Feb 2, 2011 7:15 AM
It's time for a new slim-down mantra: Eat more to weigh less. No joke! The right foods help you drop pounds by revving up your calorie burn and curbing cravings. We consulted top experts for the best picks and asked leading chefs for easy, tasty ways to prepare them. Add these eats to your plate today, and you'll be slimmer and healthier in no time!
Dietitians often refer to plain yogurt as the perfect food, and for good reason: With its trifecta of carbs, protein and fat, it can stave off hunger by keeping blood sugar levels steady. In a study from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, people on a low-calorie diet that included yogurt lost 61 percent more fat overall and 81 percent more belly fat than those on a similar plan without yogurt.
"Use low-fat plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise in chicken or potato salad, or top a baked potato with a bit of yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice," Krieger says. You'll save 4.7 grams of fat per tablespoon. Look for Greek yogurt, which has more protein than other versions.
Drop that rubbery low-fat cheese and pick up the real stuff. Women who had one serving of whole milk or cheese daily were less likely to gain weight over time, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds. Low-fat dairy fans didn't experience the same benefit. Whole dairy may have more conjugated linoleic acid, which might help your body burn fat. "Parmesan is so flavorful, it's easy to stick to one serving," Buchanan says.
"Grate Parmesan over roasted vegetables," Buchanan offers. Or snack on a 1-ounce portion with an apple or a pear.
Dig into eggs, yolks and all: They won't harm your heart, but they can help you trim inches. Women on a low-calorie diet who ate an egg with toast and jelly each morning lost twice as many pounds as those who had a bagel breakfast with the same number of calories but no eggs, a study from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge reports. "Egg protein is filling, so you eat less later in the day," says David Grotto, R.D., author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life (Bantam).
Omelettes and scrambles are obvious choices, but if you can't cook before work, bake a frittata on Sunday; chill it and nuke slices for up to a week.
Beef has a rep as a diet buster, but eating it may help you peel off pounds. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women on a diet that included red meat lost more weight than those eating equal calories but little beef. "The protein in steak helps you retain muscle mass during weight loss," says study author Manny Noakes, Ph.D. Try to consume local organic beef; it's healthier for you and the environment.
Grill or broil a 4-ounce serving of top round or sirloin; slice thinly to top a salad, or mix with veggies for fajitas.
One reason to spice up your meals: You'll crank up your metabolism. "A compound in chiles called capsaicin has a thermogenic effect, meaning it causes the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after you eat the chiles," Zuckerbrot explains. Plus, "you can't gulp down spicy food," she adds. "Eating slowly gives your brain time to register that your stomach is full, so you won't overeat."
Stuff chiles with cooked quinoa and marinara sauce, then roast them. To mellow a chile's heat, grill it until it's almost black, peel off charred skin and puree the flesh, Krieger says. Add the puree to pasta sauces for a one-alarm kick. Or stir red pepper flakes into any dish you enjoy.
Long sidelined as a lowly garnish, this green belongs center stage on your plate. One raw, chopped cup contains 34 calories and about 1.3 grams of fiber, as well as a hearty helping of iron and calcium. But kale's earthy flavor might take some getting used to. Spinach, another nutrient powerhouse, is a milder-tasting option.
Mix chopped, raw kale into cooked black beans, says Jennifer Iserloh, founder of Skinny Chef Culinary Ventures in New York City. Or slice kale into thin strips, sauté it with vegetable broth and top with orange slices. Make it a meal by tossing the mix with quinoa.
"Oatmeal has the highest satiety ranking of any food," Grotto says. "Unlike many other carbohydrates, oats -- even the instant kind -- digest slowly, so they have little impact on your blood sugar." All oats are healthful, but the steel-cut and rolled varieties (which are minimally processed) have up to 5 grams of fiber per serving, making them the most filling choice. Instant oats contain 3 to 4 grams per serving.
"Instead of using breadcrumbs, add oats to meat loaf -- about 1 cup for a recipe that serves eight," Iserloh recommends. Or try her recipe for turkey and oatmeal meatballs.
Lentils are a bona fide belly flattener. "They're high in protein and soluble fiber, two nutrients that stabilize blood sugar levels," says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of The F-Factor Diet (Putnam Adult). "Eating them helps prevent insulin spikes that cause your body to create excess fat, especially in the abdominal area."
There are many varieties of lentils, but red and yellow cook fastest (in about 15 to 20 minutes). Add cooked lentils to pasta sauce for a heartier dish, Zuckerbrot suggests. "Their mild flavor blends right in, and because they're high in protein, you can skip meat altogether."
These chewy, tart berries have a hunger-curbing edge over other fruit: 18 amino acids, which make them a surprising source of protein, says chef Sarah Krieger, R.D., spokeswoman in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the American Dietetic Association. (They also have more beta carotene than carrots.) Snack on them mid-afternoon to stay satisfied until dinner. The calorie cost? Only 35 per tablespoon.
Mix 1/4 cup of the dried berries (from health food stores) with 1/4 cup raisins and 1/4 cup walnuts for a nourishing trail mix. Or for dessert, pour 1/4 cup boiling water into a bowl with 2 tbsp. dried berries; let sit 10 minutes. Drain, then spoon over 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt.