Whom would you rather take financial advice from: a money coach, or a self-made billionaire? Whose take on love and happiness is most appealing: a friend who’s built a close, successful family, or a marriage counselor who specializes in other people’s dysfunctional relationships?
When it comes to getting it done, we trust the people who’ve gotten it done. That’s why, when Eat This, Not That! went in search of the most authoritative ideas for staying lean, we sought out people who actually do it—people like Maria Menounos, Padma Lakshmi and Insanity trainer Shaun T, who stay lean all year round, through the fat-trap holidays and the cold, comfort-food-craving nights.
And we discovered exactly the kind of outside-the-box secrets and strategies you won’t hear from nutrition gurus and weight-loss doctors. Here are the rule-breaking tricks that work for skinny people. Why not join their ranks? And to lose even more weight—easily and rapidly—don’t miss these essential 25 Best-Ever Nutrition Tips!
They’d Rather Be Healthy Than Thin
Maria Menounos lost 40 pounds. Now she wants to help you get lean and healthy, too, with her new book, The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness. So we asked her for your first tip: “Let’s face it,” she says, “the entire diet industry as well as the messages we get from Hollywood, the media, and pretty much our entire country revolve around weight and size. Lose more pounds. Fit into smaller clothes. Get thin!…The main thing I want to convey, though, is that thin cannot compete with healthy. Health is the most important thing in your life.”
“Hey, if you can be healthy and thin, then more power to you,” she continues, “but risking everything to be thin is not worth it and makes no sense in the big picture. I know more than a few thin people who are unhealthy. They smoke cigarettes, starve themselves, live on gallons of diet soda and energy drinks, or use drugs or other such unhealthy means to stay thin. As a result, some of them will not live long lives, and those who do may not live quality lives. Many, if not most, are also unhappy. Keep health your goal and it will naturally result in being trim.”
They Know It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Continues Maria: “When I was forty pounds heavier and decided to lose the weight, I took a long-term, gradual approach. I didn’t have the willpower to go on an extreme diet and drop all the foods I loved. And with work, paying bills, my family and friends and my relationship, I certainly didn’t have the time to exercise two hours a day. It took a year or so, but I lost the forty pounds. Little did I know that slow and steady was not only the most realistic way to lose weight, but also the smartest. It’s the main reason I never gained the weight back….The changes you make in your lifestyle can be slow and gradual and still get you where you want to go!”
They Drink Tea Every Morning
“I always start with ginger tea, which is black tea with milk, honey, ginger, and cardamom,” Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi tells Eat This, Not That!, about her breakfast ritual. “Then I’ll have a green juice with kale, beets, mint, apple, carrots, and ginger or a three-egg-white, one-yolk scramble. If I’m hungry, I’ll add half a cup of 1 percent cottage cheese to the eggs.” We at Eat This, Not That! love tea so much, we made it part of our bestselling new diet plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 4 inches from their waist!
They Take Their Coffee with Heavy Cream
Cassie Bjork, RD, LD. requests it with her morning java. “I keep it simple at Starbucks with a plain cup of coffee, and I ask for it with heavy cream–the good stuff that’s kept behind the counter and not out with the milk,” she says. “Heavy cream is a healthy fat that helps keep your blood sugar stable between meals and snacks, which means consistent energy and brain power—not to mention it makes your coffee taste decadent!” Just don’t go too far: A drink like the Starbucks Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream (venti, shown above) has more calories and saturated fat than two slices of deep-dish sausage and pepperoni pizza from Domino’s.
For more flat-belly coffee hacks check out these 8 Ways to Slim Down Your Coffee Shop Order.
They Crack The Color Code
The pigment of produce can provide you with information about its nutritional value. Check out how each of the five different color categories of fruits and vegetables can benefit your health. Then mix and match for a total of five servings every day. One serving equals 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked.
Blues and Purples: Blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, plums, raisins, eggplant. Benefits: Keep memory sharp and reduce risk of many types of cancer, including prostate cancer
+Greens: Kiwi, honeydew, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, brussels sprouts, cabbage. Benefits: Protect bones, teeth, and eyesight
+Whites: Pears, bananas, mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, garlic. Benefits: Lower LDL cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease
+Yellows and Oranges: Oranges, grapefruit, peaches, cantaloupe, mangoes, pineapple, squash, carrots. Benefits: Boost immune system and help prevent eye disease
+Reds: Watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, cherries, tomatoes, radishes, red apples. Benefits: Help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and improve blood flow to the heart
Speaking of your ticker, be sure you’re also eating these 7 Best Foods to Decrease Your Heart Disease Risk.
