general rule, the less processed foods you eat, the better. Processed foods are generally made with added sugar and salt, and are often high in saturated fat. In addition, the processing removes many essential nutrients.

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