With the holidays here, it can seem like diet sabotage is around every corner. But it's not just about sugary office treats and endless holiday party spreads; some of the most common Fall and Winter foods actually help, not hurt, your waistline. Want to know which ones? Read on for five fat-burning foods you should be eating this holiday season!
If you're trying to keep close tabs on added sugars and calories, it's time to rethink a daily Starbucks Peppermint Mocha. This seasonal drink should only serve as an occasional indulgence — not an everyday occurrence. Just one tall peppermint mocha (made with two-percent milk and no whipped cream) weighs in at 250 calories with 40 grams of sugar.
Backing off your Starbucks habit will help your waistline (and your wallet), but you can still enjoy the holiday scent and flavor regularly, just with a new tradition. Swapping out your peppermint mocha for a cup of hot peppermint tea keeps your drink in the spirit of the season while supporting your healthy goals.
It suppresses appetite: Mint's strong scent has been shown to help control your appetite and suppress cravings. If you're always reaching for a sweet treat after dinner, consider sipping on a cup of hot peppermint tea to help curb your dessert desires.
It supports digestion: Multiple studies have shown that peppermint tea can calm down your gastrointestinal tract and allow for healthy bowel movements; in short, it keeps things moving and flowing naturally in your body. Dr. Oz says that peppermint tea can alleviate constipation, get digestion back on course, and that even folks suffering with IBS symptoms may find relief with peppermint oil capsules.
It keeps you relaxed: In a NASA-funded study, researchers found that during a stressful commute, subjects who smelled peppermint decreased their anxiety and fatigue levels by 20 percent and decreased frustration by 25 percent. When it comes to weight loss, increased cortisol levels from heightened stress can have negative consequences on your metabolism. The calming, soothing scent from your peppermint tea can help reduce stress and keep your body on track.
I'm a big fan of Yogi Tea's Purely Peppermint Variety ($13) that you can buy online or at the supermarket, but it's also easy to make your own fresh, homemade peppermint tea in your kitchen. If you don't love the minty flavor in your tea, trying lighting a peppermint candle or taking a few whiffs of peppermint essential oil instead. Many natural forms of the scent could prove to be helpful and effective!
"Like turkey?" I joked to my sister-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner, as I noticed her plate piled high with white meat and a little bit of what looked like cooked veggies she brought from home. "I'm on the Ideal Protein Diet. I've lost 20 pounds, and I've got my eye on the prize," she said. The diet she went on to explain intrigued me, because I saw the results right before my eyes.
What Is It?
The Ideal Protein Weight Loss Method was medically developed two decades ago by Dr. Tran Tien Chanh to help people lose fat without losing muscle mass. It's a high-protein, low-carb diet, but unlike other low-carb programs, it's not just about eating high protein, it's about eating the right protein. This diet also severely restricts sugar intake (simple and complex) until your weight-loss goal is reached. This ensures that your glycogen (carbohydrate) reserves are completely depleted, which forces your body to dip into your fat reserves to lose weight. What's also different about this diet, and what makes it so successful, is that it teaches followers to read labels, make healthy choices, and shows what to do to maintain weight once the goal is reached.
What Does the Diet Entail?
Phase 1 (followed strictly until weight-loss goals are met): Eat an Ideal Protein Breakfast (products you need to buy form the company), an Ideal Protein Lunch with two cups of select veggies*, your own dinner that incorporates an eight-ounce portion of real protein (including fish, seafood, beef, poultry, pork, veal, eggs, or tofu) with two cups of select veggies (including bell peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, kale, asparagus, and spinach), and an Ideal Protein Snack. There are also vitamin supplements.
Phase 2 (2 weeks): Same as above but now you can eat your own lunch consisting of a seven-ounce portion of real protein and two cups of select veggies. Dinner is the same as lunch.
Phase 3 (2 weeks): Lunch and dinner are the same as in Phase 2, but breakfast now consists of fruit (no more than 20 grams of carbs), grains (no more than 30g of carbs), and dairy (no more than 120 calories) to make a 400- to 500-calorie breakfast. This phase slowly increases your calorie intake to a maintenance level.
Phase 4 (for life): This phase teaches you how to balance carbs with proteins and fats in your daily diet to ensure you don't regain the weight back.
*Off-limit vegetables: artichoke, avocado, beets, carrots, chick peas, corn, olives, parsnips, peas, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet corn, squash, yams
What to Expect
Since you're dramatically changing how you eat, about 30 percent of Ideal Protein dieters can expect all the symptoms that go along with feeling hungry including headaches and fatigue, as well as constipation and possible nausea. By the end of the first week, most people lose three to seven pounds (mostly water weight), but seeing results can be the inspiration needed to keep with the plan, and in the following weeks, you'll lose fat. It can also help people lower their cholesterol and blood pressure.
What About Exercise?
When you exercise, glucose levels increase leading to gluconeogenesis — synthesizing glucose from noncarbohydrate sources, mainly from your muscles. To prevent muscle loss, exercise in the first three weeks is not recommended, unless it's light exercise (1/3 to 1/2 of your normal intensity). After three weeks, you can include exercise, but be sure to stay well-hydrated.