They Play With Squash
“Spaghetti squash is a great alternative to pasta,” Shaun T, The Insanity trainer who hosts a new podcast, Trust and Believe, tells Eat This, Not That!. “I love pairing it with homemade spaghetti sauce so I feel like I am eating noodles, but am getting a dose of vegetables instead!” Speaking of veggie spaghetti, don’t miss this 3 Exclusive Spiralizer Recipes!
They Go Wild
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin suggest that people who want to cut down on calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol—while still indulging their inner carnivores—might want to play games. No, wait, that’s not it. They say people might want to prey on game. Ah, yes. Meats like ostrich, bison, venison, and elk typically contain as much protein and iron as beef or pork, but have less fat and fewer calories. According to the USDA, while a 90%-lean hamburger may average 10 grams of fat, a comparatively sized buffalo burger rings in at two grams of fat with 24 grams of protein, making it one of the leanest meats around.
They Pour Pinot Noir
Multiple studies have demonstrated that pinot noir consistently contain the highest levels of resveratrol among wines—and resveratrol has been shown to blast fat. One study found that pinot had more than five times the amount found in California cabernet sauvignon. While it has the lightest body and tannins of the classic red grapes, pinot can possess a haunting variety of flavors: berries, cola, tea, mushroom, even hints of barnyard. Read on for 16 Of the Best Weight-Loss Wines.
They Crack Open a Guinness
Pulling significantly ahead of the pack in the Eat This, Not That! Light Beer Taste Test, Sam Adams Light (at 119 calories) was lauded for its discernable nutty flavor and relatively full body. One tester even noted that it “tasted like something I might find in a nice beer garden!” As for what not to drink: Most beers carry fewer than 175 calories, but even your average extra-heady brew rarely eclipses 250. That makes Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot the undisputed beast of the beer jungle. Granted, the alcohol itself provides most of the calories, but it’s the extra heft of carbohydrates that helps stuff nearly 2,000 calories into each six-pack. For comparison, Budweiser has 10.6 grams of carbs, Blue Moon has 13, and Guinness Draught has 10. Let’s hope the appearance of this gut-inducing guzzler in your fridge is as rare as encounters with the fabled beast himself.
They Skip This Soda
Wait . . . but aren’t all sodas equally terrible? It’s true they all earn 100 percent of their calories from sugar, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still varying levels of atrocity. Despite the perception of healthfulness, fruity sodas tend to carry more sugar than their cola counterparts, and none make that more apparent than the tooth-achingly sweet Sunkist. But what seals the orange soda’s fate on our list of worsts is its reliance on the artificial colors yellow 6 and red 40—two chemicals that may be linked to behavioral and concentration problems in children. Click here to see The 7 Amazing Things That Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Soda!
They Make PB+Js
…after a workout. The perfect post-weight training repast has about 400 calories, with 20 to 30 grams of protein (to build new muscle) and 50 to 65 grams of carbohydrates (to repair old muscle). Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a small bowl of pasta with meat sauce fit that formula. Lean meats are a great low-calorie source of protein, and scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, found that eating more protein may reduce the fat around your midsection. People who ate 20 more grams of protein every day than the group average had 6 percent lower waist-to-hip ratios. Not sure which sources of the nutrient are best? Fear not! We’ve identified The 29 Best Ever Proteins for Weight Loss.
They Power Up Their Pasta
Pasta dishes falter most often not because of an excess of calories, but because of a lack of substantive nutrition. To get more out of red sauce dishes like this, consider adding any of the following ingredients to the mix to power up your next plate of pasta.
8 ounces of grilled or shredded rotisserie chicken
8 ounces of sliced button or cremini mushrooms added to the pan along with the onions and garlic at the beginning of cooking
8 cups of baby spinach in place of the basil, stirred in with the pasta and sauce at the final moment until just wilted
They Know Organic Isn’t Healthy
When it comes to packaged and processed foods, “organic” does not equal “healthy.” As Michael Pollan quips in his “eater’s manifesto,” In Defense of Food, “Organic Oreos are not a health food”—they’re still heavily processed cookies filled with fat and sugar, and your body metabolizes organic fat and sugar the same way it does conventional. In fact, some clever companies use organic as a marketing smoke screen, only to load up a cup of yogurt or a box of crackers with unhealthy amounts of organic high-fructose corn syrup (yes, HFCS made from organic corn fits under the FDA guidelines for organic).
