YOU DON'T NEED TO DIET.



Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

With a New Year comes the usual resolution to shed a few pounds, particularly if you're feeling stuffed into your clothes like a sausage.

If you've tried a number of programs and nothing seems to work, it may be a good time to rethink your approach.

The recently released ``The Smart Diet,'' Better Homes and Gardens Books ($24.95) can help. It offers a ``nondiet'' approach to thinking about food, your weight and exercise - and involves giving up diets and nurturing all facets of your life, says Kristi M. Fuller, registered dietitian and food editor for Better Homes and Gardens Books in Des Moines, who edited this volume.

Many experts are now suggesting consumers stop dieting altogether, relax, and eat smarter and healthier, she says, adding that this concept is catching on.

``When you start eating a more healthy diet, you tend to lose weight whether you're trying to or not,'' says Fuller. The book includes 160 recipes for snacks, breakfasts, main dishes, side dishes and desserts along with a nutritional analysis of each.

``Eating a variety of foods in moderation is the key.''

Don't deprive yourself of favorite foods, says Fuller, but keep portions small. ``How much you eat is as important as what you eat.''

Most people eat far too much protein. The average person needs only two to three servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs or nuts daily.

Generally figure on a daily basis that the average diet should be made up of 15 to 20 percent of total calories from protein, 20 to 30 percent from fat and 50 to 60 percent from carbohydrates.

``Most people don't eat enough fruits and vegetables,'' continues Fuller, adding that you should aim for five to nine servings daily. If cleaning or cooking fresh vegetables takes too much time, rely on frozen or prepared precut, which are easier and more convenient to use. For instance, when making chicken rice soup, Fuller tosses in lots of frozen veggies.

Remember that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, advises Fuller. You can reap benefits from as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.

Focus on your total health and well-being instead of weight-loss or trying to reach an unrealistic weight. And don't expect miracles.

It all boils down to eating a normal diet in moderation, not overindulging in a lot of high-fat foods - and exercising regularly.

Meanwhile here are some recipe ideas for low-fat, healthy eating.

VEGETARIAN PIZZA

1/3 cup Italian-seasoned tomato paste

1/4 cup water

1 (12-inch) prebaked refrigerated pizza crust

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 cup chopped sweet red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped sweet yellow bell pepper

1/2 medium onion, chopped

Combine tomato paste and water in a small bowl, and stir well. Spread on pizza crust. Top evenly with cheese. Arrange peppers and onion evenly over cheese.

Bake in preheated 450-degree oven 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese melts. Cut into 6 wedges. Makes 6 servings.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING: 236 calories; 6 grams fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 10 milligrams cholesterol; 352 milligrams sodium.

From ``Eat Right Lose Weight, 7 Simple Steps,'' Oxmoor House.

NO-FRY FRENCH TOAST

1 slightly beaten egg

1 slightly beaten egg white

3/4 cup low-fat milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Ground cinnamon

8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices French bread

1/4 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional)

Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick coating. In a pie plate combine egg, egg white, milk, vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon. Soak bread slices in egg mixture for about 1 minute per side. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake in preheated 450-degree oven 6 minutes or until bread is lightly browned. Turn bread over and bake 5 to 8 minutes more or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, for orange syrup, in a small saucepan, stir together orange peel, orange juice, honey, cornstarch and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more.

If desired, sift powdered sugar over toast. Serve with warm orange syrup. Makes 4 servings.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING: 171 calories; 3 grams fat; 29 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 54 milligrams cholesterol; 363 milligrams sodium.

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cookbook.''

SPICED SEAFOOD STEW

8 ounces fresh or frozen medium shrimp in shells

8 ounces fresh or frozen scallops

8 ounces (8 to 12) fresh mussels in shells

Water

Salt

1 cup finely chopped onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 cup fish OR vegetable broth

1 cup finely chopped tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground saffron

Flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Thaw shrimp and scallops, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact. Rinse shrimp and scallops; pat dry. Scrub mussels; remove beards.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups water and 3 tablespoons salt; soak mussels in salt water 15 minutes. Drain; rinse. Repeat twice.

In a large saucepan, cook onion and garlic in hot oil until tender. Stir in cumin, cinnamon and red pepper; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in broth, tomatoes, salt and saffron. Heat to boiling; add shrimp, scallops and mussels. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes or until mussel shells open (discard any that do not). If desired, garnish with flat-leaf parsley. Makes 4 servings.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING: 187 calories; 6 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 116 milligrams cholesterol; 503 milligrams sodium.

