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Published February 22, 2012, 11:30 PM

Book offers common-sense diet tips: Portion control key in convenience-food consumption

Dr. Charles Platkin promises “you can hit the snack, ready-to-eat, canned, and frozen food aisles at the grocery store, pick up fast food, dine out at your favorite restaurants, and eat your breakfast on the run” – and still lose weight - He’s right.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

Dr. Charles Platkin promises “you can hit the snack, ready-to-eat, canned, and frozen food aisles at the grocery store, pick up fast food, dine out at your favorite restaurants, and eat your breakfast on the run” – and still lose weight.

He’s right.

In his latest book, “The Diet Detective’s All-American Diet” (Rodale, $19.99), Platkin lays out a common-sense weight-loss plan using the foods we’re most familiar with.

“You just have to make the right choices,” says the blogger, columnist and author whose motto is “Think before you eat!”

Platkin acknowledges that the foods he recommends in his “All-American Diet” aren’t ideal. He calls them “stepping-stones.”

“You may not be able to go to the farmers’ market on a daily basis and pick up organic produce,” he writes. “However, by using this book, you will lose weight, get more interested in fitness, gradually change your diet, and start living a brand-new life.”

In other words, each changed behavior leads to another, and another, and so on.

People (myself included) often think, “Oh, I don’t have any willpower, I can’t lose weight.” Platkin says that’s not true. “Weight loss is more about power than willpower. You need to give yourself the power to lose weight.”

The power lies in “the preparation, the practice, the failure, the planning, and so on,” and the preparation starts with determining your daily caloric needs.

According to the equation on Page 10, I need to eat 2,680 calories a day to lose weight. I got an even higher number when I used the website listed to get “a more accurate calculation of calorie needs.” There’s no way I’ll lose weight eating that much.

The book does say that “If your plan ADDS UP to more than 2,500 calories per day (the highest number I recommend), you should check with your physician about the appropriate calorie level for you to lose weight.”

From what I’ve learned, I should be in the 1,600-to-1,800-calorie range to lose weight at a healthy rate.

I was happy to see a warning about eating too little and an explanation of “starvation mode”:

“But under no circumstances should you eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day. Not only is this not considered healthy for most adults, but also it will cause your metabolism to slow down, which will make it harder to lose weight. Your body slows down your metabolism if it believes you are starving, and if you slash too many calories, that’s exactly what will happen.”

In his Build-a-Meal introduction, Platkin suggests “taking 30 minutes or so to sit down and figure your entire week’s worth of eating.” Call me lazy, but I can’t see myself planning an entire week’s food intake, let alone following it.

The sample meal plans and product images make it easy to visualize what you’ll be eating, but pay attention to the quantities. Symbols indicate vegetarian, low-carb and sodium-controlled options.

Some of the food selections are odd, like the inclusion of Lean Cuisine Szechuan-Style Stir Fry with Shrimp in Breakfast Sides and Morning Snacks, and Nature’s Path Wildberry Acai Organic Frosted Toaster Pastries in Lunch Entrees.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to eat shrimp stir-fry as a mid-morning snack, and although I may consider Diet Coke and a Strawberry Pop-Tart a perfectly acceptable lunch, I don’t think a toaster pastry is a nutritionally advisable mid-day meal.

Also: Really, Spam? Blech! (Sorry, Austin-ites.)

However, I was happy to see Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Original Cup among Lunch Sides and Afternoon Snacks. It’s one of my favorite post-deadline snacks that I keep stocked in my file cabinet here. Sure, it’s a little bowl of simple carbohydrates and powdered cheese, but at least it’s only 220 calories’ worth.

The Frequently Asked Questions section at the end of the book includes sensible advice. Don’t skip it. I could probably benefit from reading it a few more times myself.

There, Platkin addresses an important reality of any weight-loss program – slipups. “We all make mistakes, and pigging out while on a diet is not a failure. It’s just a slipup, a temporary setback that you can overcome. All is not lost.” Remember that occasional slipups are OK.

Using convenient, widely available foods, the Diet Detective teaches the weight-loss basics of “portion control, behavior change and proper nutrition.”

Readers can reach Forum columnist Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5523