They Never Buy Bottled Spices
What all those TV chefs say is true: You should try to refresh your spice cabinet as often as possible—at least once a year. Over time, spices’ essential oils fade, and with them goes the flavor you’re looking (and paying) for. So what’s a savvy cook to do, pay $6 for a bottle of star anise you’re only going to use twice a year? Absolutely not. Instead, shop at stores like Whole Foods and ethnic markets where you can buy all your spices from bulk containers that allow you to choose the amount. Fifteen grams of fat-blasting cardamom or cumin or coriander will cost you about a quarter of what a normal supermarket charges for a small bottle and will last you the better part of a year. Plus, high turnover ensures you’re getting potent spices—not something that’s been sitting on a shelf since Reagan left office. Click here to discover the 5 Spices That Burn Fat Fast!
They Choose The Right Cut
This is consistently one of the most expensive cuts of beef, but all you’re buying is a little bit of tenderness. In fact, tenderloin isn’t a particularly flavorful steak. So why does it cost so much? Because there aren’t many tenderloin steaks on a cow, and because demand from diners looking for beef that cuts like butter tends to be high. Switch to skirt or flank steak instead. They’re both lean cuts that pack far more rich, deep, beefy flavor. Marinate for at least 4 hours in a 50-50 solution of balsamic vinegar and soy and you’ll have a steak you can cut with a spoon. Most importantly, it will cost you about half of what you would pay for that tenderloin. Remember this next time you’re at the steakhouse, too. Click here for the Top 5 Fat-Burning Meats!
They Don’t Need Fancy Crackers
Old-school as they are, Triscuit is a cracker as a cracker should be: whole wheat with a touch of oil and salt. That gives you all the fiber and flavor you need to satisfy a snack craving. For more substantial hunger pangs, try dipping them in peanut butter or guacamole. No wonder it’s one of our 50 Best Snacks for Weight Loss!
They Don’t Just Count Calories
Calories fuel our bodies, right? Actually, they don’t. A calorie is simply a unit of measure for heat; in the early 19th century, it was used to explain the theory of heat conservation and steam engines. The term entered the food world around 1890, when the USDA appropriated it for a report on nutrition, and its definition evolved. The calorie we now see cited on nutrition labels is the amount of heat required to raise 1 kilogram of water by 1°C. Here’s the problem: Your body isn’t a steam engine. Instead of heat, it runs on chemical energy, fueled by the oxidation of carbohydrates, fats, and protein that occurs in your cells’ mitochondria. “You could say mitochondria are like small power plants,” says Maciej Buchowski, PhD, a research professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Instead of one central plant, you have several billion, so it’s more efficient.” Your move: Track carbohydrates, fats, and protein—not just calories—when you’re evaluating foods.
<strong>Eat This! Tip</strong>
When you’re shopping for carbs, make certain they’re the healthy kind. These 9 Best Carbs for Weight Loss are all stellar bets.
They Divide And Dine
Until all restaurants become BYOP (bring your own plate), you’ll need to shrink your serving in a different way: When your entrée arrives, dive in and eat half, then wait at least 10 minutes before coming out for round 2. While you chat and sip water, your stomach will have a chance to digest and decide whether you’ve had enough— no matter what the plate’s saying.
They Go For 100
Be small-minded about snacks. In an experiment at the Cornell University food and brand lab, researchers gave study participants either a single bag containing 100 Wheat Thins or four smaller bags holding 25 Thins each, waited for the munching to subside, then did a cracker count. The tally: Those given the jumbo bag ate up to 20 percent more. Outsmart your snack habit by sticking with the tiny 100-calorie packs now being used for everything from Doritos to Goldfish. Click here for our essential list of The 25 Best High-Protein Snacks in America!
They Work The Perimeter
Supermarkets are designed like casinos: clockless and nearly windowless expanses flooded with artificial light and Muzak, places where time stands still. Casinos force guests to navigate a maze of alluring gambling opportunities before they reach essential destinations: restaurants, bathrooms, exit doors. Same goes for the supermarket: The most essential staple foods—produce, bread, milk, and eggs—are placed in the back and along the perimeter of the supermarket to ensure that customers travel the length of the store—and thus are exposed to multiple junk-food temptations along the way. work the perimeter, and only dip into the middle when necessary.