From ``The Smart Diet,'' edited by Kristi M. Fuller, R.D., Better Homes and Gardens Books.

TUSCAN RAVIOLI STEW

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large leek, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can beef broth

3/4 cup water

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

5 cups coarsely chopped broccoli rabe (6 ounces) (See Note)

1 (14 1/2 ounce) can no-salt-added stewed tomatoes

1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated chicken- OR cheese-filled ravioli

1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary OR 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese

Fresh rosemary (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add leek and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in broth, water and red pepper. Heat to boiling.

Stir in broccoli rabe, undrained tomatoes, ravioli and rosemary. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 7 to 8 minutes or until broccoli rabe and ravioli are tender. Ladle into bowls; top with cheese. If desired, garnish with rosemary. Makes 4 servings.

NOTE: If broccoli rabe is not available, substitute 1 small head escarole, a mildly bitter green. Coarsely chop and add to stew during last 2 minutes of cooking time. Or substitute regular broccoli, cooking same amount of time as broccoli rabe.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING: 320 calories; 13 grams fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 15 grams protein; 65 milligrams cholesterol; 704 milligrams sodium.

From ``The Smart Diet,'' edited by Kristi M. Fuller, R.D., Better Homes and Gardens Books.

MEDITERRANEAN TOSTADA

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Dash salt

Dash freshly ground black pepper

4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 recipe Hummus

2 whole wheat pita bread rounds, split and toasted

3/4 cup coarsely chopped tomato

1/2 cup chopped cucumber

Fresh cilantro (optional)

Plain fat-free yogurt (optional)

In a small bowl, combine oil, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper; set aside.

Place chicken on unheated rack of a broiler pan. Brush both sides with oil mixture. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink, turning once. Cool chicken slightly; coarsely chop chicken.

To serve, spread Hummus over toasted pita halves. Top with chicken, tomatoes and cucumber. If desired, garnish with cilantro and serve with yogurt. Makes 4 servings.

HUMMUS: In a blender container or food processor bowl, combine 1 (15- ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed, 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 3 tablespoons lemon OR lime juice, 3 tablespoons water, 2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved, 1/8 teaspoon salt and a dash bottled hot pepper sauce. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING: 311 calories; 8 grams fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 25 grams protein; 45 milligrams cholesterol; 664 milligrams sodium.

From ``The Smart Diet,'' edited by Kristi M. Fuller, R.D., Better Homes and Gardens Books.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH CHILI

1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) spaghetti squash

12 ounces lean ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1 (8-ounce) can low-sodium tomato sauce

2/3 cup tomato juice

1 (11-ounce) can whole kernel corn with sweet peppers, drained

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano, crushed OR 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 ounces) (optional)

Halve spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Place, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 45 to 50 minutes or until tender. Using a fork, shred and separate spaghetti squash into strands.

Meanwhile, for sauce, in a large skillet, cook beef, onion and garlic until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat.

Stir in cornstarch. Add tomato sauce and tomato juice. Stir in corn, chili powder and oregano. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more.

To serve, spoon meat mixture over spaghetti squash. If desired, top with cheese. Makes 4 servings.

MICROWAVE DIRECTIONS: Place squash halves, cut sides down, in a microwave-safe baking dish with 1/4 cup water. Cover and microwave 100-percent (high) power 15 to 20 minutes or until tender, rearranging once. Continue as above.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING: 291 calories; 9 grams fat; 35 grams carbohydrates; 20 grams protein; 54 milligrams cholesterol; 20 grams protein.

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cookbook.''

LEMON DESSERT WITH RASPBERRIES

1 (4-serving-size) package sugar-free lemon-flavored gelatin

1/2 cup boiling water

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated skim milk

1/2 of a 6-ounce can (1/3 cup) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed

2 cups cubed angel food cake

2 cups fresh raspberries

1 tablespoon sugar

Spray the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with nonstick coating. Set aside.

In a large bowl, dissolve lemon gelatin in boiling water. Stir in evaporated milk and thawed lemonade concentrate. Cover and refrigerate until mixture mounds when spooned (1 to 1 1/2 hours), stirring occasionally.

Beat gelatin mixture with an electric mixer on medium to high speed 5 to 6 minutes or until mixture is fluffy. Arrange angel food cake cubes in bottom of springform pan. Pour gelatin mixture over cake cubes. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or until firm.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together raspberries and sugar. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

To serve, remove sides of pan. Cut dessert into wedges; place on dessert plates. Top each serving with raspberries. Makes 12 servings.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING: 89 calories; 0 grams fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 1 milligram cholesterol; 107 milligram sodium.

