Once the balmy summer months roll along, most of us dream of strutting down the beach like its a runway and donning that vibrant sundress that hugs you in all the right places. Except, those extra pounds hanging around your waistline since the holidays are a bigger buzzkill than the Grinch.
Luckily, you don’t have to turn to fad diets or take up a torturous cleanse in order to materialize those lofty flat-belly goals. Attaining a flat stomach in time for summer is totally doable as long as you follow our simple food and workout tips and remain consistent. In weeks, you’ll notice your waistline whittling and your confidence surging.
And if you want healthy recipes, supermarket shopping guides, and essential nutrition tips at your fingertips, subscribe to the new Eat This, Not That! magazine now! For a limited time, you can save 50 percent off the cover price—click here!
Eat a Big Breakfast
Go big or go home—when it comes to breakfast, that is. A study published in the journal Obesity found that participants who woke up to a hearty a.m. meal lost more weight than those who restricted their calories. To come to these findings, researchers followed two groups of overweight women with metabolic syndrome and fed them 1,400-calorie diets for three months that were identical nutrient-wise. Both groups consumed 500 calories at lunch, while the big breakfast group consumed 700 calories for breakfast and a 200-calorie dinner and the big dinner group ate 200 calories at breakfast and 700 calories at dinner. After three months, the big breakfast group lost about two and a half times more weight than those who gorged in the evening. Don’t skip this morning meal altogether, and don’t commit one of the 37 Worst Breakfast Habits for Your Waistline, either.
Stock up on Cinnamon
The warm spice is more than just your Christmas dinner’s go-to flavor booster. University of Michigan researchers found that the spice’s main compound, cinnamaldehyde, improves increases thermogenesis and can help fight fat. Sprinkling cinnamon on your a.m. oats is probably the easiest and tastiest way to lose the gut in time for swimsuit season.
Nix Added Sugars…
The fruit juice you guzzle down with lunch and the slice of chocolate cake you dig into post-dinner isn’t helping you in your quest to slim down fast. The American Heart Association recommends that women should limit their added sugar intake to 25 grams per day while men should aim for under 37.5 grams. Why? A study in the British Medical Journal found that increased sugar intake showed a positive correlation with increasing body weight while reducing sugar resulted in lower weight.
…And Artificial Sweeteners
Just because a Diet Coke doesn’t pack in the 39 grams of added sugars a 12-ounce can dons, that shouldn’t give you the green light to stock up. A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society discovered that folks who drank diet soda daily witnessed their waistlines triple in size over the course of nine years. Besides saying no to the sugar-free beverage, skip sprinkling Splenda into your morning coffee and bowl of oats.
Make it Open-Faced
You don’t have to give up sandwiches altogether in the months leading to warm weather, just toss out the top slice! Prepping your ‘wich open-faced-style will help you cut about 100 calories from your lunch. Up your sandwich’s satiety factor by pairing it with fiber-filled veggies such as artichokes, sugar snap peas, or carrots.
If you’ve ever signed up for a cardio kickboxing class or boot-camp-style sesh, chances are you’ve tried your hand at HIIT. High-intensity interval training, commonly known as HIIT, helps you lose belly fat by engaging your core and requiring you to expend the most energy. “High-intensity interval training is when you perform an exercise at or close to your maximum ability for a short period of time and then take a brief respite and do it again. HIIT should usually be done on a 2:1 interval, meaning if you did an exercise for one minute, you rest for 30 seconds and then repeat,” Dr. Alex Tauberg, DC, CSCS, EMR, tells us in 50 Ways to Shrink Your Belly. “By performing core workouts using a HIIT plan, you can burn calories and build muscle at the same time. This can be a great way to flatten that stomach when you don’t have too much time to work out.”
Load Up on Green Tea
One eye-opening study found that participants who combined 4 to 5 cups of green tea with a 25-minute sweat session daily (or opted for 180 minutes of exercise a week), lost two more pounds than those who didn’t sip. Instead of just brewing a cup, try cooking grains such as rice and quinoa in green tea to boost your grains’ antioxidant factor.
Use Smaller Plates
It just makes sense: Using smaller plates can cut down on the amount of food you pile on. In turn, that simple swap can help you shed the muffin top fast. In fact, one study discovered that campers ate 16 percent more cereal than those who used smaller bowls. Want to kick more calories off your plate? Opt for red plates–the bright hue can help you eat less, according to a study published in the journal Appetite.
