Worried your weight loss efforts will slide at Christmas?istock/mediaphotos
All the goodies up for grabs can definitely test your healthy eating habits. Luckily, if you know what to look for, you can choose certain fat releasing foods—research shows these can make a huge difference in losing weight and keeping it off. Isn’t it nice, especially at this time of year, to get a list of foods you should be eating, rather than a list of things you should avoid?
This nutty grain packs a double punch: Flaxseed meal is both a great source of healthy fats (PUFAs and MUFAs; you know, Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Monounsaturated Fatty Acids, the kind of fats that benefit your gut) and fiber. Nutritionist Ashley Koff, RD, backs this up. “Because soluble fiber forms a gel when it contacts water,” she explains, “digestion takes more time, and carbohydrate-containing foods are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream.” This allows your body to use the carbs for energy instead of storing them as fat. Try it: Flaxseed meal is a base in the fruity, flavorful Digest Diet smoothies that our fans swear by. You can also add it to other dishes, including desserts, for rich texture and flavor. Koff shared this cool tip: She combines flaxseed meal and water just enough to make a paste, then uses it in place of eggs or mayo in recipes. You can find flaxseed meal at certain groceries, or online.
This veggie—often found raw around a bowl of creamy dip—is actually a slimming powerhouse, thanks to its hearty dose of vitamin C and capsinoids. Studies show that capsaicin content helps turn on the fat-burning modules in your body; plus you get an extra boost of fiber which helps keep you fuller, longer. Try it: If you're at a party, crunch them raw (and skip the dip). At home, sauté, slice or snack on them with a low-fat ricotta spread (calcium is another fat releasing ingredient).
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Olive oil seems to get all the love when it comes to dressing a salad or sautéing fish, probably because of the healthy fats that place it at the heart of Mediterranean diets. But! There’s a carafe full of reasons to love its low-cal complement, vinegar, as well. In studies, mice that ate vinegar extract accumulated less body fat than those that did not. Additionally, vinegar may also help regulate your blood sugar, and prevent it from spiking after meals. Try it: All vinegars help reduce bloating, from apple cider to red wine. My pick? I love balsamic vinegar mixed with honey (another fat releaser!), drizzled over salmon.
A 2011 study found that animals whose diets were supplemented with a quinoa seed extract had lower body fat, lower weight and ate less than those with no quinoa. I’m also keen on quinoa because it’s loaded with amino acids, vitamin E and phytosterols (which can help reduce blood cholesterol) Try it: Cook this delicious grain with a hearty array of veggies, and some cubed chicken or fish for added protein. You can also enjoy it for breakfast, like oatmeal.
All citrus help release fat (again, it's the vitamin C). You can choose oranges or limes, but bright, tart lemons contain “a weak acid which helps to stimulate your stomach for optimal digestion. As a result, they’re a key secret in slimming down, especially flattening the tummy area,” shares Koff. Try it: Adding a citrus wedge to water will spruce up an otherwise plain drink and make sure you are hydrated and full all day long. Also squeeze lemons or limes over salad for an added splash of flavor.
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Here's a secret source of power from the pros: Nutritionist Tara Ostrowe, MS, RD, who works for the New York Giants, recommends beans to help with energy metabolism, as they are rich in B vitamins, fiber and protein. To calculate a healthy portion size, think of the bulb part of a light bulb; it doesn’t take more than this to fill you up and curb your appetite. Try it: If you're at a party, focus on the bean-rich dips (and scoop 'em with your red pepper crudité!). Beans are also the perfect vegetarian base for stews and slow cooker recipes.
This last skinny food, cinnamon, is a versatile seasoning. Ostrowe explains, “Cinnamon can help lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. This means that less sugar in your body will be stored as fat, and that it can help aid weight loss.” A 2012 study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that adding cinnamon to cereal was effective at moderating glucose response in normal weight and obese adults after eating. Try it: Dash it on your skinny latte, or dust it over savory dishes for a little sweet heat.