Dieting Rules You Can Break…NOW!

plate with a measuring tape wrapped around it( — Losing weight can seem like nothing but rules.

Fortunately, breaking those rules has its advantages: disregarding strict food guidelines could be the secret to a successful slim-down. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people with a flexible approach to eating-one that allows for sweets and other perceived slip-ups-had a better record of maintaining weight loss than dieters with an “all or nothing” strategy.

How can you do it? We got top nutrition pros to confess what rules they break, and why…

Eat Five Small Meals A Day

Who breaks it? Renee Melton, R. D., director of nutrition services for the mobile weight-loss program Sensei.

“My schedule doesn’t give me time to prepare healthy snacks, much less eat them, so I make sure I get what I need in three squares a day.”

Reasons to break the rule: The “graze, don’t gorge” philosophy is based on the premise that having frequent small meals keeps your blood sugar steady, your metabolism ramped up, and your appetite in check. But some studies show a link between obesity and eating more than three times a day, most notably in women. More frequent noshing means more opportunities to overeat. Plus, says Melton, having to constantly think about what you’re going to eat can be stressful, especially for emotional eaters.

Break it right: To keep hunger pangs from overriding your willpower throughout the day, eat fiber-rich foods at mealtimes—they make you feel fuller and take longer to digest. Shoot for 21 to 25 grams a day, starting with a high-fiber grain cereal like Kashi’s GoLean with low-fat milk and fruit. For lunch and dinner, Melton says, fill half your plate with produce, a quarter with carbs, and the other quarter with lean protein.

Avoid White Bread, Rice, and Pasta

Who breaks it? Christine Avanti, clinical sports nutritionist and author of Skinny Chicks Don’t Eat Salads. She was raised on homemade “white” pasta by her Italian immigrant grandparents.

Reasons to break the rule: Carb lovers have long been warned against highly processed products because they’re believed to cause a blood sugar spike. But research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people on high-carb diets were slimmer than their pastaphobic counterparts even when they threw “bad” carbs like white bread into the mix of fiber-rich whole grains.

Break it right:
Follow the U. S. Department of Agriculture recommendation of six ounces of carbs each day, and make sure at least half come from whole grains. Then measure out a serving of refined carbs, such as a cup of cooked white pasta, and dig in guilt-free. If a single cup isn’t gonna do it for you, pair your pasta with filling protein, like a meaty red sauce made with extra-lean ground turkey.

Don’t Eat Late At Night

Who breaks it?
Ann G. Kulze, M. D., author of Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss and Lifelong Vitality. She sits down to dinner every night at 9 p.m. or later.

Reasons to break the rule:
“A calorie consumed at 9 p. m. isn’t handled any differently by your body than one consumed at 9 a. m.,” Kulze says. It’s less about when you eat than how much you eat. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that obese women were more likely than svelte women to eat meals late at night, but they were also more likely to eat more, period. And a study by the USDA showed that your metabolism hums along at the same rate no matter how you time your meals. And delaying dinner does have one undisputed advantage: It helps eliminate late-night snacking, one of the worst diet busters.

Break it right: One reason you’re likely to stuff yourself late at night is that you’re ravenous from not having eaten since lunchtime. A healthy snack in the late afternoon (around four if you’re planning to eat at nine) can help you avoid this pitfall. Studies have found that the fat in nuts is particularly satisfying, so grab a 100-calorie pack of almonds when you’re on the go. When you finally find the time for dinner, actually sit at a table, and nix the distractions. Scarfing a meal in the car or in front of the TV means you usually aren’t paying attention to what—or how much—you’re eating.

Skip Dessert

Who breaks it? Judith S. Stern, Sc. D., a professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California, Davis. She has a “few bites of something decadent” when she dines out.

Reasons to break the rule: We all discover a little more room beneath our waistbands when the dessert tray rolls by. Studies show that when you’re offered a variety of foods, you never achieve what’s known as taste-specific satiety; your appetite is stimulated anew as each novel flavor is introduced. Outsmart your taste buds by planning ahead. Stern’s trick: She looks at the dessert menu along with the main menu, and if she decides to end the meal with, say, a dark-chocolate tart, she’ll always choose a salad dressed in a little olive oil and vinegar to start and then have an appetizer as her entree.

