So, you want to lose weight and live a healthier life in the New Year? Great news! Setting out on a life changing journey towards better health is a big step and figuring out what to do first can be overwhelming. While feeling this way is totally normal, making moves in the right direction is actually quite simple—and we're here to help!
Before you sign up for a gym membership, buy a yoga mat, or throw out your "fat" pants, head to the kitchen. This should be the first step for every dieter. While this may sound counterintuitive, better bodies are truly made in the kitchen. Every bite of wholesome food that passes your lips will get you one step closer to the figure you've always wanted. It's far easier to just eat fewer, more nutritionally dense calories than run on the treadmill all morning to work off a platter of pancakes.
After you've dumped all the "yuck" from your fridge and cupboard (if it's on this list, toss it!), head to the store and re-stock your kitchen with the items below. Everything on our must-buy list for 2017 is teeming with nutrients that will not only help you lose weight but will help you live a longer, healthier life, too. And for even better results, incorporate some of these 35 Tips to Live Longer into your daily routine!
FRUITS & VEGGIES
Spinach is Popeye's favorite veggie for good reason. Not only is it one of the most protein-packed veggies around, it's also a potent source of antioxidants, heart-healthy folate, and countless health-protective vitamins. To get the most nutrition from every serving, steam your spinach instead of eating it raw. This cooking method helps retain vitamins and makes it easier for the body to absorb the green's calcium content. Add a handful to soups or omelets, use it to make a salad or quinoa bowl, or simply steam it and top with pepper, garlic, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon.
Tomatoes are packed with the antioxidant lycopene, which studies show can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease. Just one cup of the sun-dried version will lend you 7 grams of super satiating fiber (a potent weight loss nutrient) and ¾ of the day's potassium, which is essential for heart health and tissue repair. Tomatoes—both dried and fresh—are also rich in vitamins A and K. Use them as a pizza, sandwich, burger, or salad addition.
Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are packed with polyphenols, powerful naturally occurring chemicals that can help you lose weight–and even stop fat from forming! In a recent Texas Woman's University study, researchers found that feeding mice three daily servings of berries decreased the formation of fat cells by up to 73 percent. A University of Michigan study showed similar results. What's more, rats who had blueberry powder mixed into their meals had less belly fat at the end of the 90-day study than rats on a berry-free diet. But aside from the waist-whittling effects, berries are a solid addition to your diet for other reasons; several reports have connected consistent berry consumption to a decreased risk of age-related mental decline and Parkinson's disease.
If you typically have a piece of fruit as a snack between meals, vow to make it a grapefruit at least a few times a week. A study printed in the journal Metabolism found the eating half a grapefruit before meals may help reduce visceral fat and lower cholesterol levels. Participants of the six-week study who ate grapefruit with every meal saw their waists shrink by up to an inch! Researchers attribute the effects to a combination of phytochemicals and vitamin C, a nutrient that can lower levels of waist-expanding cortisol levels.
Unfortunately, spinach artichoke dip will never make it onto any resolution-friendly shopping list—but one of its main ingredients makes the cut. One medium artichoke boasts a quarter of the day's vitamin C, 19 percent of recommended intake of magnesium, and an impressive 7 grams of fiber, a nutrient vital to sustained weight loss. Boil and eat the whole shebang as a self-contained salad with a little goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, or toss the leaves with your favorite greens and dressing. For even more satiating foods to add to your diet in 2017, don't miss these 30 High Fiber Food That Should Be In Your Diet.
Whether mild or spicy, a few servings of peppers a week can help you reach your 2017 weight loss goals! What makes the veggie so slimming? It's a source of a metabolism-boosting compound called dihydrocapsiate. Peppers are also overflowing with vitamin C, a nutrient that counteracts the stress hormones that trigger fat storage around the midsection.
