What You Should Really Eat

WebMD Commentary

Should you eat every three hours, load up on protein, or concentrate on healthy carbs?

We're constantly pummeled with new ways to lose weight. And many of them are right on the money.

I'm not talking about popping a pill to get your cortisol levels in check or cutting the latest evil food from your diet. Some things are hogwash.

But many of them aren't.

The Combination Fix

The problem is that there is no one fix. Eating every three hours is a great idea. So is stocking up on protein. And you absolutely should munch on brown rice -- a healthy carb -- instead of white rice.

The trick is to combine all these healthy little tidbits to create that slimmer, healthier you.

Eating something healthy every three hours helps prevent your metabolism from plummeting between meals. And it helps keep you from gorging on bad foods in between meals.

Eating more protein helps you stay full longer. This doesn't mean bacon and hot dogs. And it doesn't mean low-carb.

High-protein diets were all the rage a couple of years ago. The main problem with them is that the most popular varieties usually consisted of high-fat sources of protein and limited healthy carbs -- even fruits and vegetables.

A high-protein diet (again, not low-carb) is a very healthy diet that can help you slim down by keeping you feeling full.

Chicken, turkey, tofu, and lean beef are great sources of healthy protein. Even the occasional egg and steak are fine.

And instead of limiting carbs in your diet, add in healthy carbs such as vegetables and fruits, brown rice, and other whole grains.

But you don't like brown rice?

I can relate. When I started the switch to brown rice and wheat pasta a few years ago, it took some getting used to. But now I actually prefer them and don't miss the unhealthier versions at all.

Ditch the Low-Fat Diet

We've learned in recent years that the traditional low-fat diet isn't the best way to go. Again, that doesn't mean it's OK to sit down to a meal of steak, butter-laden mashed potatoes, and berry cobbler.

What it does mean is that you should lean toward sources of healthy fats, such as salmon, olive oil, and nuts. Still use them in moderation, since fats tend to have more calories. But a tablespoon of olive oil or a small handful of nuts is a great source of heart-healthy fats.

Stay away from trans fats, which are known to be damaging to the heart. Since the amount of trans fats now must appear on food labels, most foods are now thankfully trans fat-free.

Take Your Time

The point is that you can't rely on any one solution to help you lose weight. Combine all the great advice you hear, and make sure you know what's good and what's not.

But you also don't have to make all these changes in one day.

Take some time to get used to eating every three hours - even if it's not the healthiest food at first. If you're not really hungry when your three hours is up, try to eat something. That'll help your body get used to eating several smaller meals throughout the day.

Once you've got that down, start working in some healthier forms of protein. And later on you can bring in a healthy carb or two.

And don't forget about the exercise. Yes, you do have to exercise. Any weight loss plan that's worth its weight includes exercise.

Michael W. Smith, MD, is WebMD's medical editor-in-chief. His opinions and conclusions are his own.