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A Healthy Diet is No Fad

mom and daughter have smoothies at kitchen table

Editor’s Note: Guidelines on diet and physical activity are updated as scientific evidence continues to evolve. Please read the most recent recommendations here.

Plenty of companies sell products they say can help you drop pounds and inches quickly … everything from a pill claiming to burn fat to a diet that lets you eat anything you want and as much as you want. These products often are backed by doctors or nutritionists who claim they are safe and effective. So how do you know whom to trust and what diet may be safe for you?

Experts say a diet or diet product may be too good to be true if it claims to help you lose more than a pound or 2 a week, if it limits your food choices, or focuses on specific food combinations. Research has not proved that eating certain foods together helps with weight loss.

According to the National Institutes of Health, however, diets that severely restrict calories or the types of foods you can eat usually fail in the long run. Most people quickly tire of them and gain back the weight they lost or even more. In addition, fad diets often fail to provide all the nutrients your body needs.

To get to and stay at a healthy weight, you’ll need more than a diet that lasts a few months. The best way to succeed is by developing long-term healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. It may include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. And it’s low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.

To lose weight, you need to use up more calories than you take in. Since 1 pound equals 3,500 calories, you should plan to cut 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Try these healthy strategies:

  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Eat fewer processed foods.
  • Limit the amount of sugar in your diet.
  • Drink less alcohol, sodas, and other sugary drinks.
  • Increase your physical activity.
  • Eat fewer fried foods and desserts.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods, including lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Once you achieve a healthy weight, eating well and getting physical activity most days of the week can help you keep off the pounds for good. And that can help you control your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, and help you prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some cancers, among others.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.