Summer is just around the corner—a time when we begin thinking about the kids getting out of school, vacations and trimming our waistlines before slipping back into that bathing suit. The good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice taste when you’re trying to slim down. These healthy options can help manage your appetite without sacrificing flavor.
Beans are powerful little containers filled with protein and other nutrients such as potassium, folate, iron, zinc and fiber. As such, they can be considered both a vegetable and a replacement for meats. Great northern white beans have a dense, nutty flavor and are perfect for a new twist on traditional bean dip. Place ½ cup of canned beans in a food processor with 1 tablespoon of water, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice to taste. Serve alongside fresh veggies for a game-time snack that’s a fraction of the calories of store-bought chips and dip.
The Slim-down Low-down: Beans are a quick way to punch up any meal. They can be mashed into dips or spreads like hummus, added to soups and salads to increase fiber and protein, or simply enjoyed as a low-fat side dish to a main entrée. Plus, beans contain antioxidants which help fight off free radicals involved in the development and progression of disease.
Everyone knows that the calcium in milk helps build strong bones, but did you know that dairy foods, like non-fat cottage cheese, also help maintain a healthy heartbeat and regulate your blood pressure? For a quick summer dessert, place ½-cup fat-free cottage cheese in a blender, along with a dash of vanilla extract and agave syrup to taste. Blend until smooth and spoon into a small glass. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and top with fresh sliced strawberries for a decadent, cheesecake-like treat without all the fat and calories of the real thing.
The Slim-down Low-down: Not only do dairy foods contain a blend of protein and carbohydrates, but some studies have found that people who have balanced meals that include dairy have a lower incidence of colon cancer and have greater success in managing their weight.
With the American Heart Association recommending eating fish twice a week, tilapia is a perfect option as it cooks up quickly on the grill—great for those backyard summer get-togethers—plus this mild white fish is super-low in calories. Add some onions and bell peppers onto the grill alongside the fish and serve with a couple of warm corn tortillas for a protein-rich, easy summer fajita dinner that will help you feel full for hours.
The Slim-down Low-down: Protein is necessary to protect muscle and promote tissue repair. This is especially important when we are losing weight. Occasionally swapping higher-calorie hamburgers and hotdogs for wonderfully seasoned grilled fish is a great way to lower the fat without sacrificing any flavor.
Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, walnuts are the perfect heart-healthy way to start your day. Nuts are a great source of mono and polyunsaturated fat, which may help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Try topping a bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal with 1 ounce of walnuts and a teaspoon of honey to help lower your risk of heart disease, while making your morning cereal much more interesting.
The Slim-down Low-down: Getting too hungry between meals will likely lead to unplanned overeating. The added fat in nuts helps boost your feelings of fullness until your next meal—but keep in mind that because nuts are about 80% fat, portion control is key.
Losing weight can be challenging and excess hunger is one of the biggest obstacles most of us encounter when we try to slim down. By incorporating a few of these foods into your meals, you may find it much easier to manage your appetite without sacrificing any flavor and you’ll be slipping back into that bathing suit in no time.
By Gina Crome
Gina M. Crome, M.S., M.P.H., R.D.Gina Crome is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise. She holds a dual Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology as well as a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from Loma Linda University whereby she received the Selma Andrews Award for Excellence and Professionalism.
Over the past 20 years, Gina’s mission has focused on guiding individuals towards gaining a better quality of life. She has previously struggled with her own weight issues and has since lost a total of 172 pounds, driving her passion home to promote healthier lifestyles. Gina is available for media interviews and community appearances and she is the author of various online nutrition and fitness columns.