In addition to warding off prostate, breast, lung and skin cancers, this flowery vegetable can also help you whittle your middle. How? Broccoli contains a phytonutrient called sulforaphane that increases testosterone and fights off body fat storage. It's also rich in vitamin C (a mere cup of the stuff can help you hit the recommended daily intake), a nutrient that can lower levels of cortisol during stressful situations, helping those abs take center stage. The only downside? It can make some people with sensitive stomachs a bit gassy—which isn't a good look if you're planning to wear a tight-fitting outfit. That's no reason to steer clear of this veggie on a day-to-day basis, though. Whip up our Garlicky Beef and Broccoli with Broccoli Noodles recipe to reap the belly-flattening benefits—just not the day before you need to look your leanest.
They may make your breath stinky, but onions definitely deserve a place in your shopping cart in the New Year. The multi-layered veggie is rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that increases blood flow and activates a protein in the body that helps regulate glucose levels, torches stored fat, and keeps new fat cells from forming. Not to mention, onions are basically the unsung hero of cardiovascular health. The culinary staple has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, ward off hardening of the arteries, and help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. The best part? They're super low-cal, full of flavor, and easy to throw into just about anything including soup, burgers, sandwiches, as well as veggie and starch sides.
Sprouted Grain Bread
A lot of people think that they have to ditch bread to lose weight. But that's so not the case. You just need to rethink your loaf. Instead of white bread or other packages sound healthy (but aren't), opt for a sprouted grain bread like Ezekiel. (You'll find this fan favorite in the freezer section.) "The bread that sits on the shelves at grocery stores have been bleached of their nutrients and pumped with preservatives, sodium, and sugar to prolong shelf life," cautions registered dietician Lisa Hayim. "Sprouted grain bread goes through a process where enzymes are released and the protein and carbohydrates are broken down, which makes it easier for the body to digest and absorb nutrients. Sprouted grains still contain gluten, but can be tolerated by some people with mild sensitivity to wheat or gluten." For even more ways to eat carbs throughout the New Year—and still reach your better-body goals—don't miss our special report 20 Secrets for Eating Bread Without Getting Fat.
Oh, quinoa, let us count the ways we love you! Not only are you tasty and versatile, you're healthy and slimming, too. According to a American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report, eating three servings of whole grains daily was linked with a reduction in systolic blood pressure. And yup, you guessed it, quinoa is a whole grain—and a filling one at that! One cup of cooked quinoa has 5 grams of fiber and a whopping 8 grams of protein—all for 222 calories. It's also a good source of magnesium and antioxidants, substances that fight off disease-causing free radicals.
Oatmeal is definitely the unofficial king of breakfast. Not only is it cheap and super versatile (it can go from sweet to savory with ease), it's overflowing with health benefits. Thanks to its high fiber content, eating oats could help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. And since it's one of the very best sources of resistant starch, making the hot cereal part of your morning routine could also help you lose weight, too. Resistant starch digests super slowly and triggers the release of digestive acids that suppress appetite and accelerate calorie-burn. One study found that swapping just 5 percent of daily carbohydrates for resistant starch could boost metabolism by a whopping 23 percent. Impressive stuff! Not a huge fan of oatmeal? Rethink your oats by whipping up some chilled overnight oats!
Sure, they're known for their protein content, but eggs serve up more than just fuel for your muscles. Just one large egg contains almost a quarter of the recommended intake of selenium, a nutrient that helps support immunity and regulates thyroid hormones. And as long as you eat the yolk, you'll also get a serving of choline, a nutrient that attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver, helping you ward off cardiovascular disease and fit into your skinny jeans. The best part? There are tons of ways to incorporate the low-cost protein source into your diet. These 25 Delicious Egg Recipes to Stay Skinny are a great place to start.
Beans & Legumes
Trying to trim down—and cut back on spending? Consider beans and legumes your new go-to staples. A four pack of 15-ounce cans of beans from Wal-Mart costs a mere $2.50! And the cost per ounce drops even further if you buy dried varieties. As for the health benefits, consider these findings from a four-week Spanish study: Researchers discovered that study participants who ate a calorie-restricted diet that included four weekly servings of legumes lost more weight than those on a calorie-equivalent diet that didn't include beans—likely due to their belly-filling fiber content. A study published in the journal Obesity backs that assumption; the researchers found that eating 160 grams—or a little more than a half cup—of legumes led people to feel 31 percent more satisfied. Beans are super easy to add to salads and soups, or you can even try one of these 10 Pulse Pastas You Need In Your Life.
