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Diet expert Keri Gans talks weight loss wisdom and summer diets

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Love the warm weather but not thrilled about the revealing attire that accompanies it? We asked Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, and author of "The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You," to share her nutrition expertise about what really works for weight loss.

Paleo diets have recently become popular. However, Keri is concerned about the way in which the caveman diet cuts out food groups.

"I am not a fan of any weight loss program that eliminates food groups. In order for long-term weight loss a diet cannot be restrictive," she says. "I am a fan of including lean protein, lots of veggies and healthy fat for weight loss, but am equally a fan of fruit, dairy and 100% whole grains. Current Paleo followers eliminate dairy and whole grains from their diet, both of which have numerous health benefits. Bottom line is learning portion control and adapting a realistic lifestyle."

Recently journalist Nina Teicholz drew attention with the publication of her in-depth defense of saturated fats in "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet." She and others are taking up the butter baton, saying it's time to bring butter and beef back to the table and contending that carbohydrates and sugar (even natural sugar such as that in orange juice) are the culprits when it comes to weight gain and cravings. Keri advises looking at the forest, not the trees, the world of dieting.

"Every day it seems something else changes in the nutrition world. The key is to stop focusing on individual nutrients, such at fat vs. carbohydrates, but instead look at the big picture. Sure, butter can be part of a healthy diet, but it still matters how much and what you are eating it with. Butter on a white roll is not going to be as healthy a choice as butter on 100% whole grain toast with an omelet full of veggies," she says.

"Natural sugar found in fruit that is packed with vitamins and minerals should not be compared to a candy bar. A steak served for dinner with a salad, veggie and small baked potato is not the same nutritionally as a steak dinner with fried onions and creamed spinach. We need to stop singling out individual foods and look at entire meals," she declared.

Extreme diet trends always get the most publicity. But the question arises: Can you stay on them and keep the weight off?

"The only reason these extreme diets seem to work is because people lose weight quickly. And obviously you are going to lose weight if you restrict a food or entire food group that you are eating a lot of," points out Keri.

"The problem with these type of diets are that they are not realistic and in the long run not sustainable. "Everything in moderation" is still the best way to go; learning to still enjoy the foods you love, but perhaps in smaller amounts or in a healthier version. It is important for long term weight loss to make small changes over time that eventually lead to new habits that can be sustained. The winner in weight loss is not the person who loses the weight the quickest, but rather who keeps it off the longest," she adds.

Keri offers these tips for losing weight in the summer:

  • Pick and choose. There will be a lot of BBQs and you can't eat at them like it's the only one.
  • Watch the liquid calories. From iced coffees to fancy cocktails, remember that the calories add up.
  • Be prepared. Going to the beach or pool, bring your own healthy snack and/or lunch with you.
  • Get moving. You can no longer use the weather as an excuse to not leave the house.
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