It's time for a new slim-down dietary plan: Eat more to weigh less. No joke! The right foods help you drop pounds by revving up your calorie burn and curbing cravings. Recommended by top experts for the best picks and 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!
1. Cayenne Chiles
One reason to spice up your meals: You'll crank up your metabolism. A compound in chilies called capsaicin has a thermogenic effect, meaning it causes the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after you eat the chilies. Plus, you can't gulp down spicy food. Eating slowly gives your brain time to register that your stomach is full, so you won't overeat.
Eat more: Stuff chiles with brown rice and marinara sauce, then roast them. To mellow a chili’s heat, grill it until it's almost black, peel off charred skin and puree the flesh. Add the puree to pasta sauces for a one-alarm kick. Or stir red pepper flakes into any dish you enjoy.
2. Organic Kale, Mustard Greens and Spinach
These greens should be center stage on your plate. One raw, chopped cup of kale 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. Raw mustard greens and spinach, nutrient powerhouses, are a milder-tasting option. Never cook them!
Eat more: Mix chopped, raw spinach into cooked black beans. Or slice mustard greens into thin strips, sauté with vegetable broth, topped with orange slices. Make it a meal by tossing the mix with quinoa. Or soak kale in sea salt water for about 30 minutes; without adding any water, liberally add cayenne hot sauce, lemon and a sprinkle of garlic salt across the top, cover and cook at a high flame until steam escapes the top; then, lower flame and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes; and finally, turn off heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Stir in cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil.
3. Old Fashioned 5-Minute Oat Meal
“Oatmeal has the highest appetite supressant ranking of any food. Unlike many other carbohydrates, oats 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, lowering cholesterol.
Eat more: Instead of using breadcrumbs, add oats to meat loaf -- about 1 cup for a recipe that serves eight. Or try turkey and oatmeal meatballs.
4. Lentils and 15 Bean Soup
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." An excellent source of protein with brown rice, lentils are often found in 15 bean soup
Eat more: 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."
5. Goji Berries (Wolfberry)
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 are high in anti-oxidants; and, also have more beta carotene than carrots.) Snack on them mid-afternoon to stay satisfied until dinner. The calorie cost? Only 35 per tablespoon.
Eat more: Mix 1/4 cup of the dried Goji berries (from health food stores) with 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup almonds 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.
6. Wild Salmon
Not only do fish fats keep your heart healthy, they shrink your waist, too. "Omega-3 fatty acids improve insulin sensitivity -- which helps build muscle and decrease belly fat," Grotto explains. And the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns. Opt for wild salmon; it may contain fewer pollutants. Avoid farmed salmon!
Eat more: You don't need to do much to enhance salmon's taste. Simple is best. Season a fillet with garlic salt, cayenne pepper and lemon; bake for 20 minutes; and then, add 2 tsp olive oil on each side one to three minutes." Serve with brown rice and kale.
7. Apples and Apricots
An apple a day can keep weight gain at bay, finds a study from Penn State University at University Park. People who chomped an apple before a pasta meal ate fewer calories overall than those who had a different snack. "Apples are high in fiber -- 4 to 5 grams each --which makes them filling," says Susan Kraus, R.D., a clinical dietitian at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Plus, the antioxidants in apples may help prevent metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by excess belly fat or an "apple shape."
Eat more: Apples and apricots are the ideal on-the-go low-calorie snack. For a pie-like treat, chop up a medium apple and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. allspice and ½. tsp cinnamon. Add a little water, cover and pop in a preheated oven for 5 – 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
All berries are good for you, but those with a blue hue are among the best of the bunch. They have the highest antioxidant level of all commonly consumed fruit, according to research from the USDA Agriculture Research Service. They also deliver 3.6 grams of fiber per cup. "Fiber may actually prevent some of the fat you eat from being absorbed because fiber pulls fat through the digestive tract," Zuckerbrot says.
Eat more: Instead of topping your cereal with fruit, fill your bowl with blueberries, then sprinkle wheat germ on top and add almond milk or yogurt.
9. Almond Butter
Adding this spread may lower bread's glycemic index (a measure of a food's effect on blood sugar). A study from the University of Toronto found that people who ate almonds with white bread didn't experience the same blood sugar surges as those who ate only the slice. "The higher blood sugar levels rise, the lower they fall; that dip leads to hunger, causing people to overeat," says study author Cyril Kendall, Ph.D. "Furthermore, blood sugar changes cause the body to make insulin, which can increase abdominal fat."
Eat more: Try it for a change instead of peanut butter (with unhealthy mold) in sandwiches, or make a veggie dip: Mix 1 tbsp. almond butter with 2 tbsp. fat-free plain yogurt. Or add with fruit to oatmeal for flavor and protein.
The juice gets all the hype for being healthy, but pomegranate seeds deserve their own spotlight. In addition to being loaded with folate and disease-fighting antioxidants, they're low in calories and high in fiber, so they satisfy your sweet tooth without blowing your diet, Krieger says.
Eat more: Pop the raw seeds on their own (many grocery stores sell them pre-shucked) as a snack at your desk. Use them in salads instead of nuts. "They're especially delicious on raw baby spinach with grape seed oil and lemon-poppy seed dressing." Juice the entire pomegranate with green tea, honey, bee pollen, lemon and ice.
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. Its probiotics are also good for the gut!
Eat more: "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.
Don't let the fat content of an avocado (29 grams) scare you -- that's what makes it a top weight-loss food, Kraus says. "The heart-healthy monounsaturated fat it contains decreases your appetite," she says. And it's a terrific summer party food.
Eat more: Add avocado to your sandwich instead of mayo for a creamy texture and a shot of flavor. Avocados do contain a lot of calories, so it's best to watch your portions. One easy way to do it: Try Wholly Guacamole's 100-calorie fresh guacamole packs ($3; grocery stores or WhollyGuac.com). They're easy to pack in your lunch and pair with chopped vegetables.
13. Cold Pressed, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Like avocados, cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil has healthy fat that decreases your desire for food, taming your appetite. But that's hardly its only slimming feature. "Research shows it has anti-inflammatory properties," Kraus says. Chronic inflammation in the body is linked to metabolic syndrome.
Eat more: Drizzle your salad with olive oil, and you'll increase the antioxidant power of your veggies, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition notes. Or toss pasta with a few teaspoons of olive oil, fresh basil and sautéed garlic, Kraus suggests. Add this oil to your summer menus for a flatter tummy by fall.