The American Dietetic Association (ADA) Diet
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The American Dietetic Association (ADA) Diet

This eating plan -- developed by the experts at the ADA -- will help you lose weight and develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

A Diet You Can Live With

When respondents to our Ladies' Home Journal American Woman Survey last year reported that their weight is one of the most dissatisfying aspects of their lives -- fully 61 percent are not happy with what the bathroom scale tells them -- we developed a research-based, healthy, doable diet. The result is the Ladies' Home Journal/American Dietetic Association Diet of the Century. This diet isn't about quick weight loss (which on fad diets is mostly water loss); it focuses on helping you develop eating habits you can really live with. Guided by the USDA Food Guide Pyramid (an outline of what to eat every day based on dietary requirements), we created a diet plan that is low in fat and recipes that offer great taste and variety. There's even room for snacks and desserts.


We put this diet plan to the test with 20 women who needed to lose weight. During a 12-week period, our dieters met three times with a registered dietitian to help them adapt the eating plan to fit their food likes and dislikes and activity levels. Then the dieters were on their own, and most of them chose to either continue the plan and lose more weight or to go on maintenance, which involves using the Food Guide Pyramid to plan meals, but also allows more servings.


All 20 women stayed on the diet and all lost weight -- though some more than others. But no matter what their personal weight results were, all of our dieters learned new healthy habits and were encouraged that they can incorporate these changes into their daily lives. We think you'll be pleased with the Ladies' Home Journal/ American Dietetic Association Diet of the Century as our dieters were.


Here's our meal-by-meal eating plan -- it's simple enough to follow on your own. These balanced menus, which you can mix and match as you like, are based on the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. We aimed for an average of 1,550 total calories a day (1,400 calories from the menu and 150 from snacks or a dessert each day). You choose where the 150 calories come from. And remember, the more active you are, the faster you will shed pounds. This eating plan is one the whole family can enjoy, but if your family members aren't dieting with you, just increase their portion size.

Researched by Michele Peters, R.D., and Patricia Cobe. Desserts by Carol Prager and Jane Yagoda Goodman; all by Michele Peters, R.D.


  • 1 oz. (3/4 to 1 cup) unsweetened ready-to-eat cereal or 1 cup cooked hot cereal with 1/2 cup sliced banana or 1 tablespoon raisins and 1/2 cup skim milk; 1 slice whole-grain toast with 1 teaspoon jam; coffee or tea
  • Wedge of cantaloupe or 1/2 cup strawberries; 1 scrambled egg or 2 egg whites cooked in nonstick skillet with vegetable cooking spray, rolled in one (6-inch) flour tortilla; 1 cup skim or 1 percent milk; coffee or tea
  • 3/4 cup orange or grapefruit juice; 1 plain bagel or English muffin with 1 tablespoon nonfat cream cheese; 1/2 cup skim or 1 percent milk


  • 3/4 cup mixed-vegetable juice; open-face ham and cheese sandwich: 2 oz. lean ham topped with 2 thin slices (1 oz.) Jarlsberg cheese and 1 teaspoon honey mustard on 1 slice bread; 1/2 cup cucumber slices mixed with 2 teaspoons balsamic or rice wine vinegar; 1 cup skim or 1 percent milk
  • Pasta-vegetable salad: 1 cup cooked pasta tossed with 1 cup steamed vegetables and 1 tablespoon low-fat or fat-free vinaigrette; 1 cup nonfat fruit yogurt
  • 1 cup prepared vegetable or lentil soup; 1 small whole-wheat roll; 1 oz. reduced-fat cheese; 1 piece fresh fruit


Fear not! You needn't go dessert-less while you diet, as long as your choices are wise ones. Some sweet-ending options:

  • 1/2 cup low-fat frozen yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fruit sorbet
  • Plain frozen-yogurt pop
  • Frozen fruit bar or pop
  • 1/2 cup fruit-flavored gelatin
  • Baked apple topped with 1 tablespoon low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 gingersnaps, vanilla wafers, or graham crackers
  • 1 slice (1-inch) angel food cake topped with 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 piece fresh fruit
  • 4 Hershey's Kisses
  • 2 miniature candy bars
  • Orange Pound Cake
  • Chocolate Angel Food Cake


Snacking while dieting isn't taboo. In fact, it's a good idea, because it can keep you from pigging out at dinnertime. Here are some smart snack suggestions (or choose any snack that is 150 calories or less).


