Develop a better relationship with food and achieve the results you want with this day-by-day summer schematic.

Diets have helped millions of people get fit and lose weight. They’ve also helped millions of people hate the very idea of dieting. Besides the fact they mercilessly keep us from all the wonderful, tasty foods we love — in the name of health and a better body, of course, which is a fair point — diets often lack personalization, which can hurt their effectiveness and sustainability. What follows here, therefore, is not a diet or blueprint of calorically perfect meals but rather a progressive 14-day set of fueling strategies to help you clean up your nutrition habits before summer.

“Typically, people make too many changes at once and it’s too much to handle,” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC. “Big lifestyle changes are better tackled in small increments to set you up for long-term success.”

Adopt one of these food or lifestyle adjustments per day and ease into your bikini like a boss — a super-lean, take-no-prisoners boss who makes performance nutrition look easy.

Aim to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day.

Day 1: Drink More Water

Water assists in nearly every process in your body, and adequate hydration is essential for proper metabolic function. It also keeps you full without adding calories to your daily total: According to a 2016 scientific review published in the journal Frontiers of Nutrition, being properly hydrated may increase metabolism because of expanded cell volume.

Do this: Aim to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day. Have a water bottle handy at all times and set a timer on your smartphone to remind you to drink up.

Day 2: Say Yes to Egg Yolks

Researchers at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that those who ate eggs for breakfast were leaner and had fewer cravings than those who didn’t, as reported in the Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications. Plus, the protein from eggs provides much-needed amino acids to repair and rebuild muscles as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fats from the vitamin-rich yolks. The perfect egg partners: slow-digesting carbs like oats and brightly colored fruits and veggies to add vitamins, antioxidants and physique-friendly fiber.

Do this: Schedule a set time for breakfast every day. Prep food the night before, and make sure to include eggs with your meal to build muscle and reduce cravings.

Day 3: Chew Your Food

Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that more chewing was associated with lower blood levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, as well as higher levels of CCK, a hormone believed to reduce appetite.

Do this: Take a bite of food and notice how long you typically chew it. Then increase that time by two to promote satiety and calorie control.

Turn off all devices before bed to get uninterrupted sleep.

Day 4: Hit the Hay 

In the past decade, science has linked sleeping less than six hours per night to increased hunger, imbalanced hormones, and altered metabolism and body composition. Consider sleep deprivation’s effect on hunger cues: Not getting enough zzz’s increases ghrelin (the hormone that makes you hungry) and decreases leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full). The result: You never feel satiated and may continue to nosh, pulling in calories well beyond your nutritional needs.

Do this: Turn off the TV and other devices and get seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Having trouble nodding off? Try sublingual melatonin — a naturally produced hormone that promotes a sound, restful sleep.

Day 5: Exchange Your Grains

Refined grain products are everywhere because they’re cheap, and bread, pasta and pancakes are really easy to get your hands on. However, these are all lousy nutritional sources. Besides cutting back a lot on these empty carbohydrates, trade them out for whole-grain and whole-wheat options. They taste great and slow down digestion because of their high-fiber and nutrient content, reducing the negative impact on blood sugar and insulin release.

Do this: Today’s task is a two-parter. First, go into your pantry, grab your refined grain products — bread, tortillas, pasta, pancake mix, etc. — and drop them in the trash. Then head to the store to buy products labeled “whole wheat” or “whole grain,” and which contain as few additives and preservatives as possible.

Instead of consuming animal protein, you can opt for whey, casein, soy, pea or hemp proteins.

Day 6: Fill Your Protein Gaps

If you’re training at an appropriate level of intensity in the gym — muscles burning, sweat beading — maximizing recovery with protein afterward is crucial. Protein supplies your body with amino acids, increasing your ability to add lean muscle, which serves as a metabolism-boosting, calorie-burning engine. Ingesting whole-food animal proteins is optimal because they present a complete amino-acid profile, but supplementing with powders such as whey, casein, soy, pea and even hemp protein are valuable alternatives, as well.

Do this: Aim to consume 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, and strive to include protein in every meal and snack you eat.

Day 7: Plan Ahead 

Lack of preparation and planning is the death knell of every aspiring dieter, and the first time you head to the fridge hungry and realize you have to cook, the more likely you are to heat up that leftover pizza or head to the drive-thru. To stay focused and on track, you need to plan ahead and prepare plenty of healthy meals, snacks and lunches. Look at your upcoming schedule and see when and what you need to cook ahead of time to make it through the week successfully. No time to cook? Microwaveable oatmeal (without sugar), bagged salads, rotisserie chicken and ready-to-drink protein shakes are good in a pinch.

Do this: Spend an afternoon cooking your healthy foods in large batches, and portion them out into storage containers for the whole week.

Day 8: Get Your Jolt 

A 2017 review published in the Journal of Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology found that caffeine may improve weight maintenance through thermogenesis, fat oxidation and energy intake. The sympathetic nervous system is involved in the regulation of energy balance and lipolysis — the breakdown of fat to glycerol and fatty acids — and sympathetic stimulation of white adipose tissue may play an important role in the regulation of total body fat — a major plus for caffeine supplementation. Hard-training individuals will like to supplement caffeine anhydrous, the most researched version, but a morning cup of coffee is helpful, too: Caffeine in brewed coffee or tea boosts alertness, temporarily increases strength and may reduce perceived exertion rates. Get your first caffeine fix at breakfast to start your day with a bang, and six hours later, have another hit 30 to 60 minutes before your first rep at the gym. Limit caffeine before bedtime to ensure optimal sleep, and allow several hours between helpings to avoid jitters.

Do this: Take 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine once or twice daily for performance benefits.

