I recently read the NY Time's piece "Why Nutrition Is So Confusing." To sum it up, the author questions the validity of nutrition research in terms of dieting in order to avoid developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Over time, 600,000 research articles have been published focusing nutrition for obesity and diabetes. Even so, American's are just getting bigger and bigger. Healthcare costs are sky rocketing.
I do see where the author is coming from BUT I do believe that there are some undeniable truths about nutrition.
Calories In, Calories Out
This is an oversimplification but if you eat more calories than your body burns - you will gain weight. On the opposing end, if you burn more calories than you ingest, you will lose weight. Finally, if you are burning what you are eating you will be at a stable weight. Again, this is not definitive as age, activity, metabolism and TYPE of food will play a role in weight/health but the underlying idea is true.
Whole foods vs. Processed foods
If your great, great grandmother could enjoy it, I say go for it. Eating food at it's most natural state is best for health. The more ingredients added the more likely it is to have adverse effects. These additives are commonly food dyes and chemicals to increase shelf life. I'm sure you have heard how Subway just removed the chemical Azodiacarbonamide from their bread. This chemical is actually found in rubber used for shoe soles and yoga mats! Who wants rubber in their bread? No one. When I was in my teens I would "diet" using a ton of Splenda and products like Special K and Kashi. These brands are marketed as low calorie, which they are, but they also come with some hidden surprises.
Choose whole grains over processed refined starches
Unless you are on Dialysis (and even this research is questionable), always choose whole grain products. When refined grains are created the germ and bran are removed from the grain kernel via a heating process leaving the endosperm (starch.) All of the fiber and nutrients are removed. This is done to increase shelf life and to create a smoother texture. In other words, it is done in order for the food corporations to make that money. Whole grains provide energy, vitamins and fiber promoting a healthy digestive system & aiding in weight loss/weight maintenance.
Don't remove a "food group" (protein, carbohydrates, fat)
Over the past twenty years or so, removing a whole food group from your diet is a popular weight loss strategy. For example, both the Atkins and Dukan diet promote a diet FULL of protein and removal of all carbohydrates. Shutting out a food group puts you at risk for nutritional deficiencies. It also will make you CRAVE and WISH for that one thing you are denying yourself. It is just human nature. These diets usually are short term and when one returns to eating "normally", the weight returns.
What works for you might not work for the next person
I prefer 3 meals with 2 (or 3) small snacks per day. Others may chose six small meals while some follows the lead of horses and cattle grazing throughout the day. There isn't a conclusive answer to an eating pattern that works best. I do believe, you MUST start your day with breakfast even if this is only a piece of fruit or toast. Past that, it is an individual choice to what you and your body agree with.
Live a little
This mantra is something that I am learning everyday as I get older. You can enjoy in moderation. You won't gain three pounds from having some rice. If you go overboard and have the BAG of rice, then look out. It is honestly sometimes a challenge for me to be able to enjoy everything without going overboard or completely restricting. All you can do is try.