33 Lazy Ways to Flatten Your Belly—Fast
Some people are gluttons for punishment. They'll take on unbelievably demanding challenges, subject themselves to unbearable agony, just to prove that they can do it. Being willing to absorb a daily ritual of torture and to keep pushing through commands a certain degree of respect.
But that's not most of us.
If we're honest with ourselves, we'd much rather put our feet up on the coffee table and watch some Netflix than subject our bodies and minds to anything more rigorous than stretching for the remote. Sure, we'll exercise and watch what we eat if we've got a big event coming up, but sticking to a demanding workout or diet for more than a couple of weeks? Easier said than done.
So for the rest of you who are more like us, we've gathered up some of the smartest, simplest and least-demanding ways to lose weight and flatten your belly fast. Read on—if it's not too much effort! And be sure you try out these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time, too.
Toast Your Bread
Bread gets a bad rap as being a source of "empty calories" that spikes your blood sugar and causes your body to store fat. But a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that toasting bread can significantly lower its glycemic index—a measure of how your blood sugar rises in response to a certain food, with foods lower on the glycemic index being less likely to cause spikes associated with weight gain.
Something to keep in mind: If you first freeze white bread and then toast it, the amount of glucose that your blood absorbs after eating it is half the amount you absorb from fresh white bread. The researchers suspect that the starch molecules in the bread take on a different structure as a result of freezing, defrosting, and toasting, which means your body has to work harder to break down the sugar. And if you're a carb-counter, don't miss our amazing list of the best low-carb snacks!
Pack on the Veggies
Most people think of breakfast sandwiches as meat-and-cheese affairs, but you should view them as the perfect opportunity to sneak some vegetation into your diet. Arugula adds a spicy kick, roasted peppers bring smoky sweetness, and avocado contributes fiber, healthy fat, and incredible richness to the table.
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Add Frozen Fruit To Your Smoothie
Frozen fruit is often looked upon as a second-class citizen in the produce world, but it's the secret ingredient in a first-rate smoothie. Not only does frozen fruit give you a cold smoothie without the diluting effects of ice, it also lends a thick, creamy body to the final product. The nutritional advantages may be even greater. Studies have found that many nutrients are higher in frozen fruits and vegetables than in fresh, since frozen fruits are picked at the height of their season and frozen immediately, while "fresh" fruits often take weeks before landing in your shopping cart.
Microwave Your Tea
Tea is the closest thing we currently have to a magic weight-loss elixir. Rich in health-promoting compounds called catechins, regularly sipping the beverage can fry stubborn belly fat and even fight off disease. But if you want to reap the better-body benefits, zap your cup in the microwave. After carrying out a series of preparation scenarios in a lab, researchers found that heating a brewed cup of tea in the microwave for one minute before enjoying could increase its catechin availability by nearly 20%. It also slightly boosted the caffeine content!
Master the Pasta/Sauce Ratio
A serving size of pasta in Italy is about 6 ounces; here, many restaurant noodle bowls top 2 pounds. Limit your noodles to 5-6 ounces, but keep the sauce portions more substantial. That means the pasta-to-sauce ratio will skew toward the latter, which makes for a more satisfying meal for fewer calories.
Slash Calories By Adding Oil
Great news for carb-loving weight watchers: There's an easy, natural way to make rice less caloric; and, oddly enough, it involves adding fat. After numerous rounds of testing different rice varieties and cooking methods, researchers from the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka found the best way to cook rice. Their calorie hack works on two levels: Cooling the hot rice changes the nature of starch into a form that resists being broken down, and the added fat acts as a barrier against rapid digestion.
So what should you do? Boil a pot of water and drop a teaspoon of coconut oil. Add half a cup of non-fortified white rice and cook it for about 40 minutes. After cooking, stick it in the fridge for 12 hours. Rice cooked this way had at least 10 times the resistant starch and 10-15% fewer calories than normally prepared rice; and researchers think that with certain kinds of rice, the method could cut calories by 50-60%. The best news: the low-carb hack is safe for leftovers, as reheating the rice didn't affect the resistant starch levels.
