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Top-rated slim reads to help drop the pounds

Still trying to keep your New Year's resolution? Nutritionist Joy Bauer shares some of her best diet book bets on the market.
/ Source: TODAY

The calendar may say it's winter, but for tons of Americans it's diet season – the time of year when over 76 million people resolve to lose weight.  And just in time, there's a bevy of new diet books hitting bookstore shelves. Nutritionist Joy Bauer was invited on the “Today” show to give us the scoop on just a few.

The Supermarket Diet
This diet book encourages you to eat at home and prepare your own meals in less than 20 minutes, the amount of time they say it takes you to place a take-out order and pick it up. Their program teaches you how to understand food labels and navigate your way through the grocery store. Their premise — after food shopping with this guide, you’ll fill your home with all of the staples you’ll need to create healthy meals that will assist you in dropping those unwanted pounds. You’ll also be educated about how to choose the right carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and how to find the right balance of all three. The Supermarket Diet provides a three phase approach and after the first two weeks allows most all foods in moderate amounts — bread, dairy, meats and even a few sweets. 

The book also acknowledges that exercise is an important part of staying healthy and keeping weight off and offers sensible fitness advice, with exercises you can easily do at home or in the neighborhood. Inside the book you’ll find a simple but effective walking program along with pointers on other ways to burn fat. 

Phase One: Boot campFor the first two weeks you’ll be consuming 1,200 calories a day. Meal choices are crammed with fruits, vegetables, and other low-cal but filling foods. You are also instructed to take a multi-vitamin/mineral tablet, to make sure you are taking in every vitamin and mineral your body needs. Swapping meals is not allowed. That’s because daily calories are figured for the whole day and if you swap one lunch for another you may be adding extra calories to that day. However, you are allowed to substitute specific foods within your meals during the first phase. For example, you can swap 3 ounces of chicken for 3 ounces of another lean meat, or one vegetable such as broccoli for another vegetable such as Brussels sprouts. If you find that you are still hungry after a few days of Boot Camp, they suggest you try adding in another 100 calories a day. A list of 100 calorie foods are provided. For example: 2 ounces of grilled chicken, 1-1/4 cups of fat-free milk or 4 cups of cooked broccoli. 

Boot Camp’s No-No List(Foods to avoid for the first 2 weeks)

  • All deep fried food
  • Any caloric beverage except those specified on this plan: fat-free milk and the occasional light beer. You’re encouraged to drink plenty of water and allowed one to two diet drinks a day. But you need to avoid fruit juice, soda pop, beer, sugared iced teas and smoothies (with the exception of two breakfast smoothies on the plan).
  • Don’t use more than 1 teaspoon of sugar in your coffee or tea.

You are told not to stick to this first phase for more than 2 weeks or you risk slowing down your metabolism and possibly preventing future weight loss. Men are instructed to skip this first phase all together and go straight to the second phase.

Phase Two: Keep on Losin’ This is a 1,500 calorie a day plan you can follow for months. It’s much more flexible and allows you to mix and match meals from the lists of breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners. The book claims this calorie level should satisfy you and help you shed 1/2 to 2 pounds a week.  But if you find you are still hungry, you can switch to the third and final phase. 

Phase Three: Stay Slim Maintenance
This is a 1,800 calorie a day plan. The book claims that this phase is good for men to continue to lose weight and for women to prevent future weight gain. 

The Bottom Line
Pros: This diet book is a terrific tool for men and women who prepare most of their meals at home or in the office. You’ll find everything you need for this plan in the grocery store, which allows for easily accessible and low cost foods.  There are few limits beyond the first phase and numerous recipes and snack ideas. Plus, they provide you with substitutions for each food group, in case you don’t want to use chicken or fish as your protein source.  The book also provides a solid education in overall nutrition, good vs bad choices for protein, carbohydrates and fats; plus important information about fiber and sodium levels. You’ll also get a crash course in portion control.

