DRINK LESS TO EAT LESS
People who quaff sugar-free soft drinks are 41 percent more likely to gain weight than people who drink regular sodas, according to a University of Texas study. Experts speculate the body isn't fooled by zero-calorie sweets and that it actually searches for sugary foods to make up for calories it expected to get from a faux-sugar beverage.

LET FLAVOR LEAD
Add satisfying flavor without calories, trans fats, or other diet evildoers: Try bold-flavored spicy-pecan or tequila-lime vinegars (available through cuisineperel.com) on salad greens and grilled fish. Or liven up pan-seared chicken with a few spoonfuls of Salpica Cilantro Green Olive Salsa (fronterakitchens.com).

ADD 20, LOSE 20
Dish up 20 percent less pasta on your plate and replace it with 20 percent more vegetables, says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating. His studies have found that most people can eat 20 percent less without triggering feelings of hunger.

BALANCE THE FRESH AND COOKED
Manage your food like you would your closet (you get the high-end sandals but the affordable skirt), recommend Melissa Clark and Robin Aronson, authors of The Skinny: How to Fit Into Your Little Black Dress Forever. If the last thing you ate was processed, the next thing you eat should be fresh (as in fruits and vegetables). If you splurged on fried food at lunch, then the next meal should be grilled or steamed.

--Maureen Callahan

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