Day 9: Cast Your Fishing Line 

Fish oil is a health-and-performance powerhouse supporting brain and joint function while boosting your fat-burning capabilities. Research published in PLOS One showed that those who took 3 grams of fish oil per day increased resting metabolic rate by 14 percent, boosted energy expenditure during exercise by 10 percent, and accelerated the rate of fat oxidation during rest by 19 percent and during exercise by 27 percent. In addition, fish-oil consumption lowered triglyceride levels by 29 percent and increased lean mass by 4 percent.

Do this: Purchase a basic quality fish-oil product and take two softgels per day with food. In addition, aim for one or two servings per week of a quality oily fish like salmon, trout and tuna.

Day 10: Expand Your Menu

The importance of antioxidants for active individuals cannot be stressed enough. “They need to be a regular fixture in the diet to be effective at fighting inflammation and boosting immunity and skin and heart health,” White says. “The best sources are plant-based foods, fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.”

Do this: Select the brightest, most colorful produce such as bell peppers, tomatoes, cranberries, raspberries and blueberries. Other produce such as kale and goji berries have been touted as “superfoods” for their per-gram antioxidant content. Augment your intake with a quality multivitamin to ensure optimal nutrition.

Reach for the more nutritious option when snacking between meals.

Day 11: Snack Smart 

You’ve probably heard that eating smaller meals throughout the day enhances your metabolism, but the science on meal frequency continues to evolve, with research showing that three- and six-meal-per-day eaters lost about the same amount of fat overall in clinical trials. Rather than focusing on eating a set number of meals at a certain time, develop appropriate snacking habits so that you reach for the right things when hunger sets in to keep your metabolism revved and your cravings at bay.

Do this: Have low-sugar, protein-rich snacks available to you at all times. Think almonds, Greek yogurt, protein powder and hard-boiled eggs.

Day 12: Sup on Spuds

One food that helps you stay full and happy — while also scoring high in general deliciousness — is the almighty potato. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition examined whether potatoes really caused weight gain, and of the three groups studied — those eating a reduced calorie/high-glycemic index diet, those on a reduced calorie/low-glycemic index diet, and the control group — all lost weight after 12 weeks, even though they were eating five to seven servings of potatoes per week. Considering that one medium-size potato with the skin on contains just 110 calories, more potassium than a banana, and no fat, sodium or cholesterol, you can feel good about adding it to your menu rotation.

Do this: A potato any time of day can prevent a comfort-food binge. Drizzle cooked potatoes with organic extra-virgin olive oil and a bit of pepper for a guilt-free craving crusher.

Create and maintain a food journal.

Day 13: Keep a Record

Maintaining a food journal helps you quantify your journey and adjust as necessary to reach your goals. Often, you won’t realize your nutritional weaknesses until you actually expose them on paper. Kaiser Permanente conducted a study of 1,700 participants that examined the effect of food journaling on weight loss. Those who kept a food journal lost twice as much weight as those who did not keep track. To ensure that you stick to your practice, try an app: A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research reported a 93 percent adherence rate among smartphone app users over a six-month period, as compared to a 55 and 53 percent adherence rate among the website and paper diary groups, respectively.

Do this: When you journal, enter everything you ingest, including water, carbs, protein and fat, as well as sodium and fiber. Also note how you’re feeling and see what’s working and what’s not. Your journal can be as complicated as an online fitness tracker or smartphone app or as simple as a notebook if you’re old school.

Day 14: Go Hungry

Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that intermittent fasting — stretches of 13 to 16 hours or more without eating — could help you lose 0.5 to 1.7 pounds per week while also improving body composition. (And yes, this covers sleep time.)

Do this: Once or twice per month for two consecutive days, go 12 to 16 hours without food by passing on dinner, then having a reasonable breakfast. During the day on those two days, keep calories between 500 to 700 and your water consumption and workout schedule normal. 

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Implement these nutrition and supplement strategies to burn fat and better your bikini body.

With summer approaching, you’ve likely already made adaptations to your training program to firm up your core, but sometimes you need an extra edge. These nine nutrition and supplementation hacks may make a big difference in your visible results and make you feel better about daring to bare on the beach.

Hack 1: Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a plan in which you consume all your meals, every day, within an eight-hour window. This causes your body to burn fat during the remaining 16 hours when your stored glycogen runs out. Your body will also have more time to address recovery and growth, since it doesn’t have to focus its attention on digestion, which takes a lot of energy.

Try it: Choose the eight-hour window when you want to eat, for example 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and avoid consuming anything other than supplements and no-calorie beverages outside this window. Also, get plenty of protein: Research from The Journal of Nutrition shows that your body maintains lean muscle tissue based on total protein intake rather than by emphasizing meal timing over a 24-hour window. It’s a growing perspective that total daily intake is more crucial than nutrient timing, as was previously thought.

Hack 2: Kick Your Coffee Habit

Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system and encourages your body to release stored fat. But regular consumption of dietary caffeine, such as is in coffee and tea, can actually undercut your ability to burn fat. The anhydrous (dry) form of caffeine — such as is found in preworkout drinks or pills — has been shown to work better and faster in the body than dietary sources. Also, it’s specifically measurable, whereas the amount of caffeine in beverages can vary greatly.

Try it: Take some anhydrous caffeine as part of your fat-burner or preworkout supplement and ditch your coffee or tea (for a while), just don’t go cold-turkey to avoid headaches and moodiness. Instead, slowly decrease your intake over the course of a few weeks, then stay off caffeine for another couple of weeks before beginning your fat burners. This will make them more effective and will increase the ability of your body to burn fat as fuel.

Dice up chilies and toss them into your favorite recipes to boost metabolism.

