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‘Biggest Loser’ nutritionist says snacking is mandatory

Every year millions of Americans vow to lose weight, but instead of approaching diets in a healthy and sustainable way, many obsess over calories, carbs and diet fads. The result: frustration and even weight gain. To avoid this, nutritionist Rachel Beller — who has shared her advice on "The Biggest Loser" — combines science-based insights with step-by-step action plans for weight loss and good
Image: Book cover for "Eat to Lose, Eat to Win"
/ Source: TODAY books

Every year millions of Americans vow to lose weight, but instead of approaching diets in a healthy and sustainable way, many obsess over calories, carbs and diet fads. The result: frustration and even weight gain. To avoid this, nutritionist Rachel Beller — who has shared her advice on "The Biggest Loser" — combines science-based insights with step-by-step action plans for weight loss and good health. Here is an excerpt from Beller's new book, "Eat to Lose, Eat to Win":

Ready to get skinny and healthy now? You’ve come to the right place!

The book you’re reading right now is not your traditional diet book. The world doesn’t need another dry, boring book about broccoli! What you dohave is a realistic, cut-to-the-chase guide that translates nutrition and weight-loss science into your shopping cart. In minutes, you can be on your way to the market. You’ll know what to get and how to put it all together so the pounds come off and the health benefits come on.

Patients tell me every day that they know what to do to lose weight. You probably do, too! But it’s not about knowing — it’s about doing. So I’m cutting out all the stuff that could trip you up — the long lectures on weight loss and healthy eating, the confusing nutrition science, the complicated “phases” — and giving you just what you need to know to leap right into action mode!

Yes, I can make you thinner so you look better in a three-way mirror. That’s the easy part! My real goal, however, is the synergistic effect of getting you thin and healthy. For life.

As a preventative nutrition researcher at medical centers, I’ve learned what works on both fronts. And it didn’t include unnatural diets or food deprivation schemes. I started the Beller Nutritional Institute in Beverly Hills to give patients real, no-bull plans based on science. To help them understand and stick to those plans, I also provide lots of fun, easy-to-use tools they can get at a glance — from my Food Autopsy analyses to visual shopping guides, all featuring pages and pages of photos. (Of food! What could be better?)

It’s an approach that’s helped Hollywood celebs, "Biggest Loser" and other reality show contestants, corporate execs, small-town homemakers, respected doctors, and countless others finally realize a winning formula they can own for life.

You are next.

All this ready-to-use-now advice I’ll give you is dished out in four parts that go hand in hand:

Part 1 begins with jaw-dropping details on so-called healthy meals, which I call Food Autopsy analyses. (Sound scary? They are!) Then I’ll show you how to build your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to help you look your best while never feeling like you’re ugh ... on a diet. My bottom line is to make the weight-loss process so simple that you can’t fail!

In Part 2, I put it all together and outfit skinnylicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that are not only easy to assemble but good for you.

In Part 3, We go shopping! You’ll see “buy this!” images of exactly what you should grab off the shelf. I’ve done the legwork for you, so you don’t have to scour labels or memorize lists of “approved” foods. And rest assured: I have no ties to food companies, which means my recommendations come completely unbiased. I've simply translated complex nutritional science into simple tips to fill your shopping cart.

For sci-curious readers who want a more in-depth look at why, Part 4 offers the science behind the advice I’m giving you. I’ve deliberately kept the plan itself short and sweet so you can get started right away, but the research girl in me can never pass up the chance to help you learn a little something.

Hungry to get started?

Snacks are for losers — weight losers!

Between-meal bites screw up sooo many diets, unless you do them right.

Dieters all think they know The Enemy:

It’s the cheesecake. Evil temptress!

The white rice that came with their take-out. Empty-carb alert.

The apple juice. Liquid candy!

And please — don’t even get them started on snacks.

“Come on, Rachel,” they say. “I’m trying to lose weight here — I can’t afford to snack! Aren’t those extra calories the first thing I should ditch?”

No way. If you’re trying to lose weight, you actually can’t afford not to snack. When you skip it, you’ll nibble thoughtlessly throughout the day — or you’ll get too hungry and go overboard at mealtime. (Think grizzly bear at a Vegas buffet.) Either way, your odds of losing weight will fall somewhere between nada and zero.

