When watching calories, “low-fat” and “fat-free” products seem like a no-brainer, right? Paradoxically, rising sales of these products have paralleled ballooning overweight statistics in the United States. When eating low-fat foods, people tend to eat more, researchers say. For instance, study subjects ate 28 percent more “low-fat” chocolate candies than “regular” candies in one recent study. “Reduced-fat labels can cause people to underestimate calories, increase serving size, and temper feelings of guilt after polishing off a box of reduced-fat cookies,” says Brain Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating (Bantam, 2006). And here’s the real rub: Low-fat items shave, on average, only 11 percent of calories from traditional versions because sugar often is added to replace fat. Most people are better off choosing regular products and eating smaller amounts, Wansink says.

How many calories do you need to burn?
To estimate the number of calories that would keep you at your current weight, go to nutritiondata.com/tools/calories-burned. From your maintenance calorie number, start by trimming 10 to 15 percent of those calories, or no more than 500 calories total. This is conservative compared to many diet programs, but it’s a realistic number that most people can tolerate.

Slow down! Healthy women who scarfed down a meal took in 66 extra calories—and felt less full—than when they lingered three times as long over the same meal, in a University of Rhode Island study. Taking smaller bites, chewing thoroughly, putting down utensils between bites, and making meals a social affair can all help slow your tempo.