Sit Down to the Same Meals
Monotony may be the key to whittling your waistline. “Repetition builds rhythm. Be boring. Most successful losers have just a couple of go-to breakfasts or snacks,” registered dietitian Lauren Slayton tells us in 200 Best Weight Loss Tips. “Make an effort to pinpoint these for yourself. ‘Hmm, I’m starving what should I have?’ doesn’t often end well. You can change the rotation every few weeks, but pre-set meals or workouts on certain days will help tremendously.” We wager you won’t get bored of munching on these 20 Homemade, Healthy “Fast Food” Recipes.
Fill Half Your Plate With Veggies
“By eating the veggie half of your plate before anything else, you will take the edge off your hunger, eat less overall calories, and still feel full and satisfied. Keep eating this way and the pounds will painlessly melt away,” registered dietitian Danielle Omar tells us. Since veggies are low-cal and come jam-packed with satiating fiber, they’ll fill you and squelch cravings without increasing your pants size.
Invest in Wild Salmon
Its farmed counterpart may boast steep discounts at the supermarket, but your tummy will thank you when you shell out a few extra bucks for the wild fish. The wild-caught variety contains more omega-3s than the farmed, and these heart-healthy fats have been linked to a lower BMI. To boost the coral swimmer’s weight-loss benefits, marinate it with some metabolism-boosting cayenne and garlic before grilling.
Put Your Grill to Good Use
Switch up your salad toppings by putting your grill to good use. Throw lean chicken breast, steaks, and even seafood on the barbie for an effortless way to stretch beyond your daily protein quota. While experts recommend 56 daily grams of the muscle-building macro for men and 46 grams for women, a study in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism found that folks who dug into double the daily recommended amount of protein were better able to build and maintain muscle as well as keep their metabolism speedy. Now that’s a double whammy for any belly!
Turn Off the TV
Besides for making you groggy and irritable the next day, a bad night’s rest can also result in unwanted pounds creeping on. And keeping your television on past bedtime is a common factor interrupting your beauty rest. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that subjects who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than those sleeping in rooms with the most light.
Add Resistance Bands to Your Workout
Find it hard to target certain muscles during leg day? Or are you just bored of your usual cardio warm up? Adding resistance bands to your sweat sesh can make all the difference when you’re looking to get lean. “You can train almost every major group with them and they can fit into any suitcase or even your carry-on,” certified personal trainer Jeff Grant tells us in 31 Sneaky Ways to Work Out—Without Hitting the Gym. Bonus: You’ll have zero excuses for skipping your workout during those summer getaways.
Make the Most out of Your Downtime
Instead of just succumbing to couch potato status during your latest sitcom binge, try incorporating some quick and easy moves to get your heart rate up. “Focus on one exercise each commercial break, doing as many as you can. Work your way through the body moving onto the next exercise at the next commercial segment,” Michelle Opperman, Group Fitness Manager of Crunch in New Montgomery, tells us. “An example would be squats, push-ups, reverse lunges, crunches, jumping jacks. To increase the intensity you can add speed or add plyo to the moves. The show segment becomes your recovery.” And if you’re binge-watching sans commercial breaks: “Pick a word before the show starts and every time you hear it do five burpees. This could quickly get real fun and challenging.”
Cook Spaghetti Squash
Cravings creep up on even the most dedicated dieter, yet you can fulfill your hankering without undoing any weight loss wins. Rather than boiling a pot of carb-laden noodles, try your hand at spaghetti squash. “It feels like a hearty meal, but one cup only has about 40 calories—more than 75 percent fewer calories than a cup of plain pasta,” The Nutrition Twins Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure tell us in 21 Surprising Foods That Can Melt Fat This Winter.
Add More Healthy Fats
Get creative in the kitchen by adding more healthy fats to your meals. Natural, unsaturated fats boost satiety and help you stay slim. “I love to use walnuts in place of starchy croutons on my salads for a heart-healthy crunch. I also use creamy avocado in place of mayo in chicken or tuna salads,” Today Show Dietitian and nutrition expert Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN tells us via email.
Populate Your Gut With Good Bacteria
Probiotic-rich foods help keep your tummy toned, deeming them the perfect flat-belly ally. Experiment by adding kimchi and sauerkraut to salads, sip on kombucha with dinner, and layer a creamy yogurt parfait for breakfast using some of our 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss.
Stock Up on Cilantro
It might taste soapy to some, but this superstar herb is no wallflower when it comes to weight loss. A study published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Science reveals that patients with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, experiences less bloat when they added cilantro to their diets. Sprinkle the stuff into soups and sneak it into sandwiches to get your tummy flat stat!