A 3-ounce cooked chicken breast contains only 142 calories and 3 grams of fat but packs a whopping 26 grams of protein which is more than half of what each of us should get in a day. That's why the protein source is a cornerstone of so many weight loss plans. But the go-to protein can be a fail on the taste front. Thankfully, these 10 Chef Secrets for How to Cook Chicken Breasts Perfectly can help!
While poultry may be your everyday go-to, sometimes it's nice to add some red meat to the mix. Not only does it add some much-needed variety to your diet, it serves up some nutrients that are hard to get from other protein sources—especially if you're not particularly keen on fish. Like fatty fish, grass-fed beef contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. And not only that, grass-fed burgers and steak are naturally leaner than conventionally raised cows. A lean 7-ounce conventional strip steak, for example, has 386 calories and 16 grams of fat, while a 7-ounce grass-fed strip steak has only 234 calories and five grams of fat. A better tasting dish that's actually healthier for you?! Sign us up!
Fatty fish like wild salmon are some of the very best foods for weight loss. Sure these protein sources are high in calories and fat, but don't let that scare you away. In one International Journal of Obesity study, researchers found that participants who ate three 5-ounce servings of salmon per week for four weeks as part of a low-calorie diet lost two more pounds that their counterparts who followed an equal calorie diet that didn't include fish. Wild salmon is leaner than farmed, which is plumped up on fishmeal. It's also proven to be significantly lower in cancer-linked PCBs. So, stick with the wild stuff! It's one food that's 100 percent worth the extra cash.
4% Greek Yogurt
A solid source of protein, calcium, and probiotics, Greek yogurt has all the makings of one of the best foods you can eat for weight loss and general health—especially those made with whole milk. While adding more fat to your bowl may seem counterintuitive, whole-milk yogurts tend to have more protein and less sugar than their leaner versions. That means they'll keep you fuller and more satisfied so you won't need to take a trip to the vending machine mid-morning. And don't worry about the extra cals, either. Many manufacturers keep the portion size of the full fat yogurts a bit smaller than their low-fat products to keep the calorie counts reasonable. If you typically buy the big tubs, be sure to spoon a bit less into your bowl. If you typically spring for a ¾ cup, dial it back to a ½ cup serving.
Hard cheeses like parmesan are higher in protein, calcium, and lower in fat than softer cheeses like cheddar or Swiss. Bonus: There's less lactose in those sprinkles or chunks of Parmesan than many other cheeses—meaning that your belly is less likely to balloon after you nibble. Make the switch in 2017 to get the flat belly you've been after!
SPREADS & CONDIMENTS
There's no doubt about it: 2016 was butter's big comeback year—mostly because the masses finally realized that fat is nothing to fear! In fact, real butter (particularly the grass-fed kind) is an excellent source of fatty acids that can support weight loss. One acid, butyrate, can help dieters by improving the function of mitochondria—the "batteries" in your cells that help keep you young. Another fatty acid, conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, is actually sold commercially as a fat-burning supplement. Vow to ditch those lower-calorie margarines and butter "spreads" and spread your bread and baked potatoes with the good stuff!
Whether you enjoy the stuff spread on sandwiches, in your smoothies, or straight from the jar, we're totally behind your obsession with nut butter. As long as you're buying the wholesome variety (jars filled with nothing more than nuts and salt), you're bound to be consuming a plethora of nutrients and healthy fats that can please your taste buds and help whittle your waistline. Almond butter, for example, contains compounds that limit the amount of fat absorbed by the body, fueling weight loss. Peanut butter, on the other hand, is filled with monounsaturated fat and protein, both of which are highly satiating. "Having peanut butter either on toast for breakfast, on a sandwich for lunch, or on an apple for a snack can prevent you from overeating," Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN tells us, adding, "But always consume it in moderation." Whether you spring for cashew, sunflower seed, or classic peanut butter, a serving size is two tablespoons.
