by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Diets often focus on avoiding food. Sometimes, eating actually can increase weight-loss efforts. Here are foods to help eat your way thin …
Choosing the right foods can accelerate your progress on the Exercise Floor. With a little planning, your kitchen can be diet-friendly and stocked with appealing treats. Cabinets void of sweet treats and fridge shelves filled with only skim milk do not necessarily lead to a slimmer waistline. Banish this cold, uninviting imagery. After all, the kitchen is a home’s central meeting place where guests gather, kids do homework, and dogs search for stray crumbs.
Eating the colors of the rainbow doesn’t refer to Little Debbie iced snack cakes with sprinkles. Decorate your kitchen counters and fridge with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Bring the room alive with fresh produce. Having healthy snacks a glance and easy grab away is the ideal snack solution. It’s easy to be tempted by the convenient choice. Replace your candy dish with a fruit bowl. Consider hanging a fruit basket that beacons to you from a distance. Keep it stocked with an endless supply of fresh produce.
Studies show those who consumed three apples or pears daily were more likely to lose weight. The high fiber content of these choices helps keep you full longer. The sweetness quiets cravings. Dried fruit also satisfies a sweet tooth. A healthy replacement for candy, it’s nibble-friendly and has less calories and more nutrition. For an extra treat, try high-fiber options, like raisins, dipped in yogurt or dark chocolate.
For long-term, choose frozen veggies and berries. They offer the same nutritional value as fresh versions but keep for times when a market trip is overdue. They also provide a tasty solution when fresh versions are not in season. Frozen berries work well in muffins, salads, smoothies, and yogurt. Have them ready. You never know when the need for therapeutic baking may strike. These add a great boost to the health factor.
Dairy should be included in a healthy diet, even when calorie counting. Low-fat cheese makes a convenient snack. A source of lean protein without carbohydrates, a small serving of cheese keeps blood sugar levels steady. String cheese sticks travel well and can keep you going through the day. Bring them on a hike or keep some in your work fridge. Enjoy with fresh fruit slices or whole wheat crackers and get the added stay-full satisfaction of fiber.
Yogurt is packed with nutritional benefits. It boosts the immune system, helps improve cholesterol and heart health, and promotes digestive health. It also fuels your workout for optimum fat burning. Compared to some dairy products and fresh produce, yogurt has a relatively long shelf-life. So when the apples are gone and your milk is past-date, this is a nice fallback snack.
Greek yogurt has up to 20 grams of protein per container. Check the brands and varieties; protein content varies greatly. To enhance your workout, choose brands that provide 8 to ten grams of protein per serving. For best results on the Exercise Floor, enjoy yogurt within 60 minutes of your workout. Protein delivers amino acids your muscles need to burn fat and recover from a workout session. Carbohydrates replenish your muscles’ energy stores, which are spent after exercise. Maximize yogurt’s benefits by pairing with a bottle of water. Yogurt’s protein may help the body absorb fluids and aid hydration.
As a dairy, we naturally associate yogurt with calcium. Just as with protein levels, the calcium content differs significantly among brands. Plain yogurt tends to have more calcium than the fruit varieties. The fruit and sugar consume container space, simply leaving less room for it. Choose yogurt that has added vitamin D, which is not naturally found in yogurt but is necessary for calcium absorption. Some brands contain up to 20 percent of your recommended daily value for calcium and vitamin D.
Similar to milk’s benefits, the calcium in yogurt signals fat cells to pump less cortisol, a hormone produced by belly fat that tells your body to accumulate more belly fat. According to research, people who consume 18 ounces of yogurt daily, while reducing overall calories, lost 22 percent more weight and 81 percent more stomach fat than their non-yogurt-eating counterparts. Also, yogurt eaters retained one-third more lean muscle mass, which helps maintain weight loss. Spoon it and help shed!
Plain yogurt tends to contain the most nutrients, without the sugar. It also is most versatile. Try it in place of sour cream for dips, potato toppers, and with Mexican recipes. If you aren’t a yogurt fan, this might be a tasty way to consume it while simultaneously eliminating high-fat ingredients.
Skim milk is another traditional diet staple. The abundance of calcium found in milk acts as a fat-buster. Dieters tend to limit their calcium intake (think ice cream, cheese, and other calcium-rich temptations). Low calcium levels trigger a hormonal response that increases fat storage and decreases fat breakdown for energy. Include calcium in a well-balanced meal to burn more fat and store less.
A study published in the journal Obesity Research indicated drinking at least three eight-ounce servings of fat-free milk daily helped people lose more weight than those who drank little or no milk. The milk-drinkers maintained more muscle and lost more fat, especially around the waistline. Studies continue to prove calcium, combined with exercise and a reduced-calorie diet, decreases weight and waist size. Cheers to milk!
With about 15 calories each and no cholesterol, eggs whites are a versatile protein source. Mix with veggies for an omelet or scramble and drop them in soup for an Asian delight. A large hardboiled egg has approximately 6 grams of protein. Use it to add substance to a salad or on its own. Although about 80 calories, it just might get you through the afternoon without hitting the vending machine.
Popcorn cooked stovetop with minimal oil is another snack for loss. Avoid smothering this whole grain in butter and salt, and you have a fiber-filled crunch to satisfy munchies. Volume, fiber, and whole grain leave you feeling full until your next meal. A low-fat, single-serve microwave bag is only about 100 calories. Popcorn is also being studied for human absorption of its high antioxidant content, which may rival that of some fruits and vegetables.
No kitchen supplies are complete without peanut butter. Since childhood, this is a staple. Yet, we often do not consider it a diet-friendly food. Images of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with stickiness oozing out the sides seem more like a diet disaster. Think again! All-natural peanut butter is packed with protein. Usually, sugar content, sweeteners, and salt is eliminated, leaving just peanuts in their creamy or roughly ground version.
Natural peanut butter is a great source of protein: One tablespoon has about four grams. Studies also show it contains an element that blocks the formation of fat cells. Spread on whole wheat bread and top with natural jam. Inner-child and swimsuit approved.
Cinnamon adds flavor and is a healthy sugar substitute, unlike sugar’s other replacements. Sprinkle on fruit, cereal, coffee, and smoothies to sweeten with value. A quarter teaspoon daily helps lower cholesterol and triglycerides. It also controls blood sugar levels, which helps prevent food binging. Used as a spice, cinnamon can help counter the negative effects of high-fat meals.
Black pepper is also an ally in this mission. A study published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed the same compound that causes the occasional black-pepper sneezing spell is associated with inhibiting the creation of new fat cells.
A nice mug of earthy green tea fuels the burn. Overflowing with antioxidants, green tea helps lower cholesterol, burn fat, and speed metabolism. If you have to indulge in that piece of chocolate, pair it with a soothing cup to help “undo the damage.”
These choices may not be the lowest calorie option. They probably aren’t even on the latest “super food” lists. But, they do torch fat. They do this while adding value, in their own right, with vitamins and nutrients. Keep them in your arsenal of weapons to combat unhealthy weight. They work with you, a treadmill of sorts, only in food form.
“10 Surprising Health Benefits of Yogurt,” by Amanda Pressner at www.fitnessmagazine.com.
“Drink Milk for Weight Loss,” by Christine Palumbo, RD, at www.foodfit.com.
“Black Pepper May Block Formation of New Fat Cells,” at www.nydailynews.com.
Lemon & tape measure (introductory photo): www.flickr.com/photos/startcooking/193662881/in/photostream/
Yogurt with blueberries: www.flickr.com/photos/36348786@N00/3201885283/
Peanut butter: www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/7104016311/
Green tea: www.flickr.com/photos/zoyachubby/1107449287/