No need to ditch your favorite movie-night snack when you're trying to lose weight. "Popcorn is a whole grain, meaning it contains fibre to help your digestive tract keep moving along smoothly," says Samantha Heller, an exercise physiologist and author of The Only Cleanse: A 14-Day Natural Detox Plan to Jump-Start a Lifetime of Health. "Since it's plant-based fibre, it also plays a role in improving gut bacteria, which recent research shows is key to preventing weight gain and promoting overall health." One last note from Heller: buy the bags of pre-popped kernels, since the microwavable kind can contain partially hydrogenated oil—a trans fat you want to avoid at all costs.
Yeah, yeah, yeah—we've all heard how sweet potatoes are a superfood. But did you know that the white spuds actually have a ton of health benefits, too? They're a good source of vitamin C and potassium, and one study showed that when people ate five to seven servings of potatoes a week, they still lost weight. (Granted, the subjects were on a reduced-calorie diet as well—but at least these findings show that potatoes don't hinder weight loss.) Again, portion control comes into play, says Heller. Don't go for the giant potatoes the size of a dinner plate, and skip spuds that come topped with bacon or cheese, mashed with cream and butter, or deep fried and dipped in ketchup. Instead, opt for one medium-sized potato topped with olive oil and salt.
Your morning cup is a great source of antioxidants that offer up a load of health benefits, like protecting your brain and lowering your risk of oral cancer. What's more, research shows coffee—whether caffeinated or decaf—can help curb appetite by increasing the hormone associated with satiety. But there are two things to watch out for, Kirkpatrick warns. First, overdosing on milk and sugar, which will offset the benefits. And if too much java caused you to eat a too-tiny breakfast, make sure you don't overcompensate at your next meal.
Research suggests that a drizzle of this tangy salad topping can help manage your appetite and improve insulin sensitivity, which can help regulate your blood sugar. Plus, adding it to soups, salads, or grilled proteins is a great way to add flavour without extra calories, says Heller. Try apple cider vinegar when you need to mix it up, and check out infused vinegars (found at gourmet shops or farmer's markets) for even more flavour options. One downside: "Because it's highly acidic, it may irritate your mouth, throat, or digestive system," Heller warns. So try small amounts to see how your body reacts before really digging in.
If it's not in your spice rack already, this popular addition to Indian curries and hearty chilis definitely deserves a spot. Cuminhas been shown to help with weight loss, improve digestion, and reduce cholesterol. The spice is also a very good source of iron, which is essential for transporting oxygen to muscles and boosting your energy levels.
Noodles can be a healthy choice, as long as you choose a 100-percent whole grain version and watch your portion sizes, says Heller. "It has a relatively low glycemic index, meaning it won't spike your blood sugar as much as other simple carbs." But it's really what you put on it that counts: Avoid heavy cream sauces . Try a homemade roasted tomato sauce with herbs instead, which is low in calories and high in antioxidants like lycopene. And when it comes to portion control, do as the Italians do and stick to their typical serving size of one cup—restaurants serve up to three cups in one serving!
While those headlines claiming "eating chocolate can help you lose weight!" may have sadly been a hoax, the dark variety is chock full of antioxidants that help prevent inflammation, and the healthy fats can help boost satiety, says Valerie Orsoni, weight loss coach and creator ofLeBootcamp. In fact, she notes that eating 4oz a day has been shown to help decrease cravings in people who otherwise deprived themselves of the sweet stuff. So go on and enjoy a square with that glass of red wine—your waistline deserves it.
Think of soup as a dieter's best friend. "Any clear-liquid-based soup works as a weight loss aid because it's high in volume yet low in calories," explains Kirkpatrick. Chicken is a great option because it contains protein and veggies—but hold the pasta and use a low-sodium broth. Those white refined noodles don't offer any nutritional benefit and will spike your blood sugar, says Kirkpatrick. Instead, she likes to add plantains, which contribute nutrients, flavor, and all the starchy comfort sans tons of calories.
Mix this spicy topping into your favourite meals to get an extra kick and help promote weight loss. Studies show that hot peppers contain a compound called capsacin, which helps you feel full and revs your metabolism, says Kirkpatrick. Try 'em on top of scrambled eggs, mixed in Tex-Mex-style dishes, or stirred in soups.
Their reputation holds fast—they do help you stay, er, regular with your bathroom habits, since they're loaded with fibre, says Heller. And research shows that these chewy snacks can help with weight loss, as one study found that people who ate them lost more weight and reported feeling fuller than those who didn't.