Low-Sugar Pasta Sauce
When made from scratch—or at least produced by a company with a conscience—pasta sauce can be a great, low-cal way to create chicken dishes, flavorful zoodle concoctions, ratatouille, and even soups! In short, it's a staple everyone should keep in their pantry. But if you're trying to become the healthiest version of yourself, don't grab just any jar. You'll want to look for something that's free of chemicals and low in both salt and sugar. Our guide 40 Best and Worst Pasta Sauces—Ranked can help you pick a winning jar at your local grocer.
The right kinds of fats and oils help quash hunger, maximize your metabolism, and help the body absorb key vitamins and nutrients. And one of the most versatile healthy fats besides butter is—you guessed it—olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil may increase blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety. Plus, olive oil is also loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that help battle many diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, and brain deterioration. Snag a bottle of the expensive extra-virgin stuff and reserve it for salad, veggies, and low-heat cooked dishes in which it plays a key role. For all other purposes, a less expensive olive oil is sufficient.
SNACKS & TREATS
While you may be surprised to see a snack section on this list, a smart diet should include some sweets. The reason: Indulging (in moderation!) can help you stay on track with your diet for the long haul. "Occasionally including dessert can aid weight loss efforts by warding off feelings of deprivation and bouts of overeating," explains dietitian Cassie Bjork, RD, LD of Healthy Simple Life. We're fans of low-sugar ice pops because they come in a range of flavors spanning fruity, chocolaty, and everything in between. Bonus: They come pre-portioned. Some of our go-to's include Sunday Cats Ice Pops, Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars and GoodPop All-Natural Frozen Pops. Stock up now so you're prepared with a smart choice the next time your sweet tooth strikes!
It may be hard to believe, but popcorn is one of the healthiest snacks—so long as it's prepared correctly. Three cups of naturally gluten-free popcorn packs just 90 calories (far less for the same serving of chips!) and count as a serving of waist-whittling whole grains. Instead of drenching it with globs of butter, opt for a lower-cal topping so you can nibble to your heart's content. We like the idea of mixing flavors like garlic, sea salt, and parmesan. Yum! To learn how to craft this creation—along with many others—click over to our report, 20 Delicious Ways to Dress Up Your Popcorn.
If you think getting in shape for the New Year means ditching your fave indulgence, you couldn't be more wrong! Dozens of studies show that people who consume cocoa—as a hot drink or eaten as dark chocolate—are in much better cardiovascular shape than those who don't. Researchers attribute cocoa's health benefits to polyphenols and flavanols, anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect the heart. And so long as your stick to bars that contain 70 percent or more cocoa solids and no added sugars, you're actually consuming a high fiber, low-sugar snack every time you indulge your inner chocoholic. We recommend Lindt's 85% Cocoa Excellence Extra Dark Chocolate Bar or Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao Bar. They're both tasty, low-sugar, non-alkalized options found online or in just about every grocery store.
While water is, hands down, the healthiest drink on the planet, green tea definitely comes in second place. The reason: Green tea is a potent source of catechins, the name of a group of antioxidative compounds that blast adipose tissue by revving the metabolism, increasing the release of fat from fat cells, and speeding up the liver's fat burning capacity. And according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, green tea can lower levels of bad cholesterol and raise levels of the good kind. Some preliminary studies even suggest that drinking the stuff can even help prevent dental cavities! Is there anything this potent tea can't do?!
Grass-Fed Organic Chocolate Milk
Organic chocolate milk is a dynamite recovery drink during your post-exercise time. It contains twice as many carbohydrates as regular milk or popular sports drinks, which work to replenish exhausted muscles and, as a result, encourage muscle growth and enhance weight loss. If fitness is a big part of your slim-down plan (and it should be!), we suggest picking up a carton. We like Organic Valley's 2% rendition. And now that you know the basics of what to buy, hop online to stock up on our approved products featured in our list of 25 Best New Clean Eats You Can Buy Online, too!