Buy the Spicy Salsa
Filling up on spicy food when you're already sweating may sound counterintuitive, but scientists present a solid case for how culinary heat can help us beat the heat—and the bulge. They call it "gustatory facial sweating." It's a phenomenon that suggests spicy foods trigger special nerve receptors in our mouths and thermosensors in our stomachs that cause us to sweat—the body's way of releasing heat via evaporative cooling. You'll get the same heat-up-cool-down effect from a hot cup of tea, but spicy summer foods have the added benefit of being rich in capsaicin, a fat-burning compound found in chili peppers. Along with adding some spice, here are 36 Other Things to Do Today for a Flat Belly!
Get Your Burger Drunk
Throwing back a bottle of beer—into a marinade, that is—may eliminate harmful chemicals that form when grilling meat at high temperatures, researchers say. In fact, marinating meat with beer for four hours lowered the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by as much as 68% in a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. PAHs are known carcinogens and classified "endocrine disruptors" that have been linked to obesity. Interestingly, the darker beers were the most powerful, but even a non-alcoholic variety reduced chemical formation by 25%. Previous research showed a red wine marinade to have a similar effect. Researchers say the antioxidant-rich marinades act like a barrier between the meat and cancer-causing compounds. Try this trick on any of these Best Burgers for Weight Loss!
Skip the Syrup
Most supermarket syrups are junk, made almost entirely of high-fructose corn syrup and chemical additives designed to approximate a maple flavor. But real maple syrup can be prohibitively expensive. Solution? Fruit compote.
Take a bag of frozen fruit (blueberries, strawberries, mixed berries), dump into a saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the fruit is warm and the mixture has thickened. Use it for all your pancake and waffle needs.
Snack on Carrots
A faux sun-tan that can also help you lose weight? It's true. People who ate more portions of brightly-colored produce had a healthier and more sun-kissed complexion than those who didn't consume as much, a study in the Journal Evolution and Human Behaviour found. The faux glow is the result of disease-fighting compounds called carotenoids that give some fruit and veg their brilliant red-orange hue. Some of the best summer sources of the sunless stuff like carrots, bell peppers, and cantaloupe also happen to be particularly low-calorie, so you can snack to your heart's (and belly's!) content while you get your glow on.
Power Up With Peppadew
These tiny cherry-red peppers from South Africa pack an incredible one-two punch of sweet and heat, which makes them a wonderful addition to pizza, salads, pasta, and sandwiches. Or make a portable snack by stuffing them with pieces of fresh mozzarella or goat cheese. They're available by the jar in supermarkets like Whole Foods, and often found sold by the pound in supermarket salad and olive bars. And while you're at it, uncover more of the 28 Weight Loss Superfoods You're Not Eating!
Eat More Angel Food Cake
Why waste time (and calories) baking cakes from boxes at home when every grocery store in America sells angel food cake? It's inexpensive, well made, and—at just 72 calories and 0 grams of fat per slice—only marginally worse for you than a rice cake. Plus, it's super versatile, ready in an instant to provide a spongy base for a small ice cream sundae, for dipping into fondue, or for a light rendition of bread pudding. Or top it with grilled fruit (apricots and peaches work best) and crown with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Adopt an Eating Ritual
Feasting rituals, research suggests, are a form of "mindful eating," which has the power to make food more pleasurable, and may help prevent overeating. Pleasure, according to research published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, catalyzes the relaxation response, promoting parasympathetic and digestive activities. In other words, you'll metabolize dessert faster if you really, really enjoy eating it. In one study, participants who were assigned to eat a chocolate bar in accordance with a particular breaking and unwrapping ritual found the candy much more enjoyable—and even more flavorful—than a group who ate the bar informally.
Drink More Water
Are you really hungry, or are you actually just thirsty? A study in the journal Physiology & Behavior suggests people inappropriately respond to thirst over 60% of the time by eating instead of drinking. Even if you're not hankering for a thirst-quencher, preloading meals with plain ol' calorie-free water can shave hundreds of calories from your daily intake.
Eat This, Not That! Tip: if plain water sounds boring, you can add some practically calorie-free fresh citrus to create a health-boosting (and flavorful!) detox water. A study published in the journal Obesity found that people who drank two cups of water before eating consumed 75 to 90 fewer calories over the course of a meal than they would otherwise. This may simply be because water is filling, but researchers note the added H20 may well be displacing calories otherwise spent on calorie-laden beverages. Blast fat faster by downing these essential 14 Detox Waters That Banish Bloat!
