If there were a master food to chisel away at that extra padding around your midsection, we’d tell you about it. Unfortunately, weight loss—and changing your body, for that matter—isn’t that simple.
What we can tell you: Foods rich in protein and healthy fats keep you fuller longer and keep you from reaching for the sugary processed carbs that lead to trouble areas, says Molly Kimball, R.D., a sports dietician at Ochsner’s Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans, LA.
To keep your weight in check, aim for a palm-sized amount of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner (for most guys, that’s about 6 to 8 ounces), suggests Kimball. Then incorporate these belly-blasting eats to your diet, stat.
Not only is the breakfast staple a good source of protein, but eggs have zero carbs and are packed with choline—which helps with fat metabolism and is tough to find in other foods, says Kimball. Any way you like ‘em works just fine: hardboiled, poached, or scrambled. “Just stick with one or two yolks to keep your calories in check,” she suggests. If you want more, beef up your meal with egg whites.
Cut empty carbs from white rice in favor of quinoa. You’ll stay fuller longer (one cup has 8 grams of protein and about 2.5 grams of fiber). A bigger bonus: Fiber helps your body reduce blood sugar levels which can help you shed weight, says research from The American Society for Nutritional Sciences.
When it comes to keeping energy levels high, you want to remain on and alert without sending your adrenaline into overdrive. The problem? Stimulants like energy drinks can lead to the surge of stress hormones, which in excess, are linked to extra abdominal fat, Kimball notes.
That’s why she suggests infusing your water bottles with white or green tea bags. It’s easier than it sounds. You don’t need hot water or a fancy contraption. Just let bags soak in your water bottle and you’ll be left with a buzz of energy (plus the hydration you need).
Sweet tooth? Back away from the candy and pop some fiber-rich berries two or three times a day. Researchfrom Washington State University suggests that the antioxidant resveratrol helps the fruit convert excess white fat in your body into the calorie-burning beige fat. How’s that for a sweet snack?
Nighttime cravings can be the demise of even the most flawless diet plans. But treat sweet and savory hankerings with casein, a slow-digesting protein, and you’ll rebuild and repair muscle fibers, says Kimball. “When you’re trying to drop body fat, you may get hungry or you might not be able to sleep if you’re fighting the urge to snack.”
Adding casein to unsweetened almond milk or blending it into a smoothie with a low-carb liquid and ice can help maintain muscle mass and minimize the muscle loss that naturally occurs while you snooze, she says. “We want to do everything we can to keep our metabolisms in high gear.”
Stock your fridge with cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, celery, broccoli, and cabbage. While these veggies are naturally low in calories, they’re also high in fiber which adds bulk to foods and can make you feel fuller faster (read: fewer crazy cravings later in the day). Don’t want to eat ‘em raw? Add the vegetables to sandwiches, soups, salads, or egg dishes to get your fix.
Salads may be a good start if you’re trying to lose fat, but swapping lettuce for spinach is your power move. The nutrient-rich leafy green packs a healthy dose of protein (6 grams in one cooked cup). It’s also packed with a slew of vital vitamins and minerals like iron, and vitamins K, A, B, E, C, manganese, folate, and magnesium (we could go on). Eat it in salads, blend the green up in a smoothie, or sauté for side dishes.
Here’s something you may not have known: Cottage cheese is rich in casein, too. Eat it day or night with salsa or top it with fresh berries to give yourself a protein (and energy) boost. Even more: Just four ounces of cottage cheese has more than triple the electrolytes of 8-ounces of a sports drink—and it’s got calcium, says Kimball.
Avocados are packed with healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats—the kind you’ll need to keep you full, slow digestion, and cut the fat you don’t want. The green guys also serve up a whopping 20 different kinds of vitamins; and research from Loma Linda University suggests that munching on a half an avocado can reduce how much you eat later that day and increase your feelings of fullness. Just pay attention to serving size—too much avocado can work against you, packing on the pounds.
Almonds may steal all of the limelight, but if you’re going to snack on nuts, give pistachios a shot. Research from the USDA suggests that the amount of calories absorbed from these nuts, in particular, was five percent less than the number of calories on the nutrition facts panel. An added bonus: They’re lower in calories and fat content, which means you can eat more of them.