Text by: Nel Diaz
We’ve all struggled through this, and you know as much as everyone else does that getting rid of that pesky muffin top is almost as challenging as it is perplexing. Whether you’re trying to reduce those unwanted bulges for aesthetic purposes or to avoid serious health risks, shedding off those extra pounds has become a serious midlife issue for most of us.
Dropping pounds is a matter of simple math. The basic equation is to eat fewer calories than you burn. There’s no way around it. Needless to say, what you eat impacts your weight. You’ll be happy to know that there are a number of foods that are not only palatable but can also help you trim down your waistline. Chomp your way to a leaner you with these fabulous power foods while keeping your weight at bay.
Yes, chocolate – Because healthy does not equate with bland. Pick a square or two of dark over the milky version. In a Copenhagen study, chocolate lovers who were given dark chocolate ate 15% less pizza a few hours later than those who had eaten milk chocolate.
Don’t let the fat content of an avocado (29 grams) scare you—that’s what makes it a top weight loss food. The heart-healthy monounsaturated fat it contains increases satiety. And it’s terrific party food.
Add avocado to your sandwich instead of mayo for a creamy texture and a shot of flavor. Avocados do contain a lot of calories, so it’s best to watch your portions.
Like avocados, olive oil has healthy fat that increases satiety, taming your appetite. But that’s hardly its only slimming feature. Research shows it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation in the body is linked to metabolic syndrome, a set of physical conditions that increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Drizzle your salad with olive oil or toss pasta with a few teaspoons of olive oil, fresh basil, and sautéed garlic.
The vinegar that comes along for the ride in salad dressing also helps you feel full. Research has shown that vinegar can lessen the glycemic effect of a meal (meaning it tends not to spike your blood sugar), a factor correlated to satiety. Vinegar may also prevent body-fat accumulation, according to a 2009 animal study by Japanese researchers. Mice that were fed acetic acid – the main component of vinegar – for six weeks accumulated less body fat.
Sardines are high in protein and loaded with omega-3s, which also help the body maintain muscle. And they’re low in mercury and high in calcium, making them a smart fish pick for pregnant women. If the flavor doesn’t appeal to you, soak them in milk for an hour; this will remove any trace of fishiness.
Use sardines in recipes as a substitute for anchovies, say Caesar salad or pasta. Or make a sardine melt: Toss whole sardines with chopped onions, fresh herbs and diced bell peppers. Pair with whole grain bread.
Dietitians often refer to plain yogurt as the perfect food, and for a good reason: With its trifecta of carbs, protein and fat, it can stave off hunger by keeping blood sugar levels steady.
Use plain low-fat yogurt instead of mayonnaise in chicken or potato salad, or top a baked potato with a bit of yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice. You’ll save 4.7 grams of fat per tablespoon.
You can add more veggies to your diet, enjoy your “cheat” foods, and cut back on the calories you’re eating all at the same time. When Penn State researchers added pureed cauliflower and zucchini to mac and cheese, people seemed to like the dish just as much. But they ate 200 to 350 fewer calories. Those healthy vegetables added low-cal bulk to the tasty dish.
Not only do fish fats keep your heart healthy, but they shrink your waist, too. Omega-3 fatty acids improve insulin sensitivity—which helps build muscle and decrease belly fat. And the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns. Opt for salmon; it may contain fewer pollutants.
Sidra Forman, a chef and writer in Washington, D.C. says with salmon, “…simple is best. Season a fillet with salt and pepper, then cook it in a hot pan with 2 teaspoons of oil for 1 to 3 minutes on each side.”
All oats are healthful, but the steel-cut and rolled varieties (which are minimally processed) have up to 5 grams of fiber per serving, making them the most filling choice. Instant oats contains 3 to 4 grams per serving.
Instead of using breadcrumbs, add oats to meat loaf—about 1 cup for a recipe that serves eight. Or try this recipe for turkey and oatmeal meatballs.
Dig in to eggs, yolks and all: They won’t harm your heart, but they can help you trim inches. A protein-rich breakfast may help you resist snack attacks throughout the day. In a study of a group of obese young women, those who started the day with 35 grams of protein – that’s probably way more than what you’re eating – felt fuller right away.
If you can’t cook before work, bake a frittata on Sunday; chill it and nuke slices for up to a week.
Skip the apple juice or the applesauce and opt instead for a crunchy apple. Research shows that whole fruit blunts appetite in a way that fruit juices and sauces don’t. One reason is that raw fruit contains more fiber. Plus, chewing sends signals to our brain that we’ve eaten something substantial.
People who chomped an apple before a pasta meal ate fewer calories overall than those who had a different snack. Plus, the antioxidants in apples may help prevent metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by excess belly fat or an “apple shape.”
Apples are the ideal on-the-go low-calorie snack. For a pie-like treat, chop up a medium apple and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp allspice and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Pop in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.
This natural sweetener has also shown great promise in animal studies for reducing weight gain and body fat when substituted for sugar. Known to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, honey boasts wide-ranging health benefits. It may improve blood sugar control and immunity, and it’s an effective cough suppressant.
While spot-reducing fat only through weights or anaerobic exercise is a common myth, combined with proper nutrition and cardiovascular exercise, toning specific areas like the midsection of our body is achievable. By eating nutritious foods that promote fat loss and prevent water retention, you’ll be well on your way to a sleek, and healthier you.