Add a Dash of Pepper
Finishing a meal with grind of black pepper and a sprinkling of fresh herbs isn't just très gourmet, it's a double-duty weight loss trick. Studies suggest piperine, a powerful compound found in black pepper, has the profound ability to decrease inflammation and interfere with the formation of fat cells, resulting in a decrease in waist size, body fat, and cholesterol levels. As for fresh herbs, a study in the journal Flavour found participants ate significantly less of a wildly aromatic dish than a mildly scented variety. Adding herbs and sodium-free spice blends is an easy take advantage of sensory illusion that you're indulging in something rich—without adding any fat or calories to your plate.
Hide Your Vices
Out of sight, out of mouth? Simply reorganizing your pantry's "top hits" could translate into serious calorie savings. A study published in the Journal of Marketing found that people are more likely to overeat small treats from transparent packages than from opaque ones. Check out more strategies in Diet Experts Reveal Their #1 Weight Loss Tip.
Have a Buddy You Can Text Whenever
A study published in Health Promotion Practice found that people who received weekly text reminders of their daily "calorie budget" and motivational emails made healthier meal and snack choices. Solicit a friend to regularly remind you of your diet goals, or take matters into your own hands; set up labeled alarms on your phone, so when 6 a.m. rolls around, it's: You make 1,300 cals-a-day look so good!
Crack Up the Tunes
Rocking out to your favorite upbeat tunes while you grocery shop may keep unwanted items out of your cart. According to a well-cited study in the Journal of Marketing, supermarkets intentionally play slow, calming music to reduce turnover. That translates to 38% more time in the store, and an additional 29% more food in your cart. Stay jazzed and focused with music that puts some pep in your step!
Eat More Meatloaf
There are more than a few ways to reinvent meatloaf the next day (topped with a fried egg, covered with sautéed peppers and onions), but for our money, the best bet is still a thick meatloaf sandwich. Gently sauté onions until nicely caramelized while reheating the meatloaf in a 325°F oven with a thin slice of smoked gouda, and serve it all on a toasted bun.
Bust your gut with gut-busting laughter. A genuine belly laugh may cause a 10 to 20% increase in basal metabolic rate, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity—which translates to a 40 to 170-calorie burn for every 10-15 minute giggle fest. Laugh your way through a 2-hour comedy every day this week, and lose at least 3.5 pounds by the end of the month! Who's laughing now? (Pair this trick with a big glass of water to double down on metabolism boosters. They're two of our 50 Best Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.)
Adopt a New Tradition
Hara hachi bu is a Japanese expression that means "Eat until 80% full," which, if you put the advice to practice at every meal, translates roughly to a 300 calorie-per-day saving for the average American. It can take up to 30 minutes for the body to register satiety signals, according to research, so consider using chopsticks to slow your pace and feel your fullness. According to a restaurant study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, healthy-weight customers were nearly 3 times more likely to use chopsticks than obese customers.
Forget the suit and tie, leave the heels at home, and take advantage of every casual Friday. A study by The American Council on Exercise suggests casual clothing, as opposed to conventional business attire, can increase physical activity levels in our daily routines. Participants in the study took an additional 491 steps, and burned 25 more calories, on days they wore denim than when wearing traditional suit wear. That may sound trivial, but the calories add up! Researchers say keeping it casual just once a week could slash 6,250 calories over the course of the year—enough to offset the average annual weight gain (0.4 to 1.8 pounds) experienced by most Americans. (Find out how else you can Lose Weight Before Breakfast.)
Snack in the Afternoon
Most people are serial snackers, a habit researchers associate with an accumulation of belly fat. But you don't have to go snackless to snack less. Just watch the clock. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that mid-morning snackers tended to consume more throughout the day than afternoon snackers. Afternoon snackers, on the other hand, tend to choose good snacks—try for yourself with these essential 50 Best Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss!
Take a Nap
The best piece of exercise equipment for the lazy dieter? Your bed. Yes, you can absolutely sleep your way to slender, though. In fact, getting enough quality sleep is crucial for healthy weight loss. A recent study found sub-par sleep could undermine weight loss by as much as 55%! Inadequate or broken sleep can throw hunger-regulating hormones out of balance. Ghrelin, the "I'm hungry" hormone, shoots up; leptin, the "I'm full!" hormone, decreases. The result? You're hungrier, and you eat more food.
