Q: What if I'm worried about artificial sweeteners? Is there a "natural" alternative?

A: Stevia, derived from plants, is a natural alternative to artificial noncalorie sweeteners. It comes as a powder in jars or packets or as a liquid, sold at stores specializing in vitamins or whole foods or through Internet-based vendors.

Q: Is it okay to eat a few small meals and also have snacks to spread your food intake out (and avoid "the hungries")?

A: We recommend three meals and two snacks. When eating the correct foods, hunger is usually easily satisfied.

Q: Is it okay to have a snack later in the evening so you don't go to bed starving?

A: If you're going to bed hungry, then you're eating the wrong foods. A snack after dinner is fine if it is healthy food.

Q: Can you eat ice cream on a diet?

A: Ice cream, cookies, cheesecake, chips, soda and other high-calorie unhealthy foods are always going to be easily accessible or even pushed on us throughout our lives. We all need to find a balance that allows us to live a fulfilling, happy life. For some, that means avoiding such foods at all costs, but for most that means eating such foods in limited amounts and in the right circumstances. If 90 percent or more of the food one eats is healthy and 10 percent or less is unhealthy, then that reflects a reasonable balance in my opinion.

Q: How much time should a person devote to a diet in order to see reasonable results?

A: If you don't see results in the way you look and feel within a month, then what you're doing is probably not making much difference, so look for ways to take it up a notch. Many can achieve 10 percent reduction in body weight within four months and maintain or extend that result for the long term as long as they stick to a reasonably ambitious plan.


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