Hack 3: Take Capsaicin to Boost Metabolism

Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers that gives them their spicy kick. When consumed, you can physically feel the heat as it encourages your body to burn calories and increase energy expenditure, boosting metabolism. Capsaicin has also been shown to help burn body fat, according to a study in Appetite: Consuming 2 milligrams of capsaicin as a supplement over 12 weeks helped reduce appetite and burn body fat, improving waist-to-hip ratio.

Try it: Add a dash or two of chili powder to soups and sauces, or dice up some chilies and toss them into a salad. Can’t stomach the heat? Take capsaicin in supplemental form to avoid gastric distress.

Hack 4: Fiber Up for Fat Loss

Glucomannan is an indigestible and fiber derived from the konjac plant and works by filling up your stomach, reducing appetite while also improving health: A meta-analysis of 12 studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that adults who took glucomannan significantly reduced their bad cholesterol and greatly improved their overall health.

Try it: Consume 3 grams of glucomannan daily about 30 minutes before whole-food meals with 8 ounces of water to control your appetite and reduce your overall calorie intake and help burn body fat. Also, include more oats, legumes, apples and carrots in your meal plan to boost your overall soluble fiber intake.

Incorporate foods with various textures to stimulate your senses.

Hack 5: Texturize It

The textures you eat could make or break your fat-loss progress, according to a study published in Appetite: Volunteers were provided either with an appetizer that had a high textural complexity — such as crunchy, chewy and smooth together — or a food that was a one-note wonder — smooth only — before being offered an all-you-can-eat meal consisting of pasta and chocolate cake. Those who consumed the appetizer with greater textural variation ate about 400 fewer calories in the follow-up meal and felt just as satisfied despite having eaten fewer calories. Researchers believe that increasing the number of textures felt during chewing can stimulate your senses, making food more interesting to eat and, in turn, trigger the satiation response sooner.

Try it: Work the opposites when preparing meals and snacks — toss crunchy nuts into smooth yogurt, add creamy dressing to crispy salad or top grilled meat with chunky salsa.

Hack 6: Be Sodium Smart

Most Americans consume way more than the recommended daily amount of sodium (2,300 milligrams), and much of this comes from processed, packaged foods. Excessive sodium intake can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke, and research indicates it also could give you a gut: Subjects who were presented with pasta doused in a salty sauce ingested 11 percent more calories than those who ate the same meal with a less-salty sauce. Researchers theorize that the added salt enhanced the taste of the food to the point that it overrode a natural feeling of fullness. Another study from the University of South Carolina discovered that among the 407 adults analyzed, those with lofty sodium intakes were more likely to be pudgy.

Try it: A single teaspoon of salt has 2,325 milligrams of sodium, so dust food lightly, if at all. Better yet, use a salt-free, herb-based seasoning such as Mrs. Dash or Paleo Powder. Prepare more meals at home to control sodium intake, and carefully read nutrition labels on any packaged grocery items, especially in sneaky sources like bread, cottage cheese, sauces and condiments.

Hack 7: Take Countermeasures

Out of sight, out of mind has never been so true: Scientists at Cornell University showed that those who left snack foods like boxed cereal and soda out on the kitchen countertop were up to 26 pounds heavier than those who stashed these items out of sight. Additionally, those same study subjects who kept a bowl of fruit on the counter weighed on average 13 pounds less than those who didn’t.

Try it: Sequester vice foods in your cupboards and/or replace them with options like apples or baby carrots. Alternately, make treat foods harder to get to: Research in the journal Appetite reported that volunteers who had to walk 6 feet to get some candy ate about half as much as those who had it within arm’s reach.

Seek out recipes that use broccoli, yams and red-seaweed extracts.

Hack 8: Eat Superfoods to Burn Fat

Recent research performed using broccoli, yams and red-seaweed extracts demonstrated their efficacy in supporting superior body-fat loss: The phytonutrient sulforaphane in broccoli may help you manage weight more effectively, according to a study published in Diabetes. Sulforaphane also helps reduce inflammatory disorders such as cancer. According to the Journal of Food and Nutrition, yams were shown to decrease obesity and improve health markers for the liver and kidneys because of their high fiber content. Red seaweed significantly down-regulates adipogenic transcription factors, which reduces your body’s ability to increase fat storage, according to Nutrition Research and Practice.

Try it: Seek out recipes that use yams and broccoli and eat them on the reg. If you’re a sushi fan, choose hand rolls instead of cut rolls, which are wrapped in seaweed, or take a more concentrated supplement form as directed on the packaging.

Hack 9: Practice Predictability

Meal-to-meal (rather than day-to-day) caloric consistency could help you uncover your abs, according to a British Journal of Nutrition investigation: People who were inconsistent with their calorie intake at the same meal each day tended to have larger waistlines and were more likely to suffer from conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol. In other words, eating a breakfast that contains roughly the same number of calories each day is better metabolically than hitting the all-you-can-eat pancake buffet on Monday, then skipping breakfast on Tuesday. Researchers suspect that this inconsistency affects your internal body clock or “circadian rhythm,” negatively impacting appetite, digestion
and metabolism.

Try it: When outlining an eating plan, break your calories up consistently between meals and snacks all week long. Also, consider front-loading your calorie intake at breakfast and paring it down as the day progresses: Research shows that eating more calories in the morning could help with weight loss because your metabolism is higher early in the day.

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Here’s the answer to your salt cravings.

Question: As an athlete, I am craving salt. Why? Should I give in to the craving?

Salt cravings can be linked to a lot of things, including stress, lack of sleep and even premenstrual syndrome, but since you’re athletic, most likely they are because of the loss of minerals — including sodium — from sweating.