Cook Bacon the Right Way
Yes, bacon. Most people cook bacon in an overcrowded pan, which yields inconsistent results. Make life easier (and tastier) by using the oven instead. Lay bacon out in a baking dish at least 2" deep and bake in a 400°F oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the meat just begins to brown and crisp around the edges (bacon, like other meat, will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven). Not only will the bacon be perfect every time, but the fat will also render out more thoroughly this way, meaning your bacon doesn't just taste better—it is better.
Always Go for Greek Yogurt
It's not just the huge protein boost (more than twice as much as found in most conventional brands) that makes Greek-style yogurt so great; the thick, creamy texture and pronounced tang give it a versatility that other yogurts don't have. Try it in any of the following applications:
- As the base for a salad dressing
- As a substitute for sour cream
- Mixed with olive oil and herbs for a sauce for grilled meat and fish
- Stirred into a soup at the last second instead of cream
- Sweetened with maple syrup and poured over grilled fruit for dessert
Swap Breadcrumbs for Nuts
No matter how little oil they absorb, bread crumbs are always empty calories, but breading on meat and fish doesn't need to be a total nutritional zero. Nuts make a perfect crunchy breading for chicken and fish fillets, coating them in a crunchy sheath rich in fiber and healthy fat. Almonds, pecans, and pine nuts make for the best coasting. Simply drop them in a food processor and blend until finely chopped.
Go for a Green Banana
Next time you buzz up a smoothie, grab a greenish banana from your bunch and toss in a chunk. Prior to ripening, the fruits are rich in resistant starch, a hard-to-get form of fiber that digests slowly for prolonged feelings of fullness and more efficient fat oxidation. No worries if you prefer their older yellow-peel cousins, though: All bananas are packed with potassium, a nutrient that helps regulate fluid balance to flatten belly bloat.
Use Your Yolks
If you've been scarfing down scrambled egg whites, you're missing out on one of Mother Nature's most potent fat-fighting nutrients: choline. Found abundantly in egg yolks, this nutrient squelches the body's output of leptin, a hunger-stoking hormone that fuels between-meal cravings. (Yolks also deliver vitamins D and B12, so they're great for your bones and brain, too.) And not to worry that eggs will hike your cholesterol: Turns out those concerns from health experts back in the day were premature, and newer studies have found that cholesterol found in food has little to no connection with the kind that clogs arteries. Click here for 19 Foods With More Protein Than an Egg!
Sprinkle on the Cinnamon
Seems everything about this spice is nice. Cinnamon has been proven to improves the body's sensitivity to insulin, according to findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a powerful effect that helps ensure incoming calories are converted to energy, not fat. And earlier research has shown that cinnamon heightens cognitive processing and brain function. (No wonder it's one of the healthiest spices on the planet). Dust a spoonful on coffee, oats, and Greek yogurt, or stir it into a protein shake.
Stop Multitasking During Dinner
In a study from the University of Birmingham, people who read a newspaper while eating consumed more calories than those who listened to an audio track telling them to focus on food. When you're distracted, you're likely to eat more. Enjoy your food, think about it, love it. Then move on to whatever's next at hand. Need more tactics to help you focus? Check out our 11 Mindfulness Hacks to Eat Less.
Make Overnight Oats
Not all food trends are good for you; but creamy, dessert-like overnight oats, are. That's because soaking or "culturing" grains in a mixture of liquid and acid (like almond milk and yogurt) has proven to help break down phytic acid. This anti-nutrient, found in the hull of the grain, inhibits the digestibility of fat-fighting minerals like magnesium, chromium, and zinc. Cooking reduces most of the phytic acid in oatmeal, but research suggests soaking oats may be equally effective at breaking down the bad stuff and boosting the digestibility of essential nutrients. Raw oats have the added benefit of having a higher content of resistant starch, a form of carbohydrate that slows digestion and promotes fat-burning. And here are 50 Healthy Overnight Oats Recipes for Weight Loss to get you started!
Muscle Up Your Meal
Study after study affirms the weight loss benefits of high-protein breakfasts — particularly those that include eggs. With their proven ability to stabilize blood sugar, increase satiety and even reduce post-breakfast snacking more effectively than low- or no-carb meals, a protein-packed meal truly is the best way to start your day. But that shouldn't limit the menu to omelets.
In fact, you can muscle-up your oats (and make them creamier and fluffier) by cooking an egg right in with the porridge. Simply add a whisked egg or egg white into your go-to oatmeal recipe before microwaving, or into simmering oats on the stove.