How to snack — the smart way!

You have three snack timeslots throughout the day:

—Your optional A.M. snack

—Your mandatory P.M. snack (between lunch and dinner)

—A strictly optional after-dinner treat

Snacks are the one big exception to my no-calorie-counting rule. You must keep close tabs on them, or you can go wrong — as in, extra-pants-size wrong.

So stick within the calorie ranges I’ll be giving you. But here’s the bright (and tasty) side: You will still have a wealth of options! Not only will you get through the day without a grumbly stomach (and attitude to match), you’ll also tune your body to weight-loss mode.

A.M. (Alternative Munching) Snack:

Enjoy an optional mid-morning bite that’s under 100 calories.

I call this snack “optional”because after a balanced, high-fiber breakfast, you’ll likely make it all the way to lunch without getting hungry. Plus, that gap between breakfast and lunch is shorter than the one between lunch and dinner, so if you can skip it, skip it!

In fact, research shows that most people eat mid-morning snacks not because they’re hungry, but because they’re bored (“I hate Mondays!”) or the food is just sitting there tempting them (“Hello, beautiful, my name is chocolate-glazed donut!”).

If you genuinely do need a snack (maybe you worked out, or ate breakfast super early), think within the 100-calories-or-fewer range. Some ideas:

—Celery sticks with 1 wedge of Laughing Cow Light cheese

—1 hard-boiled egg

—1 piece of fruit, like a small apple, orange or banana, or 1 cup of berries

—1/2 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt

—1 stick of low-fat string cheese

—10 almonds

—Baby carrots with 2 tablespoons of salsa

—Sliced cucumbers with 1 tablespoon of hummus

P.M. (Positively Mandatory) Snack:

Tame your inner “bread-ator” with a 150- to 175-calorie mid-day snack.

Want to lose weight and not feel hungry? Then this snack is thoroughly nonnegotiable. You have too many hours between lunch and dinner, and if you don’t eat a little something by the time dinner rolls around, you’ll feel like the world owes you food — and lots of it.

And that’s when you see The Enemy: that basket staring back at you from the middle of the table. Sometimes at lunch, sometimes dinner, but always there.

To tame your inner bread-ator and avoid Attack the basket or death! mode, eat your afternoon snack. Don’t go all martyr on me and think you’ll “save” calories and lose weight faster if you pass it up. Trust me: Skipping the P.M. snack always backfires.

A.D. (After Dinner) Treat:

Savor an optional 100- to 150-calorie mini splurge

After dinner is total instinct time. The dishes and kids are put away ... ahhh, chill time for yourself. So you’re chatting with friends, watching a little TV, getting ready for the next day — and, instinctively, you want a snack to go with it.

Don’t fight it, because instincts usually win. Just don’t make it a habit.

Ideally, you should eat four times per day: breakfast, lunch, P.M. snack, dinner. So if you can do without this after-dinner treat, please try — especially if you want faster weight-loss results. I’m just giving you the option.

From my experience, if I don’t show people how to handle a craving, they’ll go for it — and beyond. Before you can say, “Treat time!” they’re drinking half a bottle of wine or eating straight out of the ice cream tub.

So here are some of my approved options for your after-dinner urges:

—A 5.5-ounce glass of wine (with dinner, if you like — or afterward)

—20 frozen grapes

—1 cup strawberries and 1 dark chocolate square

—1 pre-measured natural fudge or yogurt bar on a stick (absolutely no self-serve!)

—1 cup berries with a 1/4 cup mini-scoop of sorbet (great for dining in or out)

—6 ounces nonfat Greek yogurt with 1 teaspoon naturally sweetened jam, honey, or maple syrup swirled in

—1/2 cup nonfat ricotta, 1/2 cup mixed berries, and a few drops of vanilla stevia or 1 teaspoon honey mixed together.

—3/4 cup cooked Scottish oatmeal with cinnamon (The melatonin in the oatmeal will help you sleep.)

—1/4 cup popcorn kernels, popped the healthy way.

To find more of Rachel Beller's tips and get a sneak peek at her new book, visit her website,

From the book "Eat To Lose, Eat To Win" by Rachel Beller, MS, RD. Copyright (c) 2013 by Rachel Beller. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.