Break it right: Desserts are unsurprisingly high in calories. Order off the kid’s menu or get something to share. Also consider sorbets and chocolate-dipped fruit, which satisfy a sweet tooth for fewer calories.

Diabetic Sugar Substitutes

A spoonful of sugar being added to a cup( — If you have diabetes and are trying to control your weight and blood sugar levels, you might rely on artificial sweeteners to make foods taste better without adding sugar or carbohydrates to your diet. That’s just fine, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Artificial sweeteners, also known as sugar substitutes, add sweetness without adding calories by being so much sweeter than sugar that only a tiny amount is needed to equal sugar’s taste. The body also does not fully absorb artificial sweeteners, so the few calories they contain do not affect blood sugar levels. These factors make artificial sweeteners ideal for use in a diabetes management plan.

Sweetening The Diabetic Diet

Artificial sweeteners that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include three that are widespread in the marketplace — saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose — as well as two that are used less often.

• Saccharin. This is the granddaddy of artificial sweeteners, first developed in 1879. It’s sold under the brand name Sweet’N Low and is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar. Many diet colas and other diet foods contain saccharin. It also is sold in packets for sweetening individual meals and in bulk for use in cooking.

Safety: A 1970 study associated saccharin with bladder tumor growth in rats, so an eat-at-your-own-risk warning was added to its packaging. But the National Cancer Institute and the FDA have since concluded that saccharin does not pose a risk for bladder cancer in humans, so it is considered a safe sugar substitute for type 1 and type 2 diabetes diets. However, experts still recommend that pregnant women avoid saccharin.

• Aspartame. This sweetener is sold under the brand names Equal and NutraSweet and is 180 to 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is sold in packet and bulk form, but is not considered as useful in cooking because high heat reduces its sweetness.

Safety: While many anecdotal reports have linked aspartame to health conditions ranging from depression and headache to cancer, researchers have not found that the sweetener poses any health risk to people. The American Medical Association, American Diabetes Association, and the FDA have all come down in support of aspartame’s safety, and it can be used by people with any of the three types of diabetes. However, people with a disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid it.

• Sucralose. Sold under the brand name Splenda, this artificial sweetener is 600 times sweeter than sugar and is very useful in baking because granulated Splenda can be directly substituted for sugar in recipes.

Safety: Because sucralose is newer, there are fewer long-range studies available regarding its safety. That said, it has FDA approval and is accepted by the American Diabetes Association for use by all three types of diabetics.

• Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One): This sweetener, which can be used for baking, can be found in many packaged goods and is 200 times sweeter than sugar.

Safety: More than 90 studies showed acesulfame to be safe.

• Neotame: This recently approved sweetener is about 8,000 times sweeter than sugar. It’s closely related to aspartame, but not yet widely used in the United States.

Safety: Although derived from aspartame, a chemical change makes this sweetener safe for those with PKU.

In addition, two natural alternative sweeteners are gaining in popularity:

• Stevia (Truvia, PureVia, SweetLeaf, Stevia in the Raw): The stevia plant is the basis of this sweetener, which is 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.

Safety: Until recently, the FDA had banned stevia because of concern that it might cause reproductive problems in lab animals. But late in 2008, the FDA approved the purified part of the stevia leaf, known as rebaudioside A, for use as an additive in American food products. This form of stevia also is reported to have less of an aftertaste.

• Agave nectar: This sweetener, produced from the agave plant, has just as many calories as sugar. But it is sweeter than sugar, so you use less, and it has much less direct impact on your blood sugar levels than either sugar or honey.

Safety: Agave nectar is as safe as sugar.

How To Substitute Your Sugar Naturally…

If you don’t want to use sugar but are worried about the safety of artificial sweeteners, there are ways to get by without them:

• Skip diet sodas in favor of flavored seltzer water.

• Use naturally sweet substitutes, such as blueberries instead of brown sugar on your morning oatmeal.

• Read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels on foods so that you can select the lowest-sugar alternative and avoid products with sugar substitutes.

If you’re following a diabetic diet, it’s smart to familiarize yourself with all of the sweetener options and choose the ones that best suit your taste and lifestyle. And, of course, talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you have.