Cons: This type of diet book may not be useful for people who are constantly on the go and eat out often. That’s because this book encourages you to eat at home and prepare your own meals.

SAMPLE MENU: Boot Camp, Phase One

Cereal and fruit:
190 calories of high-fiber cereal, 1 cup fat-free milk, 1/2 cup fruit of your choice, 2 tablespoons walnuts

Chicken wrap:
Layer an 8-inch whole-wheat tortilla with two 1-ounce slices of refrigerated precooked chicken breast, 1/2 cup watercress, 1/2 slice (1/2 ounce) reduced-fat cheese, and 1 tablespoon light ranch dressing (no more than 40 calories per tablespoon). 1/2 cup baby carrots or 1/4 cup chopped red pepper

12-ounce skim latte

DinnerEntrée Dinner Salad: Toss together 3 cups spinach; 1 small orange, peeled and sliced; 2 tablespoons chopped red onion; 2 tablespoons light salad dressing (no more than 80 calories per 2 tablespoons). Top with 2 hard-cooked eggs, cut in half, and 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped toasted pecans.

50 to 60 calories of whole-grain crackers

The Sonoma Diet
The Sonoma diet is a tighter, portion controlled interpretation of the Mediterranean diet which has been touted for its ability to limit heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and prolong life.  The Mediterranean diet has earned its stellar reputation because it is centered around eating varied, healthful, nutrient-rich whole foods with an emphasis on plant-based varieties. And although the Sonoma Diet is nutritionally based on the Mediterranean diet, the author claims that its flavors are inspired by the culinary palette of Sonoma County. 

Ten of the nutrient-rich foods which make up the Sonoma Diet (and the Mediterranean diet) are referred to as “power foods” and include bell peppers, almonds, whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, broccoli, blueberries, grapes, strawberries, spinach, and tomatoes. Other foods on the menu include skinless white meat poultry, lean cuts of red meat, lamb, pork, fish, shellfish, eggs, non-fat dairy, soybeans — and of course, olive oil and nuts are your main source of dietary fat. Other “good” fats include fish oil and avocados. You’re also instructed to choose an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and to select whole grains and fiber–rich grains over processed grains and white flour.  The diet is structured into 3 “waves” (or phases) and each wave of the diet instructs you on how to fill your plate with the right stuff.  Fruits and vegetables are categorized into three tiers which simply recognize that some are more caloric than others making them less conducive to weight loss.  For instance, tier 1 vegetables are lower in calories and may be eaten often and in all stages (waves) of the diet, they include: asparagus, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes and more.  Tier 2 and 3 vegetables are a bit more caloric are off limits during the most restrictive, first wave of the plan — these include veggies such as artichokes, carrots, corn and sugar snap peas. It’s no surprise that you’ll have to avoid/limit sugary sweets, saturated and hydrogenated fats, refined flour and grains, full fat cheese and fatty meats like bacon and sausage. Good news, when you make it to wave 2 and 3, you can enjoy an occasional glass of wine.

Another key to weight loss, according to Sonoma’s plan is the “plate-and-bowl” concept which means using a 7-inch plate or bowl for breakfast, and a 9-inch plate for lunch and dinner as a means of controlling portion sizes.  During each wave of the diet you’ll be instructed on how to fill your plate with the right stuff. 

How the diet breaks downWave 1 (lasts 10 days): Foods to avoid during wave 1 include: all fruits, all tier 2 and 3 vegetables and wine.  This is the most restrictive phase of the diet and therefore the period of most rapid weight loss. 

Dinner (9-inch plate) filled with 30 percent protein, 20 percent grains, 50 percent tier 1 vegetables.