Salt cravings also can be linked to dehydration, especially if they are accompanied by dizziness, thirst, headache, irritability or cramps. If you don’t sweat a lot, you can probably replace those minerals and quench your cravings with tap water alone. If you sweat more or if you’re an endurance athlete, however, drink an electrolyte-enhanced beverage, eat a (healthy) salty snack or sip a broth-based soup to help replace your deficit.

Spotlight On: BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of resilient plastics used for food containers, toiletries, sports equipment, household electronics and the anti-corrosive lining inside cans of food.

Many experts claim that BPA exposure is harmful: When ingested, it can mimic the structure and function of estrogen or can bind to estrogen receptors, negatively impacting reproduction, fetal development, energy levels and cell repair. High levels of BPA also have been linked to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and Type
2 diabetes.

Completely eradicating BPA exposure may be impossible because of its widespread use, but limit it whenever possible. Emphasize whole foods, avoid packaged and canned goods, use glass bottles instead of plastic, choose BPA-free plastic toys and products, and never microwave food in plastic containers; BPA and other chemicals can leak into food when heated.

Nutrition Myth Bustin’

True or False?: Combining carbs and protein in a meal is bad for digestion.

False. Lately, there is a theory that combining carbs and protein in a single meal “confuses” your digestive system, and that since your body is not equipped to digest mixed nutrients, it could cause weight gain. However, your body is specifically prepared for this kind of multitasking and releases all kinds of digestive enzymes at the same time that break down carbs, fats and protein — even if you didn’t eat all those macros in a single meal. Besides, most single foods contain a mix of two or more macros, so neither you — nor your body — needs to worry about choosing what to digest.

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Use these strategies to kick the calorie-counting habit once and for all.

When it comes to trimming down, counting your calories used to be the go-to plan. Thankfully, a new era of research has been steadily pounding nails into this antiquated calorie-counting coffin. Case in point: A study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while eating more whole foods without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year. And a New England Journal of Medicine investigation showed that people whose diets included more servings of junk food, potato-sweetened drinks and red/processed meats gained weight during four-year intervals while those who ate more vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and yogurt were protected from creeping weight gain — regardless of calorie intake.

This is not to say that calories don’t matter in the battle of the bulge; they do. But those 100 calories from bologna are not the same as 100 calories from broccoli, and the number of calories in a food absolutely does not indicate its healthfulness. “People would be better served by shifting their priorities away from counting calories and toward improving diet quality and eating habits,” says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time (Center Street, 2019). “Not only can calorie counting be tedious and inaccurate, it doesn’t give the full picture.”  

Dump those tired calorie-counting apps and instead use these body-benefiting metrics to get your fit on.

1. Focus on Fiber

Your Goal: 25-plus grams per day

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that simply focusing on eating a higher-fiber diet is just as effective for weight loss as following a set diet plan. “Fiber is found in foods that are relatively low in calories,” Young says. “It also fills you up, so it’s a weight-loss win-win.”

More reason to rough it: An investigation in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming more fiber improves your microbiome — for example, the levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut — and a robust microbiome has been linked to everything from better digestion to improved mental health. Yet despite these results, dietary surveys show that more than 90 percent of American adults don’t get enough daily fiber.

If you’re among the fiber-fraught, look into some legumes: Just 1 cup of beans offers 15 grams of fiber, which brings you more than halfway toward your daily goal of 25 grams. Other fiber-friendly foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Focus on chewing your food

2. The Chew

Your Goal: 20 to 30 percent fewer bites

It sounds too simple to be legit, but a Brigham Young University study found that people who counted their daily food bites and sips of non-water liquid and then committed to taking 20 to 30 percent fewer food bites and sips were successful at shedding several pounds over the course of a month — without making any other changes to their diet or exercise routine. “Counting bites slows down your food intake, which helps you eat more mindfully and better notice your body’s satiety signals,” Young notes. In other words, you’re less likely to eat and drink more than you actually need if you monitor how often you bring fork to mouth.

Want to try it? Simply count the number of bites of food or gulps of liquid other than water you take over the period of a week. Take the average and reduce that number by 20 to 30 percent per day to hit your goal. For example, if you average 120 bites/sips a day, you’d reduce that to 100 bites/sips daily.

3. Pumped-Up Protein

Your Goal: 20 to 30 grams per meal

The recommended amount of protein for active women is roughly 1.5 grams for every kilogram of bodyweight to support the repair and creation of muscles while keeping your appetite in check. The latest science also indicates that when you eat it is as important as how much you eat: Instead of consuming your daily protein quota at a single meal, distribute it more evenly throughout the day. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that muscle protein synthesis increased when people consumed 30 grams of protein in a meal (about 5 ounces of chicken breast) and that taking in more than that didn’t bring about bigger gains. Remember that additional calories of any kind — protein, fat or carbs — will be stored as body fat.

To cover the spread, look over your weekly meal plan and include a protein with each and every meal and snack. Chicken, fish, Greek yogurt, legumes and eggs are all great options.

4. Don’t Dine Out

Your Goal: 3 or fewer meals per away from home per week

An American Journal of Preventive Medicine study found that adults who ate out more frequently consumed less nutritious diets and had higher food expenses, and a Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study showed that women who ate lunch out at least once a week lost an average of 5 fewer pounds over the course of a year than those who brown-bagged it more often. Furthermore, women who consume lots of fast food may be more likely to experience infertility than women who rarely, if ever, eat fast-food meals, suggest researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia.

“While it’s hard to eat healthy if you’re always eating out, it’s also difficult to eat poorly if you’re cooking for yourself using mostly whole-food ingredients,” Young explains.

To reduce your weekly dining-out habit, plan a week’s worth of healthy meals and snacks, and then carve out some time to batch-cook your fare. Takeout is way less tempting when you’ve got a tasty homemade meal to nosh.