As you can see, this diet is pretty precise, which can be be seen as either welcoming or too restrictive, based on your personality. Since you have to purchase Ideal Protein products, this program can be pretty costly (about $100 a week) for Phase 1. If you do a little research online, you'll find that there are ways you can substitute their products for cheaper ones, but for those set on losing weight, they'd rather not stray from the plan. There are gluten-free meal and snack options available, but if you're a vegan, this diet probably isn't for you. It's definitely worth looking into if other diet plans haven't worked for you in the past.
With a calendar full of holiday parties in December, it's easy to fall off your healthy wagon — and have a hard time climbing back on board! Who better to talk to about staying on track than The Biggest Loser trainer and fitness guru Jillian Michaels?
Jillian, who recently announced her partnership with Curves that kicks off in 2014, chatted with us about how she strategizes with clients to keep them on track during the holidays.
Don't resign yourself to indulging all month long! Jillian suggests picking "several days to indulge" — instead of the entire month. Plan in advance and know when you'll be taking part in celebratory meals and goodies. Once you have those dates mapped out, Jillian says "be sure to work out that day" so you have the calories to spare on holiday treats. Another holiday tip from the weight-loss guru: bring your own healthy dish to a party. Jillian says "that way you know there will be at least one healthy item to enjoy!"
Jillian's mantra when it comes to special holiday meals? "Moderation is key." If there are certain foods you just can’t omit from your holiday menu, prepare them, but always remember to eat with moderation in mind. We were also surprised to learn that Jillian doesn't believe in the word "cheat." Instead, she says "there are foods that are higher in calories than others, and I consume them in moderation." Jillian allows "20 percent of her daily calories" to come from foods that are less healthy like a sweet treat or the occasional cocktail.
Keep It Clean
While she allows space in her diet for less healthy food, Jillian doesn't take the word "food" lightly. She says that natural sources of sugar and fat are OK in moderation, but "fake sugars, fats, [food dyes], and flavors are never OK. They are not food." She's adamant about steering clear of these "fake foods" because she feels our bodies do not know how to process them, which "not only results in obesity but in disease." Jillian insists to "avoid those foods at all costs!"
Don't feel sorry for beans. They may be known mostly for their unpleasant side effect when eaten, but beans are actually nutritious little gems. If you follow these tips, you can eat beans without the bloat, which means you can reap these weight-loss benefits. Here are three reasons to plate-up with beans.
While the fiber content of beans helps keep things moving, it also gives you that "I'm full" feeling. Satiating your hunger is the key to preventing overeating and consuming too many calories for the day. But you don't just need to eat a plate of plain beans; in fact, you can add beans to smoothies — you won't be able to taste them at all — throw them in your scrambled eggs, add them to soups, pasta dishes, or homemade pizza.
Beans aren't just for vegetarians. Omnivores can soak up bean protein as well. High-protein beans help keep energy and blood-sugar levels stable, which helps prevent cravings for sugary pick-me-ups that tend to be high in calories and void of nutrition. Since a couple hours between meals tends to be common crash times, including beans for breakfast and lunch will keep you peppy until your next meal. Whip up a sweet potato, chickpea, and quinoa veggie burger, a plate of polenta with beans, or a satisfying bowl of cumin-spiced lentils with quinoa.
When trying to beat the scale, you need to make sure that you're eating quality foods low in calories and high in nutrition. Beans make perfect snacks too, so look beyond the typical carrot sticks and hummus pick-me-up (but do try this black bean hummus). You can snack on honey-roasted cinnamon chickpeas, veggies with creamy white-bean dip, or these delicious edamame pear crostinis. You can also enjoy a low-cal dessert with fortified with beans, like these peanut butter oatmeal raisin cookies or black bean brownies.
December is a month rife with temptations. Holding steady through the holidays and maintaining your weight is certainly admirable — especially when factoring in that you have less time to exercise and more events to attend. Play it smart, and avoid these common mistakes fit folks tend to make around Christmas and New Year's.
Gaining a pound or two during the month of December may not sound like a lot, but a dedicated habit of pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving to New Year's can mean piled-on pounds as the years go by. Luckily, you don't have to swear off holiday treats or spend hours at the gym in order to participate in this month's celebrations — you just have to make a few smart choices when it counts. For a crash course on enjoying the holidays without an expanding waistline, we spoke to Extra TV host and Ocean Spray spokesperson Maria Menounos, who shed 40 pounds over a decade ago and has kept it off. Maria's newest book, The EveryGirl's Guide to Diet and Fitness ($14, available for preorder) will be published in April, but she shared with us a few of her go-to tips just in time for the holidays. Read on for her practical advice for preventing weight gain this season.
- Plan ahead for a feast: Whether it's a Christmas Eve feast with the family or a long night of holiday parties, if you know you're going to be indulging at night, plan ahead, says Maria. "If you know you're going to have a big meal that night, it's better to make sure that throughout the day you keep it simple and clean," she says. Feeling especially nervous that packed-on pounds are in your future? Go for a clean-eating diet a couple of days before the big day, as well as a couple of days after, Maria says, "so you can really splurge and not feel guilty on that day."
