High-protein diets. Low-fat diets. Vegetarian diets. No-carb diets. With all the focus on dieting, how do you figure out what's healthy and what isn't? People diet for many reasons. Some are at an unhealthy weight and need to pay closer attention to their eating and exercise habits. Some play sports and want to be in top physical condition. Others may think they would look and feel better if they lost a few pounds. Lots of people feel pressured to lose weight and try different types of diets. But if you really need to lose weight, improving your eating habits and exercising will help you more than any fad diet. Can Diets Be Unhealthy? Everyone needs enough calories to keep their bodies running well. Any diet on which you don't eat enough calories and important nutrients can be harmful. Extreme low-fat diets also can be bad for you. Everyone needs some fat in their diet, so no one should eat a completely fat-free diet. About 30% of total calories should come from fat. Don't fall for diets that restrict food groups, either. A diet that says no carbs — like bread or pasta — or tells you to eat only fruit is unhealthy. You won't get the vitamins and minerals you need. And although you may lose weight at first, these diets don't usually work in the long run. Some people start dieting because they think all the problems in their lives are because of weight. Others have an area of their lives that they can't control, like an alcoholic parent, so they focus on something they can control — their exercise and what they eat. Eating too little (anorexia) or eating a lot only to throw up (bulimia) are eating disorders. Some people may find it hard to control their eating. They may eat tons of food and feel like they can't stop (binge eating disorder). Eating disorders are harmful to a person's health. Someone with an eating disorder needs medical treatment. So How Can I Lose Weight Safely? Teens need to be careful about dieting. Extreme dieting can cause problems if you don't get the right kinds and amounts of nutrients. But eating healthy meals and snacks and exercising can help you lose weight and support normal growth. Regular exercise can help teens feel healthier and better about themselves. The best way to diet is to eat a variety of healthy food. Aim to eat more fruits and veggies, whole grains, and drink water instead of sugary drinks like sports drinks or sodas. Cut back on meats high in fat (like burgers and hot dogs), fried foods, sweets, and other junk food. If you are concerned about your weight or think you need to lose weight, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian. Great Ways to Find Good Health If you are ready to make changes, here are some tried-and-true tips: Exercise! Be active every day. Walk to school, sign up for a fitness class, find a sport you like, or dance in your bedroom. It doesn't matter what you do — just move! Drink fat-free, low-fat milk, or water instead of sugary drinks. Eat at least five servings a day of fruits and veggies. Choose a variety of protein foods, like lean meat and poultry, seafood, beans, soy products, and nuts. Eat whole grains (like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal), which provide fiber to help you feel full. Eat breakfast. Studies show that people who eat breakfast do better in school, tend to eat less throughout the day, and are less likely to be overweight. Pay attention to portion sizes. Limit eating out and choose smaller sizes at fast-food restaurants. Avoid supersizing even if it feels like better value. Don't take diet pills or supplements, even ones you get over-the-counter. Dieting Danger Signs How do you know if your diet is out of control? Warning signs include: continuing to diet, even if you're not overweight eating in secret, sneaking food, or feeling out of control when you eat thinking about food all the time restricting activities or avoiding family and friends because of food or need to exercise fear of food wearing baggy clothes as a way to hide thinness vomiting after meals or using laxatives feeling weak, lightheaded, or dizzy from not eating If you, or someone you know, shows any of these signs, talk to a trusted adult or doctor. Back to Articles Related Articles 5 Ways to Reach a Healthy Weight Most dieters regain the weight they lost by dieting when they go back to their old eating habits. Get our tips on the best ways to drop excess weight. Read More Are Detox Diets Safe? The name sounds reassuring - everyone knows that anything toxic is bad for you. But detox diets aren't good for teens. Find out why. Read More Should I Go on a Diet? Find out what the experts have to say. Read More Staying at a Healthy Weight Here are some practical, everyday tips on making exercise and healthy eating work for you instead of feeling like it's the other way around. Read More Therapy and Weight Management Losing weight can feel like a challenge, no matter how much we want it. It can sometimes seem like our minds are working against us. That's where weight-management counselors can help. Read More Weight Loss Surgery Weight loss surgery works. But it's serious stuff, both physically and emotionally. Find out about two weight loss surgery options for teens. Read More Compulsive Exercise Compulsive exercise can lead to serious health problems. Lots of people don't know when they've crossed the line from healthy activity to unhealthy addiction. Read about ways to tell. Read More Becoming a Vegetarian People choose vegetarianism for a variety of reasons. This article describes different types of vegetarianism and provides advice on ways for vegetarians to get all the nutrients they need. Read More Body Image and Self-Esteem When your body changes, so can your image of yourself. Find out how your body image affects your self-esteem and what you can do. Read More How Can I Lose Weight Safely? Lots of people are unhappy with their present weight, but aren't sure how to change it - or even if they need to. Get the facts on weight loss here. Read More Eating Disorders Eating disorders are so common in America that 1 or 2 out of every 100 students will struggle with one. Find out more. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.