Sample menu day for Wave 1:

Breakfast2 scrambled eggs with 1 slice whole grain toast

LunchSalad nicoise with tuna (*recipe in book) and 1/2 of a whole wheat wrap or pita

DinnerTandoori chicken with roasted eggplant salad (*recipes in book)

Snacks for men28 peanutsCucumber or raw zucchini slices topped with 3 Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb spreadable cheese wedges

Snacks for women14 peanutsCucumber or raw zucchini slices topped with 1 Laughing Cow
Light Garlic and Herb spreadable cheese wedge    

Wave 2 (where you’ll stay until reaching your target weight): You can now introduce fresh fruits and a larger variety of vegetables in to your diet as well as an occasional glass of wine. 

Dinner (9-inch plate) filled with 25 percent protein or dairy, 25 percent fruit, 25 percent vegetables and 25 percent grains.  

Sample day for Wave 2:

BreakfastWhole grain cereal with skim milk

LunchTangy black bean soup (*recipe in book), spinach salad with vinaigrette, 1 cup fresh berries

DinnerLatin spiced pork tenderloin, toasted quinoa pilaf, roasted zucchini (*recipes in book), 1/2 cup cantaloupe or other tier 2 fruit, 1 glass wine (Pinot Noir or Zinfandel)

Snacks for men2 mozzarella string cheese sticks, 2 celery stalks with 2 tbsp. peanut butter, 33 almonds

Snacks for women2 celery stalks with 2 tbsp. peanut butter and 22 almonds

Wave 3 (Once target weight has been achieved — long-term maintenance phase): food percentages will by now be second nature — you should no longer need the book’s meal guides for eating a balanced meal. You can eat unlimited fruits and vegetables.

The Bottom Line
Pros: The Sonoma Diet does not involving calorie counting, weighing foods or keeping track of points.  You can choose which foods to eat as long as the food is considered an “allowed” food and as long as you follow the daily meals guides in the book which instruct you on how to fill your bowl or plate with the right balance, variety and combination of foods.  There are lists of proteins, grains, fats, and vegetables in the book that you can choose from in order to mix-and-match your meals to your liking as well as meal plans and recipes (500 recipes in the book) for each wave of the diet.Cons: This diet is not revolutionary.  We already know that fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains are good for us.  Little focus in the book is given to exercise.

Change One Diet
This book markets itself as an “anti-fad diet” because no gimmicks are involved.  Instead, the diet is based on the tried-and-true principle that you will lose weight if you eat fewer calories than you burn.  The diet recommends 1,300 — 1,600 calories a day depending on your size and activity level and is designed to help you lose 1 to 3 lbs/week.  The goal is to focus on how much you eat… and all foods are allowed “in appropriate amounts” — however, the plan does suggest you avoid refined grains and saturated fats. Furthermore, the diet recommends you remain within these dietary guidelines: 30 to 35 percent total calories from fat,

The motto of the diet is “making changes one step at a time”, because the author claims making a change takes time. The book is designed as a 12-week program and each week you focus on a different specified “problem” area.  Of course, the book states that the diet should go beyond the 12 weeks and be incorporated in to one’s lifestyle.  Each meal and snack is designated a certain amount of calories and a basic breakdown of meal composition (see sample menu).

Here’s what you’ll be working on during the 12-week program:

  • Week #1 – Breakfast
  • Week #2 – Lunch
  • Week #3 – Snacks
  • Week #4 – Dinner
  • Week #5 – Dining out
  • Week #6 – Weekends and Holidays
  • Week #7 – Fixing your Kitchen
  • Week #8 – How am I doing?
  • Week #9 – Stress Relief
  • Week #10 – Superfoods
  • Week #11 – Keeping on Track
  • Week #12 – ChangeOne…for Life!

The Bottom Line
Pros: This book provides good information, presented one step at a time, along with meal plans and recipes to follow. The visual portion size comparisons can be incredibly helpful as well. Seems to be suitable for anyone motivated enough to watch their portion sizes but not quite ready to make dramatic dietary or exercise changes. Cons:  Because this plan works on a gradual 12-week program (building momentum as the week’s progress), this may not be the right fit for someone looking for an immediate comprehensive jumpstart food plan.

