Many studies have shown that caloric restriction spurs weight loss, prevents disease and slows the progress of aging. The journal "Science" reported that rhesus monkeys on calorie-restricted diets were one-third less likely to die of age-related diseases, with less than half the rate of cancer and heart disease. It's important, however, not to go below 1,200 calories a day, making certain the calories you eat create a balanced diet. You don't have to be extreme: the National Institute on Aging says reducing calories by a small amount, such as 50 calories a day, can help.
Things to Keep in Mind
Low-calorie diets can leave you feeling hungry which can ultimately sabotage your diet plan because you start to feel deprived, leading to indulging in "treats" and high-fat foods. One way to avoid this is to choose high-density foods, which give you more "bang for your dietary buck." These are usually high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Another secret to feeling full is to add lean protein to every meal, such as eggs, turkey, chicken breast, low-fat cottage cheese, etc. Also, schedule two to three small snacks each day, and aim to eat something every two to three hours or so. Drinking water can also help.
Commercial Diet Plans
Weight Watchers is a well respected and reputable national program. Although meetings can be expensive over time, they often offer special deals. You may also participate on-line via their website, which offers menus and tips and a personal food diary. Instead of counting calories, you count points (from 18 on up), with each food assigned a point number (e.g., an apple = 1 point). You aren't required to buy any special foods, which is the case with some other commercial diet plans, such as Jenny Craig and Slim Fast. With Jenny Craig you eat only their food in the portions they give you, and with Slim Fast, you drink two shakes a day and have one regular meal. E-Diets is another on-line program which has a variety of diet types to choose from and for a fee. With this program, you will be given daily menus and even some additional help on-line from a nutritionist. The South Beach Diet also has an on-line service that provides low-glycemic diet tips and meal plans.
Free Diet Plans
The Mayo Clinic is a good place to start for diet plans and advice. They provide information about fad diets that can be dangerous and should be avoided. SparkPeople.com has a free program on-line, which was voted best on-line health site in Business Week. The mission to teach people to stop dieting and transition to a permanent, healthy lifestyle. ModelDietPlan.com, "a fashion model's guide to dieting," with free tips, advice, and diet plans and ideas.
Always check with a physician before before starting new diet, especially if you have any pre-existing health issues. Athletes and the physically active should eat more calories than more sedentary individuals because too few calories do not provide adequate levels of energy or sufficient amino acids. Also some studies have shown that calorie-restricted diets may hasten the death of patients with ALS.