5 Diet Rules You Can Ignore

"Adopting extreme rules is one of the fastest ways to prevent weight-loss success," says Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to 200-300-400 Calorie Meals. QualityHealth asked McIndoo to help bust these five long-held dieting tricks.

The Rule: Don't eat before bed.
Why you can ignore it:
When you eat is far less important than the total amount of calories you eat, says McIndoo. The dietitian doesn't recommend starving all day then scarfing down calories at night, but eating moderately throughout the day. Having a late-night snack is fine—as long as that snack is within your daily calorie needs.

The Rule: Avoid "white" foods.
Why you can ignore it:
Carbs get their bad reputation because of the so-called "white" foods-bread, rice, and pasta. But not all carbs are bad, says McIndoo. "Carbs can be a great source of fiber (which helps you feel full longer), plus they're fortified with vitamins and minerals," she says. "We need carbohydrates in our diet for energy. Without them, we'd feel sluggish." Just choose wisely: Whole grains, brown rice, legumes, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables will give you more bang for your nutrition buck.

The Rule: All or nothing.
Why you can ignore it:
No sugar, no snacks, no cheating, no alcohol. No fun. Denying yourself your favorite foods and drinks will most likely lead to you craving them more, says McIndoo. "Small, achievable goals are easier to stick with and therefore more likely to be maintained long-term," she explains. Pick one or two foods you can't live without (ice cream, anyone?) and find a way to work them into your diet. For example, treat yourself to a small bowl of Chunkey Monkey every Saturday night instead indulging in the frozen treat every night. You'll feel successful without feeling deprived.

The Rule: Use a scale—a food scale, that is.
Why you can ignore it:
With the exception of foods such as water-filled veggies like cucumbers, lettuce and celery, McIndoo says it's a good idea to measure and weigh your foods at first to get a sense of what a portion looks like. Eventually, you can eyeball portions, but every once in a while, measure or weigh everything again. (Portions can slowly expand without us realizing it.)

The Rule: Counting calories.
Why you can ignore it:
Sure, a calorie is a calorie and if they are calories packed with sugar or fat and little else they will add up and leave you with small portions and big hunger, says McIndoo. Better to choose foods filled with fiber, protein, and other nutrients that will help you feel fuller. Bonus: You'll be able to eat more throughout the day since these foods tend to have fewer calories per portion.

Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, reviewed this article.


Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to 200-300-400 Calorie Meals (ALPHA, 2012)