You don't need the threat of another bathing suit season to make you get serious about slimming your middle (though, honestly, that doesn't hurt). If you've ever worn a baggy shirt to cover your belly, or worse—had someone ask when you're due (we can't believe people still do that)—making these simple food and beverage swaps can help you lose the bloat, naturally.
Eat this: Add zing to your meals with salt-free seasoning blends.
Not that: Salt, salt-based seasonings, and highly processed foods
Why? You may be attracted to your saltshaker, but water is, too. When you take in high amounts of the salty stuff, you’ll temporarily retain more fluid, contributing to that sluggish feeling, a puffy appearance, and extra water weight.
#2:Drink this: Plain water
Not that: Any carbonated drinks, including diet soda.
Why? Those bubbles have to go somewhere, and unfortunately, your middle's the unlucky host.
#3:Eat this: Use one slice of whole grain bread for your sandwich at lunch and pack in extra protein with turkey slices and low-fat cheese.
Not that: High-carb foods like bagels, pasta, pretzels, and cereals
Why? As a backup energy source, your muscles store a type of carbohydrate called glycogen. Every gram of glycogen is stored with about 3 grams of water. But unless you have a vigorous exercise routine, you don't need all this stockpiled fuel. When you decrease the carbs, you'll temporarily train your body to access this stored fuel and burn it off. At the same time, you'll drain off excess stored fluids.
#4:Eat this: Of course you should eat veggies, just eat them cooked—steaming is quick and easy (but remember to skip the salt). Instead of fresh fruits, eat canned varieties in natural juice or small portions of dried fruit, such as raisins and dried plums.
Not that: Raw vegetables and fruits
Why? Obviously we're not saying to never eat fresh fruits or veggies, but if you're trying to look more svelte, opt for cooked over raw. A half-cup serving of cooked carrots delivers the same nutrition as one cup raw, but it takes up less room in your GI tract. The same goes for fresh fruits: Compare the size of a few grapes to a few raisins. Big difference.
#5:Eat this: Give dishes a flavor boost with in-season fresh or dried herbs like dill, basil, mint, sage, tarragon, and rosemary. You can also use curry powder, lemon or lime juice.
Not that: Black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, Chili powder, hot sauces, onions, garlic, mustard, barbecue sauce, horseradish, catsup, tomato sauce, vinegar
Why? You may love your food to be four-alarm spicy, but you'll have to lay off the barbecue sauce and garlic for a few days while reducing bloat. Spicy foods can stimulate the release of stomach acid, which can cause irritation.
#6:Eat this: Reach for some nuts, like roasted or raw unsalted sunflower seeds.
Not that: Gum
Why? When you chew gum, you swallow air. All that air gets trapped in your GI tract and causes pressure, bloating, and belly expansion—none of which help flatten your middle.
#7:Eat this: You should eat your veggies cooked—but there are a few to take off your shopping list while debloating, such as gas-producing veggies like Brussels sprouts. Instead, cook up green beans, mushrooms, and squash for a delicious dinner side.
Not that: Legumes, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, peppers, and citrus fruits
Why? Certain foods simply create more gas in your GI tract (think: blown-up balloon inside your stomach).
#8:Eat this: If you need something sweet, go with the real thing.
Not that: Sugar alcohols, such as xylitol or maltitol, typically found in low-calorie or low-carb products
Why? Your GI tract can’t absorb most sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
#9:Drink this: Plain tap water
Not that: Alcohol, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and acidic fruit juices
Why? Coffee and other high-acidic beverages can irritate your GI tract, causing swelling.
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