Ah yes…we’re in the peak of diet season, that lovely time when we vow we will finally get in shape, once and for all.  But it’s so easy to get snowed under a blizzard of books, all claiming to offer the perfect slimming solution.  Which one to choose?  And most of those books are pretty unrealistic anyway.  If I really had the time or money to buy and cook all those gourmet diet meals, and do all those complicated workouts, I’d be doing it already.  I’m looking for something realistic – a diet and fitness plan that I enjoy and is easy and cheap to do.
So off I went, scouring the net for something suitable.  It was harder than I thought.  Most of the good online diet planners or software cost money, and I insisted on a price of zero.  But I did finally find a couple of good sites, where, if you invest a little time, you’ll have a diet filled with all your favorite foods – a diet you’ll more likely stick to.  Here are my top picks:


WebMD is a leading and trustworthy site for health information.  Chances are you looked up your kid’s latest illness here, but did you know they offer lots of great nutrition and fitness help?  Get started with their Healthy Eating and Diet page: WebMD Healthy Eating and Diet  They have a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator, a diet evaluator, healthy recipes, and best of all, a Food & Fitness Planner: WebMD Food & Fitness Planner

You’ll need to enter your gender, height, current weight, age, activity level, and weight loss goals.  Then the planner will calculate what your goal weight range should be, your ideal fitness activity level, and how many daily calories you need in order to achieve that goal.  Then the real fun begins.  You can add foods to your plan; just enter the name in the search box on the site.  For example, enter "apple" and you’ll see a long list that includes fresh apple, applesauce, etc.  Choose whichever one you actually want to have on your menu, and the site will add the corresponding calories and nutritional counts to your personal plan.  Keep doing this until you have a full day’s worth of meals and snacks.  You can tweak it to make sure you meet your goals.
Overall, it’s a great site but they unfortunately don’t give you the ability to plan more than one day at a time, so you’ll have to repeat the process to create different menus for different days, and that can be tedious.
You might remember that the USDA, with some fanfare, introduced the nutritional pyramid a while back.  The various food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat & beans) are depicted as sections of the pyramid, with a set of stairs along one side of the pyramid to indicate the need for exercise.  I’m not sure I ever fully grasped the concept.  But anyway, the government’s site also happens to have an excellent online menu planner called My Pyramid Tracker