Sample Day

BreakfastApproximately 300 calories: 1 grain or starch, 1 dairy or high calcium food and 1 fruit.

  • 1 egg, scrambled, poached or hard cooked
  • 1 small whole wheat roll (size tennis ball)
  • 1/2 cup fresh fruit salad (size 2 golf balls)
  • 8 ounces skim or 1 percent milk

LunchApproximately 350 calories: 1 grain or starch, 1 protein, 1 fruit and 1 vegetable.

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 2 ounces deli turkey breast
  • 2/3 ounces Swiss cheese
  • Lettuce, tomato, onions, mustard, pickles, peppers unlimited
  • 1/2 cup vegetable salad
  • 1/2 cup melon

SnacksUp to 200 calories.

  • A handful of chips, microwave popcorn or crackers.
  • A palmful of raisins, M&M’s or jellybeans.
  • Two small cookies or one mini cupcake
  • 2 golf balls worth of frozen yogurt, sorbet or Italian ice

Approximately 450 calories: 1 protein, 1 grain or starch, 1 vegetable

  • 2/3 cup pasta noodles
  • 3 to 4 ounces chicken
  • Unlimited vegetables

The Flavor Point Diet
This diet is based on the theory that by limiting the flavors you eat, you decrease your appetite, eat less and lose weight. The author, Dr. Davis Katz, claims that the more flavors we taste at any one time, the more we need to eat in order to feel satisfied and the fewer flavors we taste, the less we eat and the more satisfied we feel (a.k.a. sensory-specific satiety). Dr. Katz asserts that different flavors stimulate different cells in the brain, so by eating many flavors, you turn on many areas of the brain’s appetite center, and once stimulated, you must eat until all those cells register fullness.  If you turn on only one or two centers, you’ll eat less and feel just as satisfied.  The “Flavor Point” is the moment at which you feel completely full, satisfied and stop eating. Thus, his theory suggests that weight loss is achieved by limiting the variety of flavors in each meal and snack.  And although this book recommends you should eat a variety of foods and flavors, it encourages you to eat them over time and not all at one meal. 

To achieve this sensory satisfaction, the book presents daily menus with “flavor themes” (e.g. lemon day, thyme day, cranberry day, almond day, pumpkin day etc.). 

And aside from its flavor gimmick, the book promotes (and limits) a lot of the very same nutritious foods health experts commonly recommend. Foods allowed include whole-foods that are naturally low in fat, such as; fruits, vegetables, beans, low-fat dairy, eggs, lean protein sources and whole grains.  Foods to limit include highly processed foods, packaged foods with long ingredient lists, sweet foods with added salt, salty foods with added sugar, fast foods, avoid buffets and foods with added MSG or artificial flavors. The recommended meal composition looks like this: 55 percent calories from complex carbohydrates, 20 percent from lean protein sources and 25 percent from fat (ideally, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and fish).  And like many other plans, the diet is designed in 3 phases:

Phase One (weeks 1 through 4) every meal and snack within the same day has the same flavor theme, meaning every meal shares a common ingredient (e.g. see cranberry day below).

Sample Menu: Cranberry Day (*all recipes in book)


  • 2 cranberry-banana soft wheat muffins
  • 1 cup fat-free milk


  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt with 2 teaspoons dried cranberries and a 1 tablespoons low-fat granola


  • Cranberries-lentil mixed green salad with feta and pecans*


  • Cranberry-banana smoothie


  • Cranberry and onion turkey cutlets*
  • Baked sweet potatoes
  • Tossed garden salad with cranberries
  • Cranberry-vanilla soft ice cream*

Phase Two (weeks 5 through 6) each meal and snack within the same day has its own flavor theme so there’s no single theme throughout an entire day.