Cooking with vegetables

5. Volumize Your Vegetables

Your Goal: 3 cups daily

Most nutrition maxims come and go, but the push to eat more veggies will never wane. Beyond reducing the risk for nearly every disease under the sun, a large review of studies published in the journal Nutrients showed that women who eat more daily servings of vegetables tend to have slimmer waistlines and do a better job at staving off weight creep.

“When you eat more veggies, it tends to crowd out other higher-calorie foods in your diet to help with weight management,” says Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, author of Essential Sports Nutrition: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Every Active Person (Rockridge Press, 2018). “And their added fiber will slow down digestion, which promotes satiety to help put the brakes on overeating.” Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, only 1 in 10 Americans are eating the daily recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables.

Infuse all your meals and snacks with veggies to ensure you hit your optimal intake: Add shredded carrots to your morning oatmeal, dig into a big green salad for lunch and toss around a veggie-laden stir-fry for dinner. Frozen vegetables are a convenient and budget-friendly way to work more into everything from soups to smoothies.

6. Slash Added Sugar

Your Goal: Less than 40 grams (10 teaspoons) daily

Studies show that people who eat too much added sugar (extra sweet stuff added in as opposed to that naturally present) face an increased risk for conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease — not to mention unwanted belly flab — and those sugar spikes and crashes can leave you feeling haggard. “There’s a very different reaction in the body when foods with naturally occurring sugar are consumed like fruit and dairy as compared to foods such as cookies that are heavily processed with added sugar,” Sumbal says.

Chances are you’re overloading on sugar without even knowing it; various sugar aliases are pumped into nearly everything, from ketchup to salad dressing to almond butter. And so-called “natural sugars” such as added honey and coconut sugar do not get a free pass: They too count toward your daily added sugar allotment.

Thankfully, a new nutrition label calls out the grams of added sugar, making it way easier to keep tabs on your intake of the sweet stuff. Limit your intake to less than 6 to 12 teaspoons (24 to 48 grams) per day. Swap out products that list higher amounts of added sugar like flavored yogurt and granola with low- to no-sugar-added alternatives, such as plain yogurt and unsweetened muesli.

Opt for a healthier cocktai

7. Beware of the Booze

Your Goal: Fewer than 3 drinks per week

The research against alcohol is bulletproof: A 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that people who abstained from alcohol were more successful at dropping pounds during a four-year lifestyle intervention program. And a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that women who drink heavily when they’re younger have a higher risk of becoming overweight as they age. What’s more, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks more than three times a week raises the risk for dying earlier — especially from cancer — by about 20 percent because alcohol is broken down in the body into the carcinogenic compound acetaldehyde.

“When you drink, the liver is forced to metabolize the alcohol instead of fat, which may increase fat accumulation around the midsection,” Sumbal says. She adds that people often overlook the calories in booze (and sweet mixers), which can really add up over the course of a week. Factor in the lowered inhibitions when you get your buzz on, which make you more likely to mindlessly munch, and you could be in deep doo-doo.

You don’t have to totally swear off cheering in the weekend with your gal pals, but be smarter about imbibing: Trim a drink or two from your weekly routine, pour yourself smaller servings, and order cocktails made with soda water and wedges of whole fruit.

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Use these seven strategies to kick the calorie-counting habit once and for all.

When it comes to trimming down, counting your calories used to be the go-to plan. Thankfully, a new era of research has been steadily pounding nails into this antiquated calorie-counting coffin. Case in point: A study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while eating more whole foods without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year. And a New England Journal of Medicine investigation showed that people whose diets included more servings of junk food, potato-sweetened drinks and red/processed meats gained weight during four-year intervals while those who ate more vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and yogurt were protected from creeping weight gain — regardless of calorie intake.

This is not to say that calories don’t matter in the battle of the bulge; they do. But those 100 calories from bologna are not the same as 100 calories from broccoli, and the number of calories in a food absolutely does not indicate its healthfulness. “People would be better served by shifting their priorities away from counting calories and toward improving diet quality and eating habits,” says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time (Center Street, 2019). “Not only can calorie counting be tedious and inaccurate, it doesn’t give the full picture.”  

Dump those tired calorie-counting apps and instead use these body-benefiting metrics to get your fit on.

1. Focus on Fiber

Your Goal: 25-plus grams per day

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that simply focusing on eating a higher-fiber diet is just as effective for weight loss as following a set diet plan. “Fiber is found in foods that are relatively low in calories,” Young says. “It also fills you up, so it’s a weight-loss win-win.”

More reason to rough it: An investigation in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming more fiber improves your microbiome — for example, the levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut — and a robust microbiome has been linked to everything from better digestion to improved mental health. Yet despite these results, dietary surveys show that more than 90 percent of American adults don’t get enough daily fiber.

If you’re among the fiber-fraught, look into some legumes: Just 1 cup of beans offers 15 grams of fiber, which brings you more than halfway toward your daily goal of 25 grams. Other fiber-friendly foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

2. The Chew

Your Goal: 20 to 30 percent fewer bites

It sounds too simple to be legit, but a Brigham Young University study found that people who counted their daily food bites and sips of non-water liquid and then committed to taking 20 to 30 percent fewer food bites and sips were successful at shedding several pounds over the course of a month — without making any other changes to their diet or exercise routine. “Counting bites slows down your food intake, which helps you eat more mindfully and better notice your body’s satiety signals,” Young notes. In other words, you’re less likely to eat and drink more than you actually need if you monitor how often you bring fork to mouth.

Want to try it? Simply count the number of bites of food or gulps of liquid other than water you take over the period of a week. Take the average and reduce that number by 20 to 30 percent per day to hit your goal. For example, if you average 120 bites/sips a day, you’d reduce that to 100 bites/sips daily.

