While meal prep is considered a tedious task, sticking to homemade, wholesome meals are key to fat loss success says John Rowley, Certified Personal Trainer and International Sports Sciences Association Director of Wellness. John suggests organizing your grocery list on the weekend and planning each meal out for the week so that when it comes time to cook, you’re ready to roll—and less tempted to indulge in a quick fix on the way home. No time to cook? “Invest in a crockpot. Just add the ingredients in before heading out for the day, and come home to a healthy masterpiece.”
Popcorn is a whole grain, so it’s not unreasonable to include it on your green-light food list. However, even “natural” and “light” microwave popcorn is loaded with artificial ingredients, plus sodium and butter—and a ton of calories. This doesn’t mean you have to give up all popcorn though, as air-popped popcorn is a much better alternative. It only contains 30 calories per cup and you can customize it to your liking.
A recent study in the journal Nature found that mice who were fed a breakfast in which 45 percent of the calories came from fat tended to burn more body fat over the next 24 hours than those who ate a meal that was only 20 percent fat. This is early research—it needs to be repeated in humans—but mono and polyunsaturated fats like those found in avocados and nuts do have plenty of health benefits when you eat them in moderation.
Managing how many calories you eat and how many you burn is the essence of a diet. While it is helpful to consider both food and fitness when selecting a diet, most people take in much more food than they can ever hope to burn off. That makes the food portion of each plan especially important. We looked for services that make it easier to eat right, with recipes, recommendations and personalized food plans.
But just because belly fat comes off a bit more easily doesn’t make it less dangerous. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. “Belly fat is unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Dr. Cheskin. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it’s more active in terms of circulating in the bloodstream. That means it’s likely to raise the amount of fat in your blood (known as blood lipid levels) and increase your blood sugar levels, which as a result raises your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
“If you already have a regular exercise regimen and aren’t seeing the fat-loss results you want, it’s probably what you’re putting in your mouth that’s holding you back, says Justin Thomas Sanchez, Reebok Sponsored Athlete and trainer at Drill Fitness in NYC. “I’m known for telling my clients that they’re flushing their money down the toilet if they pay me to train them and aren’t sticking to their diet. Results are 70% nutrition and 30% fitness,” he adds.
Load up on low energy density foods, like vegetables, fruits and fat-free broths. A few minor tweaks can lower the energy density of your favorite meals, too. For example, substitute a half-cup of spaghetti and a half-cup of spiralized zucchini "zoodles" for a full cup of spaghetti. Or make a chicken, vegetable and brown rice soup instead of serving grilled chicken with brown rice and veggies; the broth is often very low or virtually free of calories, lowering the energy density of your meal, so you may fill up on fewer calories.