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cookbook.''

To your health

For a smart and healthy lifestyle, incorporate some of these tips into your routine.

--Use low-fat half-and-half (a relative newcomer on the food scene) in sauces, cream soups, cream-based casserole dishes and scalloped potatoes for delicious flavor. Avoid evaporated milk, as it has a funny taste, notes Kristi Fuller, a registered dietitian.

--Use oil, such as good extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil or other flavored oils, but in small amounts - to boost flavor in dishes.

--Use broth or wine for flavor in sauces and stir-fry creations.

--A good nonstick skillet is a must-have. A grill pan is another great kitchen tool that's worth the investment.

--For convenience and ease, consider purchasing a table-top electric grill. The fat will drip from whatever meats you're cooking.

--Low-fat cheeses have improved in the last few years, but be aware that if they are cooked too long, they can become stringy and tough. Sprinkle on or add at the very end of the cooking or baking time. Fuller recommends using less of a regular but really flavorful cheese - like sharp, extra sharp (or blue or feta) - for best flavor.

--Keep in mind that most fat-free foods don't have a full-bodied flavor. Try low-fat products, but keep in mind that some brands taste better than others. Fuller herself prefers to use neither fat-free nor low-fat products, opting instead to rely on regular foods and simply reduce fat wherever possible. ``I still use butter - it has lots of flavor - I just don't use a lot of it.''

--Stir-fry foods in a nonstick skillet coated with nonstick vegetable oil sprays. Stretch meats with chopped vegetables in a dish.

--Broiling or grilling meats allows the fat to drip off during cooking, which helps in reducing calories (fat contains more calories per gram than either carbohydrates or proteins).

--Poaching meats in liquid is another way to trim calories. Instead of frying chicken or fish, try poaching in a small amount of broth or wine seasoned with some snipped fresh herbs.

--Don't forget that the microwave oven is a terrific way to cook vegetables quickly and without fat. Also use it for steaming and cooking fish and chicken as well. Look for recipes that use the microwave as it offers many one-dish meal options.

--When purchasing meats, look for the leanest possible. Also, trim all fat from meat prior to cooking. Drain all fat from meats after cooking.

--Since chicken skin is calorie-laden, remove it just before eating or cooking (some experts maintain that chicken dries out if the skin is removed before cooking).

--Read labels so you can choose foods that are low in fat and sodium.

--Beware of low-fat foods. Some may contain more calories than their regular-fat cousins.

--Watch your sugar intake. When you eat lots of sweets, you're most likely eating more calories than you need. Sweets aren't forbidden, but do try to choose wisely most of the time (such as a dessert made with fruit).

--Increase your fiber intake. Make an effort to include whole-grain breads and cereals, beans (dry) and fruit (with skin) in your diet.

--Don't skip meals, especially breakfast, as you'll only be extra hungry at the next meal, which may cause you to overeat. Incorporate small healthy snacks into your day to keep your blood sugars even and your energy high.

--Expand your food horizons - and be adventuresome in using new foods, herbs, spices and seasonings.

--Don't deprive yourself. Food restrictions often lead to overeating.

--Don't be a slave to the scale. Focus on what makes you happy and indulge in things that you enjoy, such as listening to great music, buying a new cookbook and making a gourmet meal, getting a massage or pedicure, or taking a relaxing walk at the park.

--Don't let life pass you by because you plan to lose weight first. Pursue your dreams today - which might include learning to tango, taking flying lessons, traveling to France or Italy, etc.

- Natalie Haughton

CAPTION(S):

10 photos, box

Photo: (1 -- cover -- color) no caption (Tuscan Ravioli Stew)

From ``The Smart Diet''

(2 -- cover -- color) no caption (No-fry French toast)

(3 -- cover -- color) no caption (Lemon Dessert with raspberries)

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cookbook

(4 -- color) Seafood simmered with spices makes a welcome dinner.

From ``The Smart Diet''

(5 -- color) NO-FRY FRENCH TOAST

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cookbook

(6 -- color) LEMON DESSERT WITH RASPBERRIES

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cookbook

(7 -- color) TUSCAN RAVIOLI STEW

From ``The Smart Diet''

(8 -- color) Serve stir-fried scallops and fresh vegetables over pasta.

From ``Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cookbook

(9 -- color) This vegetable-topped pizza goes together fast with a prepared refrigerated crust.

From ``Eat Right Lose Weight -- 7 Simple Steps.''

(10 -- color) MEDITERRANEAN TOSTADA

From ``The Smart Diet''

Box: To your health (see text)

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