They Check Themselves Out
Impulse purchases drop by 32.1 percent for women—and 16.7 percent for men—when they use the self-checkout aisle, according to a study by IHL Consulting Group. Eighty percent of candy and 61 percent of salty-snack purchases are impulse buys. If you really can’t resist picking something up, opt for one of these 6 Best-Ever Candies for Weight Loss
They Come Prepared
The prepared-foods section of grocery stores has grown in recent years as consumers demand more quick, low-cost alternatives to restaurant meals. One survey found that 64 percent of people had purchased a ready-to-eat meal from a supermarket in the previous month, and experts estimated that the sector would grow to $14 billion by the end of 2011. Unfortunately, markups can be steep and nutrition is scarcely a concern for supermarkets looking to maximize profits. Your best bet on a busy night? A rotisserie chicken—healthy, versatile, and usually about $6 a bird, and it’s also one of these 9 Convenience Foods That Fight Belly Fat.
They Scan For New Brands
As with the music and movies, sometimes the best stuff is the most obscure. Not only can bigger manufacturers afford better real estate, but they often pay to keep smaller manufacturers off the shelf or in disadvantageous locations. In California, independent bakers filed a lawsuit accusing Sara Lee of paying supermarkets to relegate local bagelmakers to only the top and bottom shelves. Sadly, these lesser-known brands are often healthier and more affordable than their big-name counterparts.
They Add 8 Percent
To the food’s caloric content, that is, when choosing frozen meals. Coming up with exact calorie counts for full dinners is trickier than averaging out what you’ll get from a serving of a single food, like a cereal or a soda. And since packagers want to look as nutritionally appealing as possible, they’re likely to err on the low side: When Tufts University researchers looked at 10 frozen supermarket meals, they found that the calorie counts reported by the food companies averaged 8 percent less than the researchers’ nutritional analyses.
They Drink Away Heart Attacks
Visceral fat around your internal organs unleashes compounds within your body that cause inflammation and higher triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels—the bad stuff that leads to heart disease and stroke. So, how do you start reaping all these benefits? Remember that almost all sodas, bottled teas, energy drinks, sports drinks, juice drinks, and “vitamin” waters contain sugar. Your goal is to replace these sparetire-pumping potations with lean liquids.
So, what should you be drinking?
+Water. You’ll burn more calories and boost overall energy and concentration. Keep a pitcher by your bed and at your desk, and you’ll drink up naturally.
+Coffee. But not the sweet, syrupy specialty drinks. Coffee can rev up your metabolism in moderation, but gourmet coffee drinkers consume 206 more calories on average than folks who drink regular joe.
+Tea. It not only contains antioxidants that may help protect against heart disease and cancer, but also is nearly calorie free, as long as you don’t fall for the sugary kind.
+Milk. About 73 percent of the calcium in the American food supply comes from dairy foods, and calcium is critical for fending off weight gain and keeping bones and muscles healthy.
They Shop on Wednesdays
Most people leave their grocery shopping for Saturday or Sunday mornings, when the supermarket looks more like a ravaged battlefield than a center of commerce. Consider making midweek evening runs, instead. According to Progressive Grocer, only 11 percent of Americans shop on Wednesdays, and on any given day, only 4 percent shop after 9:00 p.m. So if you’re shopping at, say, 9:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, you’re able to get in and out quickly, which means you’ll spend less time fighting impulse items in both the aisles and at the checkout line. As a bonus, you’ll free up your Saturday morning for something more enjoyable, like cooking a healthy breakfast.
They Push a Cart
Pushing a shopping cart instead of carrying a basket may help you make smarter supermarket choices. A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research found that, all other things being equal, the strain of carrying a basket made shoppers more likely to reach for quick-grab impulse items—like the crackers and chips concentrated at eye level in the aisle. If you’re lugging around a heavy basket, you’re not taking the time to read labels and reach for more nutritious foods.
