If it's early on in a new year and you've been eating a lot more broiled chicken, steamed vegetables, and salads, there's a fairly good chance there's a word that's been tossed around the dinner table quite a bit: diet. At the start of a new year, many people make resolutions to lose weight, and many people pursue that goal by going on a diet.

Have you ever been on a diet? Of course you have! How do we know? Because you're alive and you eat food! Your diet is actually just the foods you eat on a regular basis. What did you eat this week? That's your diet!

Many people use the word "diet" to mean something more specific, though. When you hear people say they're on a diet, they usually mean that they're trying to lose weight by limiting the amount of calories or the types of foods they eat.

Each food and drink you consume has a certain number of calories that corresponds to the amount of energy the food or drink provides to your body. The amount of calories you need to take in on a daily basis varies based upon your age, how active you are, and whether you're a boy or a girl.

In general, if you eat more calories than your body uses, your body will store those extra calories as fat. If, however, you burn more calories than you take in, your body will convert stored fat for energy, leading to weight loss. When people go on a diet, they try to limit the number of calories they eat in order to force their bodies to burn fat.

Almost everyone struggles with their weight from time to time. Because food is more abundant these days, people are often prone to eating more calories than their bodies require. We also tend to be more sedentary than past civilizations, when people had to walk to places instead of taking modern transportation and many people had jobs requiring physical labor instead of sitting at a desk.

It's a good idea to keep tabs on your weight, because it's important to maintain a healthy weight to feel your best. Going on diets is a common occurrence for many adults, but what about kids? Should kids diet if they're overweight?

Doctors and nutritionists usually don't recommend dieting for kids. Kids need a wide variety of nutrients from many different sources in order to provide their growing bodies with the vitamins, minerals, and fuel they need to thrive. Going on a diet can restrict the amount and types of foods to an extent that can be unhealthy for growing kids.

For example, some diets restrict your calorie intake so severely that your body might not be able to function properly without the fuel it needs. Fad diets often force you to eat only a certain, limited group of foods. This can be dangerous if you don't eat foods with vitamins and minerals you need.

Instead of going on a diet, doctors and nutritionists recommend that kids eat a well-balanced variety of healthy foods. In addition, eating right should be coupled with plenty of exercise in order to help kids reach and maintain a healthy weight.

If you're concerned about your weight, be sure to see a doctor before trying any kind of special diet that limits the calories or types of foods you eat. Your doctor will be able to give you advice about how best to reach your goal weight while still getting all the nutrients your body needs.

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