[AD:foo]Whether your goal is to drop a few pounds, increase your overall health or both, starting a new diet should involve careful consideration and plenty of planning. Crash diets are almost always unhealthy and can't be kept up long term. Focus your goals around eating healthy foods, while changing your eating habits long-term rather than on fast, but unhealthy, results. The best place to start is by talking to your doctor or nutritionist to get a solid idea of what types of food you should be eating, and which ones to avoid. This also gives you an opportunity to ask questions that may help you successfully improve your health through diet. 

Are there any foods I should avoid?

Foods high in fat, sugar and empty calories should be avoided, but there may be other foods you should stay away from. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist and ask if there are any foods you should steer clear of while following your diet. 

How many meals should I eat per day?

Advice on the number of meals you should eat per day varies widely. Your nutritionist or doctor should be able to give you guidance on how much you should be eating per day, based on your current health, weight and goals. 

Which foods should I eat more of?

Knowing which foods to stay away from may be easier than knowing which foods you should be eating more often. Ask your nutritionist which foods would be best for you to eat more of, and then work to incorporate those foods into your daily diet. 

How much should I be eating at each sitting?

Portion sizes play a big part in eating a healthy diet. As with anything, too much of a good thing can fast become a bad thing. Ask your nutritionist or doctor how much you should be eating per meal, and try to stay within your "budget" every time you sit down to eat. 

How many calories should I consume each day?

Always ask what your daily calorie intake should be when starting a new diet, so you have a goal in mind each time you prepare your meal. You may also want to ask how much your calorie intake should increase or decrease over time, or during periods of illness or high activity. 

Which diet has worked best for you?

Before deciding on a new diet, ask your friends and family which diets have worked best for them in the past. You're likely to get several different answers, and the decision will ultimately be yours, but the information may help you plan the perfect diet for your specific needs. 

Do I have any allergies to foods that may cause problems with my diet?

Many Americans have food allergies. It's important to ask your doctor to do allergy testing to determine whether there are foods you should stay away from on your new diet. Common sensitivities include dairy intolerance and gluten intolerance or sensitivity, which can both lead to stomach discomfort and intestinal upset.