Schedule a Social Catch Up
Summer is the ideal time of year for frequenting brunch and fitting a HIIT workout in with your friend. And it turns out, spending time with your BFF can also help combat belly-ballooning hormones. A study in the journal Hormones and Behavior found that lonelier women experienced a spike in ghrelin, the hunger hormone, after sitting down to a meal. Researchers conclude that hunger and loneliness may result in weight gain among non-obese people. An easy solution to combat the growing gut? Just pencil in some time with your pals!
Fancy Your Folate
What do beans, asparagus, and sunflower seeds all have in common? These nutrient-dense superstars are all solid sources of folate, a nutrient that’s been linked to weight loss. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition discovered that adding folate to obese patients increased their weight loss success by 28 percent.
Slice Open Some Kiwi
“They may be small, but these sweet-tasting fruits contain a hefty amount of actinidin, a natural enzyme unique to kiwifruit that aids in digestion by breaking down protein in the body,” Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness tells us. “Kiwifruit also contains prebiotic fiber, which primes the gut for healthy digestion,” Scritchfield says. “Research indicates that a daily serving of green kiwifruit helps increase bowel movements. So, cut in half, scoop with a spoon, and pop into your mouth like nature’s Tums (SunGold kiwis, with a yellow flesh and tropical taste, offer three times the vitamin C of oranges and as much potassium as a medium banana).”
Keep Healthy Food in Plain Sight
It seems like a no-brainer, but healthifying your home can actually help you quit that pesky grazing habit. “You can’t eat what’s not there, so make sure when you open the pantry, you aren’t tempted with the sugary, salty, fatty foods that most people choose when eating ‘just to eat,'” Heather Mangieri, RDN tells us. So toss the turtle candies and the family-size bag of BBQ chips, and “stock your refrigerator with fresh vegetable slices and healthy whole foods that will be easier to pass on if you’re not really hungry.”
Supplement With this Nutrient Combo
Vitamin D and calcium are like ultimate weight-loss power couple—combine them and you could double your success instantly. According to a recent Nutrition Journal study, subjects who had supplemented their diets with these two nutrients lost two times more fat than those who didn’t. Greek yogurt and cheese are two healthy options that fit the bill.
Go For Goji
Go ahead and toss these tart berries over your smoothie bowl and into your morning oats and witness their slimming effects. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that one hour after supplementing participants with Lycium barbarum, the plant from which goji berries are harvested, folks burned calories at a rate 10 percent higher than the placebo group. What’s more, the effects lasted up to four hours after!
Choose Dark Chocolate
Instead of breaking off a piece of that Kit Kat bar, indulge in a square of dark chocolate to whittle your middle. Here’s proof: One study found that women with skinny-fat syndrome (or normal weight obesity) who ate a Mediterranean diet that included two servings of dark chocolate daily showed a smaller waist size than those who didn’t bite into the treat. We can chalk up these astounding effects to the cocoa’s flavonoids, heart-healthy antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Just make sure you’re picking a bar that boasts over 70-percent cacao and doesn’t list “alkalized cocoa” or “dutch-processed cocoa” in its ingredients as the alkalization or Dutching process removes a substantial amount of the beans’ natural antioxidants.
Drink Water Before Meals
Fire up your fat-burning furnace by chugging water before you sit down to your next meal. Not only can swinging back two glasses help you feel full and therefore cut down on the amount of calories you consume, but it can also help boost your metabolism big time. Just about 17 ounces of H2O increased imbibers’ increased metabolic rate by 30 percent, according to a study printed in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Shop for MCTs
If you’ve ever tried the keto diet, you’re familiar with the magical effects slow-digesting MCTs (or medium-chain triglycerides) have on the body. They help you feel satiated, banish brain fog, and even help you ditch the gut. According to a study in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that supplementing your diet with MCTs (like those found in coconuts and coconut oil) can limit caloric intake and weight gain.
Speaking of healthy fats, you may want to try testing the trendy waters of a low-carb diet. A study in the journal Diabetic Medicine discovered that a low‐carbohydrate diet is more effective in reducing body weight than healthy eating in both diabetic and non-diabetic people. Quitting your daily bread and doughnut habit may be easier than you think: just switch up your snacks with these 20 Healthiest Low-Carb Foods.
Get Some Sunlight
Summer is the perfect time of year to load up on slimming vitamin D, thanks to the sunny rays, but you may want to step outside just as often before swimsuit season arrives. A study in the journal PLOS ONE found that exposing yourself to direct sunlight between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. can reduce your chances of packing on the pounds regardless of activity level, caloric intake, or age. What’s more, vitamin D (which the body obtains from the sun’s rays in addition to certain foods such as fish, cheese, and eggs) has been linked to aiding weight loss.