- Just keep moving: What to do when a packed week doesn't leave time for a gym trip? Just keep moving, Maria advises. "Maintain your steps throughout the day: try to walk as much as you can and at a brisk pace, so that you're burning calories throughout the day." Maria aims for 10,000 steps a day, which is just what most experts recommend you fit into your day.
- Drink hot water, not calories: Maria always keep a mug of hot water around — it's one of her favorite tricks for feeling full and energized throughout the day. "Hot water is like magic. It fills you up: it also is detoxifying, de-stressing, and helps digest the food in your stomach," she says. Also, "you'll find yourself eating a little less if you're drinking hot water," she adds. It's not just during the day that she recommends imbibing calorie-free: she even opts for water over juices or alcohol at holiday parties when watching her calorie count. "I save it for the food," she says.
The 80/20 principle is no diet — it's a lifestyle change that can lead to sustainable weight loss. Folks who have suffered on rigid, limiting diets in the past find that this new "rule" teaches them about balance and moderation, a concept that never exists in a fad diet. When you practice 80/20, you have the space to go out socially and enjoy a meal (or a cocktail!) with friends, but most importantly, it makes the whole clean-living thing feel doable for the long run.
The breakdown is simple: 80 percent of the time you focus on eating clean, good-for-you foods, and 20 percent of the time you have the freedom to indulge as you please. Don't be concerned about the math, but it's simple: if you eat three square meals a day, three of those meals every week are your 20 percent cheat meals; if you eat five small meals a day, then seven of those small meals are up for grabs.
If you're worried about loosening the reins, look to Hollywood for 80/20 success stories. When we spoke to Jessica Alba's trainer Yumi Lee, Yumi credited the 80/20 rule when it came to Jessica's ability to maintain her healthy weight. She explains, "You can't be 100 percent all of the time, but you can be 80 percent all of the time." Yumi recommends small, frequent meals throughout the day, aiming to make healthy choices 80 percent of the time.
Supermodel Miranda Kerr has also explained how the 80/20 rule has done wonders for her relationship with food. Without guilt on conditions placed on meal choices, Miranda says, "Food is my friend, and consistency is the key. I believe that everything in moderation is best." We could not agree more!
Do you already live the 80/20 way? Tell us in the comments!
You started running months ago, yet every time you hop on the scale, you're let down by the results. What gives? While running does burn mega calories, here are some reasons you may not be seeing the weight-loss results you're after.
Burning tons of calories can cause a famished feeling afterward, but it's important to fuel wisely. Choose junk food as your recovery food and not only are you overdoing it on the calorie front, you'll be hungry again in the next hour. Although a postrun snack is essential, make sure it's packed with protein and filling carbs and does not exceed 150 calories. If you exercised before a meal, enjoy a sensibly portioned plate, and don't go overboard as a way to reward your efforts. If you still find you're utterly famished after a workout, it probably means you need to fuel up before you exercise, so enjoy one of these pre-workout snacks before heading out for a run.
You Don't Run Enough
If you're running and not seeing results, take a look at your calendar. Doing one 45-minute run once a week or a couple 20-minute runs won't burn enough calories to lose weight. In order to lose a pound a week, you'll need to cut 500 calories each day, through a combination of diet and exercise. If losing weight is your goal, run three to four times per week and incorporate other forms of calorie-burning cardio and/or metabolism-boosting strength training on the other days.
You're Burning Less Than You Think
You just got back from a run, you're covered in sweat, and you're convinced you burned over 500 calories. But did you really? A 150-pound woman will burn 495 calories running for 45 minutes at a 10-minute-per-mile pace. If you didn't run for that long or that fast, then you're not burning as many calories as you thought. It's best to track your workout just to be sure, using a heart rate monitor or one of these cheap running apps on your phone.
Same Workout, Different Day
If you found a great three-mile loop in your neighborhood, running it for a few weeks can help running become a habit. The problem lies with continually doing the same running workout. Your muscles will quickly adapt to the demands you're placing on them, which is a surefire way to hit a weight-loss plateau. Avoid this issue by mixing up your running workouts: include speed intervals, hills, long runs, short runs, and run on different surfaces and in new places to keep your muscles guessing and continuously strengthening. Check out these four training techniques that will challenge your run. As mentioned earlier, it's also important not to make running your sole source of exercise. Include other forms of cardio as well as strength training since muscle mass burns more calories and speeds up your metabolism.
It's Not Just About the Scale
Running is one of the best ways to tone your lower body because it helps diminish fat while building muscle. Muscle tissue is more dense than fat tissue, so it takes up less space. This means that although your weight might not decrease (and might even go up a little), other body measurements will change, such as waist circumference, bra size, or the shape of your tush. The number on the scale isn't always the best way to monitor your progress. Even though the scale's not budging, you might be able to fit into those skinny jeans you had your eye on.
One motivating factor in reaching a weight-loss goal is to think about the skinny jeans, strapless dresses, and bathing suits you'll be able to wear once you hit your ideal body weight. Until that happens, use your current wardrobe to stay on track. Check out these closet weight-loss tools.