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A gradual approach to dieting


In a no-nonsense approach to weight loss, the American Heart Association's new diet book offers options for the weak. Can't give up pizza? Try eating two slices instead of your regular three. Craving ice cream? Try a sorbet.

"The intent on doing this was to try to get around the faddish diets," said Dr. Robert Eckel, president-elect of the American Heart Association and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "The theme is based on behavior, nutrition and physical activity."

Released this week, No-Fad Diet: A Personal Plan for Healthy Weight Loss dismisses trends like the grapefruit diet, the very low-fat diet and the low-carb diet. Although the heart association has published heart-healthy cookbooks before, this is its first all-out diet book with a variety of options.

It also offers options for readers who may need to ease into eating healthy. With more than 190 recipes, it asks readers to take quizzes to figure out the best eating and exercising strategies.

Along with a full menu plan, the book also offers the more flexible "75 percent solution" and "the switch and swap approach."

The first option calls for eating 75 percent of what you normally eat. The switch-and-swap offers lower calorie alternatives. For instance, instead of a cinnamon roll, eating a cinnamon-raisin English muffin with 2 teaspoons of light tub margarine cuts 312 calories, according to the book.

The book recommends that those using the 75 percent approach gradually include servings from each food group and try to avoid simply cutting back on non-nutritional foods.

Lona Sandon, a dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who looked over the new book, said it "doesn't make changing your eating habits necessarily so daunting. The all-or-nothing approach so many fad diets tend to take obviously doesn't work."

The menu-plan approach offers 1,200-, 1,600- or 2,000-calorie menus depending on the needs of the dieter, even allowing for the occasional doughnut or biscuit with bacon.

Offering advice on heart-healthy eating, the book also tells readers that by subtracting 500 calories a day they can lose about one pound a week. It's an approach that will take some time. No rapid weight loss here.

"A lot of the fad diets have appealed to a rapid weight loss," Eckel said. "This is a slow, methodical approach."

The book also suggests that readers figure out which of three exercise categories would work best: joining organized exercise programs, starting a walking routine or taking up new forms of recreation like bowling or dancing.

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