Season With Spicy
Kick up the heat and watch your gut melt. Capsaicin—the compound found in spicy peppers such as chilis, jalapenos, and cayenne—has been shown to boost your metabolism and help you drop unwanted weight. Not sure how to incorporate heat into your cooking? Swap ketchup for sriracha, add jalapenos to your stews, marinate meat with chili paste, and experiment with chipotle peppers.
Focus on Both Healthy Eating and Exercise
“Many people think that they can eat whatever they want as long as they work out. But the truth is, if you are looking to lose or maintain your weight, what you put in your body is significantly more important than hitting the gym,” Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RDN, Co-Author of Should I Scoop out My Bagel tells us in 22 Things Dietitians Want You to Know Before Losing Weight. “Exercise is important to keep your body healthy, but just because you work out for an hour or more per day, it doesn’t give you the liberty to eat whatever you want!”
Do a Wall Sit
We all know that spending most of your time sitting can wreak havoc on your health, but that’s not the case with wall sits. Just place your back against a wall and keep your feet shoulder-width apart. “Do 10 rounds of a 30-second wall sit followed by a 30-second plank. Make sure to maintain good form for a meaningful workout and to avoid injury,” Dave Colina, certified CrossFit trainer, Krav Maga instructor and founder of formula O2 recommends. “During the wall sit, keep your legs at a 90-degree angle so your thighs are parallel to the ground. While in plank, squeeze your abs and tighten your butt so that your back remains straight. If you notice your hips gravitating to the ground, it’s time to take a break.” This lazy workout targets your quads and core, two major muscle groups that can fry flab and get you lean, quick.
Don’t Adulterate Your Coffee
Over 67 percent of coffee-drinking Americans add in caloric mixins like sugar, milk, syrups, and creamer. As negligible as it may seem, a splash of heavy cream here and a packet of sugar there can definitely add up and make an appearance on your beltline. Take your cup of Joe black to avoid unwanted calories and reap the benefits of this metabolism-boosting bev.
Chow Down on Apples
“Eat them raw, sprinkled with cinnamon, or baked as a seasonal treat,” Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition tells us in 21 Surprising Foods That Can Melt Fat This Winter. “You cannot overeat them, there are myriad varieties of options, and studies show that enjoying an apple before a meal decreases total caloric intake at that meal.”
Snack on Papaya
The exotic fruit not only adds flair to your fruit bowl, it can also help you slim down a swollen belly. Papain, a potent enzyme found in papaya, has been shown to relieve gas and bloating from indigestion. Chop up the sweet snack and use it to bulk up salads, smoothies, and protein shakes.
“Focus on making progress over attaining perfection. Small steps taken consistently are the key to success,” Adam Rosante, C9 Champion brand ambassador, trainer, and Founder of The People’s Bootcamp in NYC tells us in 30 Tips from Today’s Hottest Workouts. “Nothing truly great was ever built in a day. By concentrating on the journey, you’ll be able to adhere to your goals better and achieve those results you’ve been longing for.”
Snack time shouldn’t derail your diet as long as you ditch the dried fruit and granola and spoon some plain, probiotic-rich Greek yogurt instead. Researchers found participants lost significantly more body weight when they incorporated low-sugar, high-protein picks into their daily diet.
Don’t Go Gluten-Free—Unless You’re Intolerant
“I wish people knew that gluten-free foods aren’t all automatically healthy,” Torey Armul, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tells us in 22 Things Dietitians Want You to Know Before Losing Weight. “People often lose weight and feel better on a gluten-free diet, but it’s usually not because of lack of gluten. It’s because they’re paying attention to their food choices and eating more real foods and less simple carbs. Gluten-free labeled packaged foods actually tend to have more calories and extra fat or sugar for added flavor.”
Don’t Turn to Fad Diets
“Fad diets and meal replacement shakes are not the answer to sustainable weight loss or better health,” Kristen Carlucci Haase RD-N tells us. Sure, you can do something drastic to lose 20 pounds in a month, but chances are these actions aren’t sustainable. If you want to lose the weight and keep it off for good, target a weight loss of one to two pounds per week so you can truly see permanent, long-lasting results! Would you rather reach your goal weight and stay there for a month—or for the next 40 years?” For more weight-loss saboteurs, don’t miss these 31 Things You Did Today to Slow Your Metabolism.