When it comes to formulating a plan, remember these three words: measurable, attainable, and simple. I'm not one to weigh, measure, calculate, and agonize over what I can and cannot eat, and I don't advocate that kind of diet. No food is inherently good or bad; you should simply eat more of some foods and less of others. The best way to eat involves a long-range approach that includes a variety of healthy foods every day. The next step is to create a plan with measurable results. What do you hope to accomplish and in what period of time? What are you willing to do to accomplish your vision and goals? The more specific and measurable you make your plan, the better chance you have of staying on track and ensuring your success. A measurable plan might include specific targets such as eating nine servings of fruit and vegetables each day; drinking eight glasses of water; or reaching specific targets you set for your cholesterol, triglyceride, or blood pressure levels. Your plan should include clearly stated goals, such as not going above a certain dress or belt size, or being able to walk or run a certain distance in a specific amount of time.


Step 1: Watch your portion size.


The key elements of a nutritious diet are moderation and balance, not elimination. You can eat almost anything as long as you eat moderate amounts. For example, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines allow you to eat up to two servings from the meat group a day. However, a serving means 2 to 3 ounces of cooked steak, not the 24-ounce sirloin some restaurants offer.


Step 2: Eat at least three times a day.


Don't skip meals, even if you have to eat on the run or at your desk. The body works best when it receives fuel throughout the day; it doesn't run well on empty. When you finally eat after skipping a meal, your body may crave sugar (for quick energy) and fat (as insurance against future missed meals).


Step 3: Control your weight with a combination of healthy eating and adequate exercise.


As always, before beginning any weight-loss program, or if you have questions about your appropriate weight and body fat, please consult your doctor or a registered dietitian.


If you want to lose weight, don't focus on a particular number ("I need to weigh 130 or I'll die"). You may never reach your "ideal" weight if you base that ideal on unrealistic expectations. If you've never weighed 130 in your adult life, your genes may not allow you to weigh 130 and be healthy. Instead, decrease your portion size and increase your exercise until you reach a healthy body mass index, or BMI.


According to the National Institutes of Health, BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. It is a reliable indicator of total body fat, but it has two limitations: It may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build, and it may underestimate body fat in older persons and others who've lost muscle mass.


Click here to calculate your BMI.


Step 4: Don't punish yourself for an occasional overindulgence.


Just think of it as one big meal (or one big piece of chocolate cake), not a mortal sin. Tomorrow's a new day.


Step 5: Enjoy eating.


This is the most important step of all. Look at your diet not as a set of don'ts, but as a set of dos. Do enjoy a wide variety of foods such as tasty fruits and grains. Do indulge yourself with a luxurious restaurant meal occasionally. Do eat with passion, chewing slowly and savoring every flavor.


Step 6: Use information from the USDA to learn how to eat a variety of foods, including a healthy amount of foods derived from plants.


Using the nutritional information on food labels, adjust your intake of nutrients, calories, fat, salt, and sugar to meet USDA guidelines. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 includes simple suggestions for a healthier diet. Pay particular attention to your need for at least nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables; many Americans ignore this aspect of a healthy diet.