Expert Q&A

Fad dieting: What should you eat when a fad diet fails?

I lost weight on the Atkins diet, but I gained it back. What should I do? -Hillary from Wisconsin

First of all, realize that all fad diets work are “quick fixes.” Although you may lose weight on these diets, chances are you will gain it back. Any diet plan that calls for you to cut out an entire food group is not healthy.

Avoid fad diets and eat healthily

My advice is to swear off fad diets. However, don’t overreact and stuff yourself with comfort foods. Instead, eat moderately, focusing on functional foods. Here are some basic dietary recommendations for healthy eating:

Healthy number of meals and snacks daily

For a lifetime of healthy eating, many experts recommend eating three meals and two snacks daily. Eating frequently throughout the day keeps your metabolism elevated. While this doesn’t work for everyone (due to schedules, time constraints and even habit), you are less likely to overeat if you are not ravenous come dinnertime (six hours is a like an overnight fast). It’s important to remember to keep your meals balanced and approximately the same size. Your body functions best when you nourish it well and regularly, combining protein, whole grains and healthy carbohydrates.

Calories needed per day

Remember, too, that calorie needs aren’t “one-size-fits-all.” However, there are general guidelines for men and women. In general, women need fewer calories than men. They have less muscle and burn less calories throughout the day. But women should aim for 300-500 calories/meal and men 400-600 calories/meal. Snacks should be kept at 100-200 calories.

Healthy foods to include in your diet

Choose foods such as apples, grapes, oranges, kiwi fruits, walnuts, almonds and peanuts, fresh spinach, broccoli, onions, garlic and sweet potatoes, fresh fish (tuna, mackerel, halibut, salmon), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame) and legumes (lentils and beans). These foods offer energy, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that have been shown to fight disease and promote health.


While you may initially gain weight (mostly water), ultimately you will find balance and reduce your risk of developing nutrition-related chronic diseases. Listen to your body, eat when you are hungry, learn coping mechanisms to deal with your feelings and be sure to exercise regularly.

Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN
Contributing Expert

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