They Read Between the Lines
Take two popular menu items: A Carrot Walnut Muffin or the Chocolate Croissant. Which one’s healthier? Surely your health-conscious conscience jumps at the thought of starting your day with carrots and walnuts, yet the truth is fuzzier. Au Bon Pain’s healthy sounding muffin offering packs 540 calories—plus 7 grams more fat, double the carbs (73 g vs. 34 g), and the four times the sugar of a 300-calorie Starbucks Chocolate Croissant! Remember, “muffin” is just a way to get you to eat cake for breakfast. Best Defense: Find the unhealthiest word on any menu item, and let that be your guide. After all, the calorie count of a fish fry is not about the fish, it’s about the fry.
They Avoid ’Low-Carb’
Anything “low” in one thing is usually high in something else. Consider Applebee’s Low Carb Breakfast Bowl, which is super low-carb but starts your day with 52 grams of fat—nearly an entire day’s worth. This 660-calorie meal is like dumping an entire farm’s worth of animals into one heart-stopping combination of eggs, sausage, bacon and cheese. Their Ham, Egg & Cheese Biscuit won’t make Dr. Atkins happy, but it will save you 210 calories and 28 grams of fat. Eat for balance. Don’t be fooled by eating only “low-carb” or “low-fat.”
They Don’t Call Snacks ‘Meals’
Your restaurant may call it a “snack,” but your dietician would call it “dinner.” Earlier last year, Dunkin’ Donuts made headlines after calling a 660-calorie bacon ranch chicken sandwich a “snack,” part of a rebranding campaign—“We’re not moving into lunch,” the CEO told AP. “We’re in snacking.” (With a snack like that, who’d need lunch?) Meanwhile, Arby’s offers a “Snack and Save” menu with alleged snacks like the 550-calorie Crispy Onion Mighty Minis, which also come with 30 grams of fat and half a day’s sodium. Snack, but snack healthy. A recent Nutrition Journal study found that nutritious snacks promote weight loss. The key word there is nutritious. Fruit and nuts are snacks, but two mini onion burgers? Not so much. A good snack is in the 100-250 calorie range. All of these Filling Snacks Under 100 Calories are safe bets. Pick two of them to hit the nutritional mark.
They Recognize Salad Decoys
Restaurants have discovered a brilliant way to get you to order cheaper, more caloric food—they give you the option to order something else. It’s called “decoy marketing” in the restaurant trade. The idea is that punctuating a menu with healthy items like salads gives customers permission to order larger, junkier, more caloric meals than they would otherwise. A study at Boston University demonstrated how this worked; researchers saw French fries orders triple when salad was also an option. It’s a phenomenon experts have dubbed “vicarious goal fulfillment.” In other words, by simply acknowledging a healthy option, diners feel they have satisfied their dietary goals and can order whatever they want. Remind yourself before you look at the menu that you’re on a mission to eat well. Remember that a burger has the same calorie count whether it’s next to the spring salad or the spring lamb.
They Stay On Top of Toppings
When a restaurant chain makes its mark serving massive slabs of fat and calories, even their attempts at “lite” foods can be corrupted by an instinct to slather and garnish. Take, for example, Ruby Tuesday’s Avocado Grilled Chicken Sandwich. How bad could this be? Well, by serving you a jumbo portion and topping it with bacon, Swiss and mayonnaise, the chain has built a 1,311-calorie monster with 2,833 mg of sodium and 64 grams of fat. So customize it. If you like the sound of a grilled chicken avocado sandwich, then ask them to serve you exactly that—and maybe ask for a little mayo on the side.
They Make Sure Grilled Means Grilled
“Grilled” chicken at your local chain may be healthier than the breaded and fried option, but it’s nowhere near as healthy as the same version made on your own backyard grill. Most restaurants use a “grill” that’s actually a griddle—basically a giant frying pan, which requires a generous oil slick to prevent sticking; often it’s the bacon fat saved from breakfast. If you’re on a strict diet and “flame grilled” options aren’t available, ask for your food to be prepared to your liking. Best Defense: Ask if “grilled” means “flame grilled.” If not, ask for it broiled, which will give you a similar effect—with less of the grease.
They’re Wary Of Au Natural
Wendy’s Natural-Cut Fries are promoted as a healthy alternative to typical fries—the chain’s website boasts that they’re “naturally cut from whole Russet potatoes” and seasoned with “a sprinkle of sea salt.” But there’s more to it than that. A quick skim through Wendy’s ingredient statement is all it takes to expose these fraudulent spuds. They contain preservatives, added sugars, and hydrogenated oil. Last we checked, there was nothing remotely natural about infusing vegetable oil with hydrogen. Technically, Wendy’s isn’t lying when it says that these fries are “natural-cut.” But it makes one wonder: What would be the unnatural way to cut a potato? Understand that the word “natural” does not mean “organic” or “no additives” or, in fact, anything, either in the restaurants or the supermarkets. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Frito-Lay have all faced lawsuits over their use of the term.
