Does your 2015 resolution have something to do with eating healthy, getting in shape, losing weight and in general feeling fitter/stronger/better? To firm up in the new year, hitting the gym is not even half the equation. To drop pounds and maintain weight loss, you want to focus on foods that fill you up, and keep you that way until your next meal or snack. The best ones are packed with protein, fiber and essential nutrients, says Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, a Manhattan nutritionist and creator of The F-Factor Diet, who provided the tips here. Add these to the mix (not a lettuce in sight!) and you’ll stay satisfied, not starving.
"Raspberries top the berry list with eight grams of fiber and only 60 calories per one cup serving," says Zuckerbrot. "Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries are strong runners up. Not only does all that fiber make berries super-filling, it also helps absorb excess fat and calories in the stomach and quickly eliminates them before they lead to weight gain. Toss some on your cereal, mix with plain non-fat Greek yogurt, blend with your favorite smoothie, or enjoy them all on their own."
Repeat this: Do. Not. Skip. Breakfast. “Starting your day on an empty stomach is sure to sap your energy and set you up to overeat later,” says Zuckerbrot. “Certain breakfast foods happen to be extra-high in fiber and choosing them lets you take a big leap toward meeting your daily fiber goal. Cereal in particular makes it easy to load up on fiber, so look for one that contains at minimum 5 grams of fiber per serving.”
"Lean cuts of beef, chicken and turkey require extra energy to completely digest, so add these to your diet and you’ll automatically give your metabolism a fat- and calorie-burning boost," says Zuckerbrot. "Studies have shown that people who eat plenty of lean protein burn twice as many calories after a meal as those who don’t. Further, you need protein to repair, preserve and build healthy muscle tissue."
"Oranges, grapefruit, lemon, and limes are rich in vitamin C, which helps the body metabolize fat faster so losing weight is less difficult," says Zuckerbrot. "You only need 60 milligrams of vitamin C per day to meet your basic needs, but studies have shown that increasing your daily intake to 500 milligrams may boost fat-burning during exercise by as much as thirty-nine percent." Zuckerbrot notes that those taking prescription medication should talk to their doctor about potential interactions with grapefruit.
"Green tea contains caffeine, which is a natural stimulant that can help you burn more calories even when you are at rest," says Zuckerbrot. "Green tea contains a compound called ECGC that has been shown to boost metabolism by speeding up the brain and nervous system. Caffeine also increases heart rate, which in turn helps free fatty acids stored in the body so they can be readily burned for energy. Green tea is… a healthier alternative to soft drinks, barista-style coffees, and other caffeinated drinks that may have hidden calories."
"Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and trout are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids (both) EPA and DHA, which promote healthy weight loss by simultaneously raising levels of fat-burning enzymes and lowering levels of fat-storage enzymes," says Zuckerbrot. "In clinical studies, eating omega-3 rich fatty fish regularly increased metabolism by as much as 400 calories per day."
You may want to start toting a bottle of Tabasco with you. “If you enjoy spicy food you are in luck,” says Zuckerbrot, “because jalapenos, habaneros and chili peppers all contain the heat-producing compound capsaicin, which raises both heart rate and metabolism. Eating a very spicy meal can actually speed up the metabolism by about 25% for up to three hours.”
"Among all nuts pistachios are tops for dieters," says Zuckerbrot. "You get more nuts per one-ounce serving compared to other nuts—forty nine pistachios versus twenty three almonds and eighteen cashews." Another plus? "Cracking each pistachio open slows you down so feel like you are indulging on a big snack. Buy single-serving bags of pistachios to stash in your purse, gym bag, desk drawer and glove compartment."
Vegetarians especially need to make sure they keep on top of their protein intake. Lentils pack a one-two, protein-fiber punch. “A hearty bowl of lentil soup has only one hundred calories, zero fat, and seven grams of satisfying fiber,” says Zuckerbrot. “That’s much lighter than creamy soup that’s loaded with fat.”
No need to avoid a snack when settling in for a movie. Just make sure it’s popcorn. “While a snack-size serving of pretzels and 94% fat-free microwave popcorn have about the same calories and carbs, a serving of popcorn is six whole cups and it packs 5 grams of fiber,” says Zuckerbrot.
By Lucy Maher
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photos: Paul Costello, Meredith Jenks, Romulo A Yanes, Marcus Nilsson, Devon Jarvis, Romulo A Yanes (2), Mike Lorrig, Tina Rupp, Dasha Wright