Phase Three (until goal weight is achieved and maintenance stage) you use individual foods to control appetite.  For instance, do not have a breakfast of salty eggs and sweet jam or a snack of sweet fruit and salted nuts.  The key to the Flavor point is to avoid combining too many different flavors at each meal.

The Bottom Line
Pros: The diet offers an interesting twist for people looking for a fresh angle. There’s no calorie counting or restrictions on food groups — good news. The book also contains 6 weeks worth of menu plans and over 100 recipes. Plus, recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day.Cons: The “flavor” idea sounds a bit gimmicky and more studies are needed to prove this theory. Also, you’ll need to put considerable effort and energy into flavor coordinating and preparing your daily meals. However, the foods are healthy and this is a relatively low calorie diet, so whether it’s the calorie restriction or flavor combinations — you’ll most likely lose weight.

The Rice Diet Solution
The husband and wife team, Kitty and Dr. Robert Rosati, call their plan a “high complex-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-sodium and whole-foods diet.” The diet recommends no more than 500 to 1,000 mg sodium per day (just to compare, the government’s new recommendation is not centered on rice, rice is just one example of a healthy grain which is naturally low in sodium. The authors’ theory is that salt is an appetite stimulant, therefore, when you reduce your salt intake you are less inclined to overeat. In addition, The Rice Diet Solution supposedly detoxes your body, ridding it of excess water weight (approximately 5 to 10 lbs), sodium and toxins from processed foods and the environment. And the authors claim that the fiber-rich whole-foods recommended in the diet will fill you up and make it “easy” to limit caloric intake. Foods on the menu include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, non-fat dairy, olive oil, seafood, eggs, tofu, lean meats, poultry, nuts and seeds. You’re encouraged to buy organic foods and to drink 40 to 72 oz. fluids per day. Foods OFF the menu include salt and other sodium-rich ingredients, with limits placed on saturated fat and processed foods. The diet also encourages regular, moderate exercise (i.e., walking) as a key to losing weight and being healthy.

The diet is designed in three phases. The book presents guidelines and the portion sizes for each phase, then you decide which foods to eat from the “allowed” food list.

Phase One: lasts one week and claims to cleanse your body to ready it for true lasting weight loss. This phase is VERY restrictive. It contains approximately 300 mg. sodium/day and

Sample Menus for Phase One

Day One: The Basic Rice Diet


  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 1 peach plus 2 tablespoons raisins


  • 2/3 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks plus 1 cup grapes


  • 2/3 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup mixed berries plus 1 cup melon

Days 2 to 7


  • 1 slice toast
  • 1 cup non-fat soy milk
  • 1 peach


  • 1-1/2 cups of any cooked grain or pasta
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked broccoli
  • 1 cup fresh fruit salad


  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 3 cups raw or 1-1/2 cups cooked cabbage
  • 1 cup berries

Phase Two: (until goal weight is reached) approx. 1,000 calories/day.

You begin each week with one day of the Basic Rice Diet, then you’ll follow five days of fruits, grains, vegetables, non-fat dairy, regular whole grain cereal or bread and then on the seventh day add in one protein source (e.g. fish, dairy, eggs, lean meat).

Phase Three: Approximately 1,200 calories/day — claims to show you how to maintain your weight loss. Same basic plan as phase 2 but adds more choices and more protein.

The Bottom Line
Pros: The foods allowed on the plan are healthy, nutrient packed selections (i.e., brown rice, oatmeal, fresh fruit, vegetables and soy) and eliminates the processed foods high in sodium, sugar and saturated fat that people often eat. Plus, this low-salt diet may reprogram your taste buds to do without the salt shaker. Cons: Phase One and Two are too restrictive in calories — and could set you up for future binging, fatigue, headaches and irritability. Furthermore, these plans are deficient in protein, which can increase the breakdown of lean muscle mass as you lose weight (and potentially slow your metabolism). This is not a realistic plan for eating in the real world. 

To learn more about Joy Bauer and healthier eating habits, visit