3. Pumped-Up Protein

Your Goal: 20 to 30 grams per meal

The recommended amount of protein for active women is roughly 1.5 grams for every kilogram of bodyweight to support the repair and creation of muscles while keeping your appetite in check. The latest science also indicates that when you eat it is as important as how much you eat: Instead of consuming your daily protein quota at a single meal, distribute it more evenly throughout the day. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that muscle protein synthesis increased when people consumed 30 grams of protein in a meal (about 5 ounces of chicken breast) and that taking in more than that didn’t bring about bigger gains. Remember that additional calories of any kind — protein, fat or carbs — will be stored as body fat.

To cover the spread, look over your weekly meal plan and include a protein with each and every meal and snack. Chicken, fish, Greek yogurt, legumes and eggs are all great options.

4. Don’t Dine Out

Your Goal: 3 or fewer meals per away from home per week

An American Journal of Preventive Medicine study found that adults who ate out more frequently consumed less nutritious diets and had higher food expenses, and a Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study showed that women who ate lunch out at least once a week lost an average of 5 fewer pounds over the course of a year than those who brown-bagged it more often. Furthermore, women who consume lots of fast food may be more likely to experience infertility than women who rarely, if ever, eat fast-food meals, suggest researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia.

“While it’s hard to eat healthy if you’re always eating out, it’s also difficult to eat poorly if you’re cooking for yourself using mostly whole-food ingredients,” Young explains.

To reduce your weekly dining-out habit, plan a week’s worth of healthy meals and snacks, and then carve out some time to batch-cook your fare. Takeout is way less tempting when you’ve got a tasty homemade meal to nosh.

5. Volumize Your Vegetables

Your Goal: 3 cups daily

Most nutrition maxims come and go, but the push to eat more veggies will never wane. Beyond reducing the risk for nearly every disease under the sun, a large review of studies published in the journal Nutrients showed that women who eat more daily servings of vegetables tend to have slimmer waistlines and do a better job at staving off weight creep.

“When you eat more veggies, it tends to crowd out other higher-calorie foods in your diet to help with weight management,” says Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, author of Essential Sports Nutrition: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Every Active Person (Rockridge Press, 2018). “And their added fiber will slow down digestion, which promotes satiety to help put the brakes on overeating.” Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, only 1 in 10 Americans are eating the daily recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables.

Infuse all your meals and snacks with veggies to ensure you hit your optimal intake: Add shredded carrots to your morning oatmeal, dig into a big green salad for lunch and toss around a veggie-laden stir-fry for dinner. Frozen vegetables are a convenient and budget-friendly way to work more into everything from soups to smoothies.

6. Slash Added Sugar

Your Goal: Less than 40 grams (10 teaspoons) daily

Studies show that people who eat too much added sugar (extra sweet stuff added in as opposed to that naturally present) face an increased risk for conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease — not to mention unwanted belly flab — and those sugar spikes and crashes can leave you feeling haggard. “There’s a very different reaction in the body when foods with naturally occurring sugar are consumed like fruit and dairy as compared to foods such as cookies that are heavily processed with added sugar,” Sumbal says.

Chances are you’re overloading on sugar without even knowing it; various sugar aliases are pumped into nearly everything, from ketchup to salad dressing to almond butter. And so-called “natural sugars” such as added honey and coconut sugar do not get a free pass: They too count toward your daily added sugar allotment.

Thankfully, a new nutrition label calls out the grams of added sugar, making it way easier to keep tabs on your intake of the sweet stuff. Limit your intake to less than 6 to 12 teaspoons (24 to 48 grams) per day. Swap out products that list higher amounts of added sugar like flavored yogurt and granola with low- to no-sugar-added alternatives, such as plain yogurt and unsweetened muesli.

7. Beware of the Booze

Your Goal: Fewer than 3 drinks per week

The research against alcohol is bulletproof: A 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that people who abstained from alcohol were more successful at dropping pounds during a four-year lifestyle intervention program. And a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that women who drink heavily when they’re younger have a higher risk of becoming overweight as they age. What’s more, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks more than three times a week raises the risk for dying earlier — especially from cancer — by about 20 percent because alcohol is broken down in the body into the carcinogenic compound acetaldehyde.

“When you drink, the liver is forced to metabolize the alcohol instead of fat, which may increase fat accumulation around the midsection,” Sumbal says. She adds that people often overlook the calories in booze (and sweet mixers), which can really add up over the course of a week. Factor in the lowered inhibitions when you get your buzz on, which make you more likely to mindlessly munch, and you could be in deep doo-doo.

You don’t have to totally swear off cheering in the weekend with your gal pals, but be smarter about imbibing: Trim a drink or two from your weekly routine, pour yourself smaller servings, and order cocktails made with soda water and wedges of whole fruit.

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Honor National Nutrition Month by adding these macronutrients and micronutrients into your favorite dishes.

Are you getting tired of eating the same ol’ nutrient powerhouses every day? Could your favorite meals use a little nutrient boost? Are you searching for fresh ideas to help give your kitchen a spring-clean makeover? Then start by celebrating National Nutrition Month with Alexandra Catalano, a holistic nutritionist and creator of the popular lifestyle brand Eat Cute. She’s sharing five ingredients that might not be on your radar currently but pack an important punch when it comes to nutrition.

1. Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is a beautiful, high-quality fat packed with a bevy of health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, improving nutrient absorption, and nourishing your skin and hair,” Catalano says. “It’s high in monounsaturated oleic acid, which is why it is so perfect for helping reduce bad cholesterol.” Because it has a medium smoke point, which makes it ideal for using on lower-heat cooking or on uncooked foods — try using avocado oil in salad recipes instead of your go-to olive oil. When purchasing avocado oil, look for labels that state it’s organic, unrefined, cold-pressed and extra-virgin.