They Sometimes Skip the Veggies
In order to satisfy their need to offer nutritious-sounding foods, many restaurants put veggie sandwiches on the menu. Yet in more than a few cases, you’re better off opting for red meat. At Quiznos, a large Veggie Guacamole Sub (served with heapings of mozzarella and cheddar) weighs in at 1,060 calories and an insane 2,210 mg of sodium. That’s 80 calories more than their Double Swiss Prime Rib! Remember: It’s all about the toppings. Remember that even a healthy dish can be drowned in a sea of bad calories. (Often things aren’t as healthy as they seem in the world of vegetarianism; check out our list of 12 Vegetarian Foods That Surprisingly Aren’t.)
They Speak French
“Mise en place” (pronounced meez a plas) is the fancy French phrase that basically
means “have all your ingredients ready before you start cooking.” For serious cooks, it’s not just a suggestion, it’s a religion. Nowhere is that dictum more essential than with stir-frying. Mince, dice, and chop your way through all the vegetables and proteins you’ll need, then arrange on a plate or cutting board in the order you’ll need them. Have sauces and condiments measured out. And, most importantly, always have salt and pepper (one of these 5 Best Spices to Burn Fat) at arm’s length. This way, you’ll reduce bloat by keeping sodium counts on track.
They Add Umami
Salty, sour, sweet, bitter…umami? Considered the fifth main flavor group, umami can best be described as an intense savory flavor found in tomatoes, mushrooms, Parmesan, and more. The Japanese in particular prize umami, and many of their staples contain big doses of it, from soy sauce to dried seaweed to miso paste. A good rule of thumb: The more umami in your food, the better it will taste.
They Hurry With Curry
At the heart of Indian curry powder is one of the world’s most potent elixirs: curcumin, an antioxidant known to fight cancer, inflammation, bacteria, cholesterol, and a list of other maladies—large and small—too long to publish here. Curcumin resides in turmeric, the bright yellow spice that gives curries their characteristic hue. Don’t limit the healing powers to recipes like this, though. Stir curry powder (one of these 5 Healthiest Spices on the Planet) into yogurt for a vegetable dip, slip it into mayonnaise for a powerful sandwich spread, or rub directly onto chicken or white fish before grilling.
They’re Wrap Artists
Koreans love to use large lettuce leaves to house grilled meats, rice, kimchi, and sauces. In fact, it could be anything: grilled steak, pork loin, chicken chunks, even grilled vegetables. It’s like eating a delicious burrito for a quarter of the calories. Invent at will; just don’t forget the sriracha.
They Use a Secret Weapon: Harissa
The hot sauce of choice in Northern African is a fiery red paste made from piri piri chiles, garlic, and, depending on who’s making it, a variety of spices like cumin and coriander. As addictive as the burn may be, it’s also good for you: Research has shown that capsaicin—the chemical in chiles that gives them fire—actually increases metabolism. Mix with yogurt and use as a dip, a sandwich spread, or a meat marinade; stir into curries or stir-fries.
They Blend Plant-Protein Smoothies
Bryan Wilson, a 29-year-old accountant was a test panelists for Zero Belly Diet, the new book from Eat This, Not That! creator David Zinczenko, lost 19 pounds and an astounding 6 inches from his waist in just six weeks on the program, and he attributes his success to the Zero Belly shake recipes. “I love the shakes. I added them to my diet, and almost immediately I lost the bloat,” Bryan said. “I’m a sweet craver, and the shakes were an awesome alternative to bowls and bowls of ice cream I would have had.”
Protein drinks are great ways to get a monster dose of belly-busting nutrition into a delicious, simple snack. But most commercial drinks are filled with unpronounceable chemicals that can upset our gut health and cause inflammation and bloat (Don’t believe it? Check out these 7 Worst Protein Smoothies for Weight Loss. And the high doses of whey used to boost protein levels can amplify the belly-bloating effect. The Zero Belly solution: Try vegan protein, which will give you the same fat-burning, hunger-squelching, muscle-building benefits, without the bloat. For 150+ recipes that will make your belly flat, buy the brand-new book from Abs Diet creator David Zinczenko: Zero Belly Cookbook!
