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5 Must-Have Diet Books


Can you read yourself thin? We'd like to think so, but the truth is, curling up with a diet book doesn't burn many calories. However, the right guide can inspire you to make healthy lifestyle changes, teach you how to whip up delicious lowfat dishes or give you tips that lead to lasting weight loss.

To find the skinniest reads, we queried American Dietetic Association spokeswomen Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., M.A., R.D., the Tampa, Fla.-based co-author of Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy (Marlowe & Co., 2004), and Lona Sandon, M.Ed., R.D., assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Here, Sass and Sandon weigh in on their top picks; see which book is best for you.

> Thin for Life

By Anne M. Fletcher, M.S., R.D. (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2003)

Diet philosophy Different weight-loss strategies work for different people.

Best suited for The dieter who's tried it all -- without success

Recipes included? Yes. Recipes from successful dieters for everything range from starters (Sensibly Thin Vegetable Salad) to decadent-tasting desserts (Black Bottom Cupcakes).

What's inside This hefty tome reveals the weight-loss secrets of 160 men and women who have shed pounds and kept them off for good. It also explains the key differences between the diet and exercise strategies of weight-loss maintainers compared to regainers. You'll find popular diet myths debunked plus expert advice on meal planning, identifying and tackling high-risk situations, setting realistic goals and overcoming issues like emotional and binge eating.

The nutrition expert says "If you've picked up this book, it's probably because fad diets haven't worked for you or you're ready to let go of the quick fix," Sass says. "Instead of promising dramatic short-term results, the book provides lasting results by focusing on the big picture of lifelong weight management."

> Getting Thin and Loving Food!

By Kathleen Daelemans (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004)

Diet philosophy Yes, you can eat delicious food and still lose weight.

Best suited for Foodies and free spirits who hate to count calories

Recipes included? Yes, for all meals

What's inside Food Network TV personality Kathleen Daelemans, a chef who shed 75 pounds and has kept them off for 14 years, will have you laughing out loud at her ongoing struggles with chocolate, emotional eating and self-control issues in this cookbook/self-help guide.

Daelemans offers more than 200 delicious recipes, as well as creative solutions that encourage healthful cooking, from finding offbeat times of day to prepare meals to overhauling your pantry and restocking it with low-cal yet exotic staples (think pickled ginger, Asian fish sauce and dried mushrooms).

You won't find any calorie counts or fat grams here, since Daelemans lost weight without tracking these. Dishes range from flavorful meals you can toss together on weeknights, like Chicken With Quick Citrus Pan Gravy or Baked Polenta With Basil-Tomato Sauce and Cheese, to yummy portion-controlled desserts such as Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse.

The nutrition expert says "Daelemans' book has a great positive energy," Sass says. "Her message is that weight loss doesn't have to be based on deprivation and negativity."

> The Dish

By Carolyn O'Neil, M.S., R.D., and Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D. (Atria, 2004)

Diet philosophy Losing weight doesn't have to be boring.

Best suited for Dieters who don't want to sacrifice style for pounds lost

Recipes included? Yes. Contains a few recipes for chic dishes such as Simple Chicken Breast Saute and Rosemary Lemon-Lime Pasta.

What's inside Written in a dishy, girlfriend-to-girlfriend tone, this entertaining crash course on nutrition basics is filled with quizzes, mini-profiles of real-life "hip & healthy heroines," fun food facts, recipes and practical diet strategies. You'll find tips and tricks to help you navigate high-calorie minefields like restaurants, airports, the drive-through (yes, sometimes it's a fact of life) and cocktail parties.

The nutrition expert says "The Dish puts the fun back into eating," Sandon says. "It's an approach to an overall lifestyle, not just one nutrient."

> The Step Diet Book

By James O. Hill, Ph.D., and John C. Peters, Ph.D., with Bonnie T. Jortberg, M.S., R.D. (Workman, 2004)

Diet philosophy To lose weight painlessly, trim food portions by 25 percent and take up walking.

Best suited for Dieters who don't want to make drastic changes

Recipes included? No

What's inside There's no calorie counting, measuring foods or complicated exercise regimens in the Step Diet. You can even eat the foods you love!

This book even comes with a pedometer. Your goal: 10,000 steps a day (roughly five miles). Fitting in those extra steps is ultra-easy thanks to clever tips to boost your activity (just walking down the hall to talk to co-workers rather than sending e-mail will help you rack up an extra 500 steps a day). The Step Diet Book also offers a novel way to avoid plateaus and encourage lasting weight loss: Change your habits for 12 weeks, then try to maintain the weight you've lost for at least four weeks before trying to lose more.

The nutrition expert says "That step counter makes you so much more aware of how inactive you really are," Sandon says. "But, it's a lot easier to add a few hundred steps than to stop eating your favorite foods. This book focuses on small changes which equal big rewards down the road."

> The Complete Book of Food Counts, Sixth Edition

By Corinne T. Netzer (Dell, 2003)

Diet philosophy Calories do count.

Best suited for Food diarists and portion-control practitioners

Recipes included? No

What's inside You'll find the calorie, protein, fat, carb, cholesterol, sodium and dietary fiber content for just about every food imaginable in this handy paperback classic. It features stats for fresh, frozen, generic, name-brand, fast, gourmet and "health" foods -- as well as dishes served in major restaurants. Like to compare brands? No problem. There are 19 pages dedicated to pizza alone. If there's a food you're curious about, chances are good you'll find it here.

The nutrition expert says "This book is a real timesaver," Sandon says. "It helps you make comparisons without spending hours scanning food labels."


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