2. Hempseeds

Hempseeds or hemp hearts are the seeds of a hemp plant — their nutty flavor profile not only tastes delicious but also serves as a wonderful source of fiber, fat and protein. “Hempseeds are rich in fiber and can keep you feeling fuller longer and aid in digestive health,” says Catalano, noting that 1 ounce of hempseeds contains 9.2 grams of protein. “I love adding hemp seeds to my morning smoothies or enjoying hemp milk in my coffee or in baking.” She recommends buying organic and storing them in your fridge in an airtight jar or container because they are sensitive to heat and light. 

3. Spirulina

It’s no wonder spirulina is one of Catalano’s favorite superfoods — this blue-green algae contains protein and is packed with antioxidants. “Some major benefits include helping fight off candida because of its anti-microbial properties, boosting energy and pulling heavy metals out of the body,” she says. Try adding spirulina to smoothies or homemade protein bites, or simply add a small spoonful to water or juice. (The sweetness from the latter will help offset its earthy taste.) Choose brands that are organic and non-GMO, and Catalano recommend steering clear of spirulina coming from India and China because of their higher amounts of heavy metals. Store open containers in the fridge, and consume within a few months of opening.

4. Jackfruit

Not familiar with jackfruit? You may have seen it at the grocery store and wondered what the heck it was — it’s one of the largest fruits in the world, reaching up to 100 pounds. “Jackfruit is becoming incredibly popular as a meat substitute, is packed with antioxidants and is rich in magnesium,” says Catalano, describing the highly versatile fruit as having a banana-like flavor with a meat-like texture. “Jackfruit is also wonderful for improving digestion because its seeds are rich in fiber.” If you choose canned jackfruit over fresh, avoid products that contain additives like sugar, soy or chemicals. What makes jackfruit ideal for cooking is its ability to take on whatever flavoring you season it with — Catalano likes jackfruit grilled with sugar-free barbecue sauce and veggies, but you also can use it in soups, baked goods, chips and jams.

5. Camu Camu

Found in the rainforests of the Amazon in Peru and Brazil, camu camu is made from the berries grown on this shrub. “It’s the perfect superfood to enjoy year-round because of its incredible vitamin C content,” Catalano says. “This powerful berry is also rich in manganese and carotenoids that help fight off disease, and it’s wonderful for boosting the immune system and helping block free radicals.” You can find camu camu in powder form at your local health food store, and simply add it to beverages. Since its taste is very tart, it also pairs well with desserts, such as homemade coconut ice cream. Look for camu camu that is organic, non-GMO and is free of synthetic additives like soy, corn and chemicals.

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Your eating style and workout routine may be supporting your sweet tooth.

There’s more to food — and your relationship with food — than calories and macros. From my perspective as a health coach, traditional nutrient facts are only the tip of the “food iceberg.”

Have you heard of the concept “the polarity of food,” coined by professional chef and author Annemarie Colbin? It’s pretty straightforward. The premise: Everything has two extremes — or two “polarities.”

For example, hot and cold are extremes of the pole temperature, whereas loud and quiet are the extremes of the pole noise. In its essence, when you find one thing, you’ll also find the potential for its opposite.

So how does this apply to what we eat?

Food is more than just fuel. It has energetic qualities that go beyond the science and mechanics of calories, fat grams and other nutrient values.

Have you noticed how some foods naturally leave you feeling lifted and light, while others leave you tense or weighed down? Imagine how you feel when you eat a sugar-loaded treat (wired, antsy, “high”?) versus a savory comfort food (cozy, groggy, tired?).

This is an example of the polarity of food.

Everything in life — including food — can be viewed as expansive or contractive. I’m not saying you’re literally expanding or contracting, but this concept can change how you use and create energy.

So what does this polarity spectrum look like, and how might it contribute to your cravings?

Imagine a pendulum swinging left to right. On the far right are the “expansive” foods, and on the far left are the “contractive” foods. If the pendulum swings too far in either direction, the momentum will bring it back with equal force to the opposite side.

Examples of expansive foods are alcohol, caffeine and sugar. (You can find a more comprehensive list here.) The energy of these foods can make you feel relaxed and happy — blissful! But when you eat too many “bliss” foods, you may feel spacey, foggy or forgetful.

Examples of “contractive” foods are salt, eggs, red meat and other animal products. These foods can make you feel grounded and focused, but when you eat too many, you may feel tight, agitated and even angry.

How does this relate to sugar cravings?

Life is a balancing act. You navigate circumstances and confront obstacles that have an effect on you every day. So if life is full of opposites and your body is the pendulum always trying to find its center point, what do you think happens if you’re eating too many contractive foods?

What does your body crave in order to balance itself out? The opposite of contractive foods: sweet, expansive bliss foods!

The challenge lies in recognizing where and when you’re indulging in too many contractive foods, which may be contributing to your sugar cravings without you even realizing it. All the back and forth is signaling to your body that it needs something to re-center itself.

Let’s take it a step further and look at other daily activities through the lens of polarity.

Certain aspects of life are naturally contractive (which create more tension) or expansive (which encourage relaxation).

Examples of contractive activities are overexercising, overworking, partying and staying up late. When you partake in too many contractive activities, you will likely crave more expansive foods because you need relaxation and release.

When you don’t allow yourself to relax, you may find yourself bingeing on wine, chocolate and bread — rather than giving your body a break with sleep, reading, meditation, walking or a hot bath.

If you’ve been hitting it hard in the gym, constantly trying to increase your PR, or being strict with your meal planning, what do you crave? Sweets, bread, a martini? Expansive foods. Your body is craving a readjustment to find its center.