They Take a Walk Before Breakfast
Zero Belly Diet panelist Martha Chesler did just this as part of her Zero Belly program, and the results were astonishing. “I saw changes immediately,” she reports. In less than six weeks on the program, Martha dropped over 20 pounds and an astonishing 7 inches from her middle by combining the Zero Belly Foods with a pre-breakfast walk.This easy a.m. ritual works on two levels. First, a recent study found that exposure to sunlight in between the hours of 8 am and noon reduced your risk of weight gain regardless of activity level, caloric intake, or age. Researchers speculate that the morning light synchronizes your metabolism and undercuts your fat genes.
They’re Never Thirsty
“Since thirst is often mistaken for hunger, I never go anywhere without a bottle of water,” says Chef Devin Alexander, of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. “I also always carry a healthy snack. Walnuts and low-sugar protein bars are two of my go-tos. These tactics have helped me maintain my 70-pound weight loss.”
They Need Their Cheese
“My philosophy on healthy eating is to enjoy everything in moderation,” says Fabio Viviani, chef and Top Chef alum. “For instance, I love cooking with fresh herbs and spices instead of heavier cheeses and butter, but I can’t live without my favorite Grana Padano Cheese. Cooking and eating should be fun; add your own personality, flavor and twist to it, but make sure it aligns with your lifestyle.”
And Their Champagne!
“I’ve always been a big believer in balance: Train hard, work hard and live hard—and sometimes that involves a bit of bubbly,” says Dan Roberts, author of the fashion model workout, Methodology X. “Indulging once and while in a bit of something that’s bad for your health is often extremely good for the soul!” For more weight loss know-how from Dan Roberts check out his Essential Trick for Rapid Weight Loss.
They Have a Carb Curfew
Though starchy and sugary carbs—like quinoa, potatoes and fruit— aren’t totally off limits, participants on Extreme Weight Loss never consume them after dark. “For dinner, contestants always have a high-protein, high-fat meal with plenty of fibrous veggies,” trainer Chris Powell tells us. “If they have a post-dinner snack, they stick to protein-rich, high-fat foods like almonds or 2% milk-fat string cheese,” he explains. This is because, he adds, axing carbs at night flips the fat burning switch by increasing the amount of fat burning hormones released while we’re asleep. To incinerate even more flab while you snooze, try these 8 Ways to Lose Weight While You Sleep.
They Are Ready for Everything
We asked Chris Powell to tell us his number one diet tip. His response: Basically, meal prep is everything. “Prep your meals in advance, and always have ready-to-eat healthy snack foods with you,” he suggests. Chris and his Extreme Weight Loss participants bulk-prep their proteins (chicken, turkey, fish) and starches (potatoes, whole-wheat rice and noodles) every four days and store them in plastic containers. This prep allows them to grab healthy eats quickly before they leave the house. “We always carry protein powder with us,” he says about snacks, adding, “You’ll never catch us without almonds in our bags! They’re filled with healthy, satiating fats and protein and don’t need to be refrigerated, so they’re really easy.”
They Keep It Clean
“Whether you have ten pounds to lose or 100, the first thing you should do is create an environment for success,” says Powell. That requires removing all temptation from your kitchen. “Collect all of the processed, sugary and fatty foods from your house, and bring them to a local food bank for donation. Then restock your kitchen with healthy groceries—real, natural, whole foods—like fresh fruits and vegetables, almonds and lean proteins like turkey, chicken, fish and eggs,” he suggests.
They Put Down the IPad
With laptops, smartphones, and iPods aplenty, we’ve become accustomed to round-the-clock entertainment. But your mealtime may be one time of day we should fight our addiction to amusement. Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that diners who were distracted at mealtime consumed significantly more unhealthy snack foods later on than those who paid close attention to what they ate. One possible explanation: When you don’t pay attention to the meal you’re eating, your brain doesn’t fully register the experience. That leaves you less satisfied and more vulnerable to overeating.
Learn to Take a Joke
A 2006 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that laughing for 15 minutes each day can help you burn 10 to 40 calories, depending on your body size and the intensity of your laughter. This adds up to about one to four pounds of fat lost per year. That may not sound like much, but there’s also been plenty of research linking happy people to all-around healthier lifestyles, and you, my friend, have an excuse to make @midnight part of your daily diet routine.