To curb the escalating rates of obesity in California and across the nation, it is imperative to identify dietary behaviors that prevent excessive weight gain. Reports in the press are often conflicting and more often confuse than clarify the issue of what people should eat to prevent obesity. We recently conducted a comprehensive review of the literature published between 1992 and 2003 on the dietary determinants of obesity in children and adults. We examined secular trend data, mechanistic research, observational studies and prevention trials. We found that the dietary factors related to increased obesity were high intakes of dietary fat, sweetened beverages and restaurant-prepared foods, and the increased likelihood of skipping breakfast. Factors most likely to protect against obesity were the higher consumption of dietary fiber, fruits and vegetables, calcium and dairy products.