updated 1/7/2008 1:38:55 PM ET 2008-01-07T18:38:55

After the first week of , nutritionist Joy Bauer answers several quesitons about getting started on a diet plan, including which cereals are healthiest, how much weight you can expect to lose each week, how to kick a bad dessert habit and  how much coffee and tea you should be drinking.

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Question: How many pounds should I expect to lose each week?
You’ll see a dramatic drop on the scale during the first couple of weeks since you lose water weight along with fat. Sometimes you migh loses as much as 10 pounds, depending upon how much weight you have to lose and how much you were eating before beginning the plan.

However, after the first couple of weeks, your weight loss should level off between 1 and 2 pounds per week. If you’re losing more than that, you should increase the amount of food you’re eating.

Question: How many calories should I be eating?
Although, there are fancy calculations that factor in your age, height, gender and activity level, here’s a good ballpark amount: Typically, women lose weight safely and effectively on approximately 1400 calories a day.  Because men tend to be larger and genetically have higher metabolisms, they can effectively lose weight eating between 1800 and 2200 calories per day.

Ideally, your bread and breakfast cereal should be whole grain and low-calorie. The best tool for determining whether specific brands provide ample whole grains is to read their labels. Check the food product’s ingredient list and insure one of the first ingredients starts with the word “whole” or “oats.” Phrases without the word “whole,” like stoned wheat, cracked wheat, and enriched wheat flour do NOT guarantee the presence of whole grain.

When choosing cereal, ensure the first ingredient is whole grain, then use my following guideline:

• Per ¾ - 1 cup serving: 120 calories or less6 grams or less sugar 3+ grams fiber.

Some brands I recommend include: Wheaties, Total, Kashi Heart to Heart, Kashi Go Lean, MultiGrain Cheerios, Complete Bran Flakes, Barbara’s Cinnamon Puffins, and Barbara’s Shredded Spoonfuls.

When choosing bread, choose brands that are whole grain and calorie smart (no more than 80 calories per slice for bread). Some brands that fit the bill include:Arnold’s Carb Counting 100 percent whole wheat, Home Pride 100 percent whole wheat, Pepperidge Farm 100 percent whole wheat, Sara Lee Heart Healthy 100 percent whole wheat Classic, Sara Lee Soft and Smooth 100 percent whole wheat,  Weight Watchers 100 percent whole wheat.

Question: I am a vegetarian and noticed that while you have plenty of non-meat choices for and there are not so many choices for . Do you have any suggestions for substitutions?
Absolutely. Tofu or tempeh may be substituted at any time for meat chicken or fish. For tofu, simply double the ounces listed on a particular meal for meat, chicken or fish (that’s because tofu is less dense and you can have more for the same amount of calories. If a meal or recipe calls for 4 ounces chicken, you can prepare 8 ounces tofu). For tempeh, which is denser than tofu, ounces remain exactly the same (4 ounces chicken = 4 ounces tempeh).

Veggie burgers may be substituted for burgers made with beef or turkey. One full cup of lentils or beans (black, pinto, navy, garbanzo, kidney, white, and soybeans) can be swapped for any animal protein entrée.

Question: Joy, do you have any suggestions as to how I can wean myself off of sugary desserts? I know I need more will power and for as long as I can remember, a meal wasn’t finished unless I had something sweet.
Good news! There’s no need to completely nix sugary desserts. In fact, for some dieters, just knowing they have something sweet to look forward to helps provide long-lasting will power. When it comes to diet friendly dessert, here are the rules for my program:

Stick with one per day and carefully choose “pre-portioned” items that are no more than 150 calories. If chocolate is your thing, read labels and enjoy single serving portions of fat-free pudding, low-fat ice cream pops, 100-calorie snack packs (several chocolate cookie varieties are available), or choose small, fun-size chocolate bars (they typically run 100-150 calories per bar). Here’s a bonus: for 150 calories, provides a sweet fix along with heart healthy flavonols! Personally, I like to freeze chocolate; it seems to take a bit longer to eat!

For dieters needing a sweet “meal closer” after lunch AND dinner (meaning something sweet following lunch and dinner to put closure on their meal), I recommend you satisfy your craving with a very small chocolate or candy that provides no more than 30 calories. For example, a Hershey Kiss, a bite-size Snickers miniature, a fruity lifesaver, or even a calcium chew (if you’re already taking them as an additional supplement). If you’re motivated to kick the habit, try putting closure on lunch and dinner with a cup of hot, interesting tea or pop a piece of sugarless gum in your mouth. You’ll maintain a ritual ending to meals, but for less calories and sugar.

Question: How often can you have tea and coffee on your plan? Some say is slows your metabolism so I thought I would ask. Also, [when it comes to] soda and juice, do you just recommend that we monitor the calories and treat it as a snack?
: If you’re not caffeine sensitive, and have no medical conditions which preclude you from taking in caffeine, you can have as much coffee and tea as you’d like (just don’t add sugar and whole milk!). It will not slow your metabolism – that’s a myth. In terms of liquid calories, I try to discourage them as much as possible, including fruit juice. That’s because they don’t fill you up like solid food, and when you’re trying to lose weight, every calorie counts. That said, if you’d like to include fruit juice (no soda!) on your plan – yes, account for the calories as a snack.

For more information on healthy eating, check out joy’s website at www.joybauernutrition.com

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