  • 1 oz. fat-free potato chips
  • 8 baked tortilla chips with 2 T. salsa
  • 2 fig-filled cookies


  • 1/2 cup seltzer or sparkling water mixed with 1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 3 cups unbuttered air-popped popcorn
  • 3 plain breadsticks
  • 2 rice cakes spread with 1 teaspoon jam
  • 2 flatbreads
  • 1/2 cantaloupe
  • 1 piece fresh fruit (banana, apple)
  • 1 cup prepared chicken noodle soup
  • 3/4 cup prepared sugar-free hot chocolate


  • 10 baby carrots
  • 10 pretzel sticks
  • 1 sugar-free frozen pop


The following table provides three weeks worth of dinner options. Click on highlighted entrees for their recipes.




Sunday Three-Bean Chili with rice; 1 cup mixed green salad 2 teaspoons low-fat or fat-free dressing; Baked tortilla chips Grilled Steak Fajitas with rice; Sliced orange and red onion salad: 1/2 cup oranges layered with rings sprinkled teaspoon fat-free dressing Carrot and celery sticks; Pork with Apples and Cabbage; 1 cup mixed green salad with 2 teaspoons fat-free dressing
Monday 4 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast, marinated in fat-free Italian dressing and grilled; 1/2 cup cooked bulgur wheat; steamed sugar snap peas or green beans; slice French bread 3/4 cup mixed-vegetable juice; 1/4 barbecued chicken, skin removed (homemade or takeout); cooked ear corn on the cob kernels; health salad (from deli); to 2 slices Italian bread 1/4 pound grilled turkey sausages; 1/2 cup cooked noodles or orzo; sauteed peppers and onions (cooked in nonstick skillet coated with vegetable cooking spray); small (6-inch) pita bread
Tuesday Shells with Tuna and Peppers; 1 to 2 slices Italian bread; green salad with lemon wedge Carrot and celery sticks Soy-GingerSoy-Ginger Salmon with sesame spinach and orzo Citrus-Baked Sea Bass; 1/2 cup cooked couscous; spinach salad with 2 teaspoons fat-free dressing
Wednesday Marinated cucumbers: 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced; 6 sliced radishes mixed with tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon each sugar soy sauce;Asian Pork and Vegetables Burger with the works: 4 oz. extra-lean ground round, grilled, served on toasted English muffin topped 1 teaspoon ketchup, 2 lettuce leaves, tomato slices and slice sweet onion; Small baked potato tablespoons prepared salsa 1 cup prepared vegetable soup; Chef's Salad: 2 cups mixed salad greens tossed with 1 oz. cooked turkey strips, lean ham or roast beef Jarlsberg cheese assorted cut-up vegetables (fresh mushrooms, green beans, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, bell peppers) and tablespoon nonfat dressing; to slices Italian bread
Thursday 4 oz. scrod, flounder or other white fish, broiled with lemon; 2 small red potatoes, boiled; 1/2 cup steamed sliced zucchini green vegetable; slices French Italian bread; teaspoon butter margarine Hearty Vegetable Soup; 2 slices whole grain bread with 1 oz. reduced-fat cheese Rigatoni with Vegetables; 2 cups salad greens with 1 tablespoon low-fat or nonfat dressing; 1 slice Italian bread
Friday Wedge of melon; 1 cup cooked pasta topped with
1/2 cup prepared marinara sauce; 2 cups mixed green salad with 1 tablespoon fat-free dressing; 2 breadsticks
Turkey Parmigiana with spaghetti; 1/2 cup steamed broccoli 1 cup sliced jicama tossed with 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice and/4 teaspoon salt; Lemon Chicken and Broccoli with rice
Saturday Chicken Vegetable Curry with couscous; 1 cup spinach salad with 2 teaspoons fat-free dressing Light Shrimp Risotto; 1 cup mixed green salad with 2 teaspoons low-fat or fat-free dressing; small dinner roll Grilled Steak with Potatoes; Sliced tomato and cucumber salad