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9 Cooking Habits That Will Uncover Your Abs

It's true what they say: Abs are made in the kitchen.

If you're trying to trim down and fall into the cook-at-home crew, we applaud you for your efforts! It's truly the only way to know exactly what you're putting in your mouth and, subsequently, on your frame. But if you want to lose weight rapidly, everyday cooking tactics won't always do the trick. Luckily, there are some extremely effective—yet simple—hacks that can help you shed those pesky pounds in no time.

Boost Fiber While You Bake


Research shows that increasing dietary fiber can help decrease visceral (belly) fat. Sure, eating more whole grains and veggies is a great way to boost your intake of the nutrient, but if you swap butter and oil for fiber-rich alternatives like beans and unsweetened applesauce, homemade desserts can also be a good source. If brownies are your go-to, blend 15 ounces of black beans and 1 cup of water together in a blender and then combine with a package of organic brownie mix, until smooth. Bake in a greased baking dish for 25 minutes on 350 degrees F. If you're a cookie and cake lover, substitute a cup of applesauce for every cup of butter or oil in your recipe and then bake according to the directions. This simple swap can nix up to 1,825 calories from your recipe!

Rinse Your Meat


Making tacos at home instead of getting them at a fast-food joint can certainly help you keep some flab off your frame—if you know how to make them the right way, at least. Sure, opting for lean ground beef is a smart first step, but there's a simple, slimming cooking trick you might also want to consider: After browning the meat in a skillet, put it in a strainer and rinse it with hot tap water. Doing so helps wash away excess fat clinging to your dinner, which will help save you time on the treadmill—without altering the taste of your meal. It doesn't get much better than that!

Refrigerate Your Rice


Believe it or not, there's a simple, science-backed trick that can help you slash the calories in your rice bowl by as much as 60 percent! Simply add a teaspoon of coconut oil and a half cup of non-fortified white rice to a pot of boiling water. Cook it for about 40 minutes before sticking it in the refrigerator for 12 hours. Then simply enjoy the rice cold or reheated. When rice cools, its glucose molecules form tight bonds called resistant starch. This type of starch, as the name implies, is resistant to digestion, so the body is not able to absorb as many calories from each molecule. Best of all, reheating the rice didn't change the levels of resistant starch as it does with pasta and potatoes, so this calorie-slashing cooking hack is safe for hot leftovers, too.

Swap Salt for Pepper


If you thought salt was just responsible for bloating, think again! A high-sodium diet can actually lead to weight gain, according to a study from the University of California. To come to this finding, study participants were divided into two groups. Both groups were given the same high-cal meals, however, only one group's dishes were doused in salt. After just five days, the high-sodium group had gained about one more pound than the low-sodium group. The researchers believe that consuming excess salt increases the body's production of insulin, a hormone that converts sugar into fat. Luckily, the solution is a simple one. Steer clear of hidden sources of excess sodium like frozen meals, canned foods, deli meat and condiments, and when cooking at home, keep the salt shaker out of reach and add flavor to your meals with black pepper instead. The seasoning contains a powerful compound called piperine that may actually ward off the formation of new fat cells, which can help you lose body fat and lower your cholesterol levels.

Make Your Pasta Al Dente


Health-conscious carb lovers, rejoice! Simply taking your pasta off the stove a few minutes early and enjoying the noodles al dente can keep you fuller longer, which can make saying no to dessert that much easier. How does it work? Hot water breaks down starch molecule bonds, which makes it easier for the body to convert carbs into fuel—not a good thing! In turn, blood sugar increases and then subsequently crashes, leaving you starving just a few hours later. Al dente pasta, on the other hand, keeps glucose levels even keel, which wards off diet-derailing dips in energy.

Use the Yolks


When it comes to eggs, it seems we've been given scrambled messages. Many of us opt for egg whites over whole eggs because we've been told that the yellow contains too much cholesterol and raises the risk of heart disease. However, new research has found that cholesterol levels in our bodies are impacted more by the types of fats in our food than the cholesterol content. Not to mention, yolks contain a nutrient called choline that boosts metabolism and turns off belly-fat genes. If the thought of eating whole eggs still makes you uneasy, try making an omelet with one whole egg, two egg whites and some vegetables.

Nix the Mince

In an effort to slim down and improve your health, you've been making lots of yummy veggie dishes at home—a great first step! But, according to research, if you chop your vegetables too small you can be undermining your trim down efforts, especially if you typically add cooking fat to your dishes (a great way to boost the absorption of the product's nutrients). The smaller you cut your vegetables, the more surface area there is for the oil to cling to, which equals extra calories and fat on your plate. To cut back on grease, chop veggies at least a half inch thick, then pat them dry. This helps create a crust that blocks fat from being absorbed by the produce. To save additional calories, use an oil mister to lightly coat your veggies instead of drizzling oil from the bottle.

Drizzle Vinegar

apple cider vinegar

Instead of smothering your vitamin-packed veggies in a pool of chemicals and health-harming fats, dress your greens in a homemade vinegar-based dressing. In a Japanese study, subjects that consumed a mere two tablespoons of the apple-based variety shed nearly an inch of belly fat, on average, in just three months—without altering their lifestyle in any other way! Not a fan of apple cider vinegar? Reach for red wine vinegar instead. Thanks to its satiety-boosting compound, acetic acid, dressings made with the ingredient can help banish those pesky dessert cravings before they surface.

Add Veggies to Your Mains


Sure, serving up a side of steamed broccoli or roasted Brussels sprouts is a low-cal, nutrient-rich addition to any meal, but sneaking them into your main course can boost their benefits even further. According to Penn State researchers, those who consume main dishes that incorporate vegetables (like stir-fry) consume 350 fewer calories daily than those who eat their produce as a side dish. The likely reason: Veggies bulk up main dishes and add belly-filling fiber, which help you feel satisfied and take in fewer calories. Add shredded or chopped carrots, peppers, mushrooms, or zucchini to burgers, casseroles, meatloaf, chili, rice and pasta dishes to reap the benefits.

Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh
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