When I’m working with clients to deconstruct their cravings, we look at the foods they’re eating and their lifestyle. This constant swinging back and forth is taxing on the body and will lead to burnout. Your body wants to exist in the center, swinging gently over a short distance.

In my practice, I’ve noticed this cycle is habitual and can leave people thinking there’s something wrong with them for not having the willpower to create lasting change. Developing a lifestyle that works for you isn’t about willpower. It’s about shifting habits and growing into the best version of yourself.

What if you were able to break your bad habits, understand what’s really going on and then make better choices?

This isn’t about worrying about what foods are right or wrong or giving up all sweets. It’s about learning what needs in your life aren’t being met and understanding what’s going on with you on a deeper level so you can change your behavior long term.

If you would like to uncover which of your needs is not being met, learn more about working with Rebecca Pfanner here and sign up for a free 45-minute one-on-one coaching session.

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Use these detoxing recipes to get your nutrition, your metabolism and your gut health back on track.

Post-holiday there is a lot of collateral damage — and we’re not just talking about your waistline. Your whole digestive system has been working overtime and is as tired and toxic as the rest of you feels. When your GI tract is fatigued, you may not be properly absorbing and using the nutrients from your food, which negatively impacts both your energy and your metabolism.

This two-week meal plan will ease you back into your healthy habits without suffering the withdrawal symptoms of an overindulged holiday season. The recipes are simple, balanced and flavorful, and they are created with real, non-processed whole foods. Use this plan for the prescribed two weeks, or repeat it as many times as you need to give your metabolism — and your year — a much-needed kick-start.

Asian Meatballs With Cauliflower Rice

Makes 4 Servings
Takes 40 Minutes

Cauliflower rice is a great substitution for regular rice, reducing your total carb intake and adding plenty of fiber and water for healthy digestion. The ginger helps calm the gut, and the coconut aminos are a great alternative to soy sauce, which can irritate your insides.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb 90% lean ground pork
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp coconut amino acids, plus more to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 green onions, chopped and divided
  • 1 head cauliflower, grated
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds 
  • splash coconut oil
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine pork, sesame oil, amino acids, garlic, ginger, ½ the green onions, and salt and pepper (to taste). Roll into 1 ½-inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes. Saute cauliflower rice in coconut oil. Divide cauliflower rice between bowls and season with dash of amino acids. Top with meatballs, sesame seeds and remaining green onions.

Nutrition Facts (per serving = 3 meatballs): calories 375, fat 26 g, carbs, 12 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 4 g, protein 25 g, sodium 192 mg

Shrimp Asparagus Pesto Pasta

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes

Pesto is made primarily of basil, and according to research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, basil contains several important enzymes and antioxidants that assist the liver with detoxification. Asparagus also contains a bounty of folate, which according to the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences is necessary for optimal gut health.

Ingredients

  • 4½ cups asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/8 lb raw shrimp, shell on
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1½ lemons, sliced into rounds
  • 6 oz chickpea pasta
  • 3 tbsp pesto

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread asparagus and shrimp on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt (to taste) and top with lemon rounds. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and fully cooked. Meanwhile, cook chickpea pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse and return to the pot. Add pesto and stir to combine. When shrimp are slightly cooled, remove shells, then add shrimp and asparagus to pasta and stir to combine. Enjoy cold or reheated.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 589, fat 24 g, carbs 43 g, fiber 12 g, sugar 10 g, protein 61 g, sodium 495 mg

Kale and White Bean Caesar Salad

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 25 Minutes

Though they are lauded for other reasons, hemp plants also produce seeds, which are chock-full of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which assist your liver in its detoxing efforts. Hempseeds are also a source of complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids to help you build that fat-burning lean muscle you want.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices organic bacon, cooked and chopped 
  • ¼ cup hempseeds
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 6 cups kale leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups white navy beans
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions

Place hempseeds, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor cup and process until smooth, adding more water to thin, if needed. Place kale in a large bowl and pour hempseed dressing over top. Massage dressing into kale for 3 to 4 minutes, or until kale starts to soften. Add bacon and white beans and toss. Season with sea salt and pepper (to taste).

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 382, fat 12 g, carbs 46 g, fiber 18 g, sugar 1 g, protein 23 g, sodium 352 mg

Coconut Matcha Smoothie

Coconut Matcha Smoothie

Makes 1 Serving
Takes 5 Minutes

Smoothies are a quick way to get in your nutrients without a lot of volume, giving you a break from intense digestion. Matcha is potent green tea leaf powder: One serving is equivalent to 10 cups of regular green tea!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup full-fat organic coconut milk, refrigerated 
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 tbsp hempseeds
  • 1 tsp matcha powder 
  • ¼ cup vanilla protein powder

Directions

Add all ingredients to a blender cup and blend until smooth.

Nutrition Facts: calories 416, fat 22 g, carbs 33 g, fiber 6 g, sugar 16 g, protein 26 g, sodium 204 mg

Trail Mix

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 5 Minutes

This high-powered snack is perfect for on-the-go energy.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup almonds
  • ¾ cup walnuts
  • 6 tbsp raisins
  • 6 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 617, fat 50 g, carbs 30 g, fiber 9.5 g, sugar 17 g, protein 31 g, sodium 11.4 mg

Moroccan Chicken Stew

Makes 4 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes

Turmeric contains curcumin, which has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and according to a study published in Planta Medica, black pepper can help your body better absorb curcumin by up to 2,000 percent! Parsley is also reputed to detoxify the system of heavy metals.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 16 oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced 
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup parsley, finely chopped and divided
  • 2 tbsp raw honey
  • 1/3 cup organic raisins, no sugar added black pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chicken, onions, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne, salt and pepper (to taste). Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, ¼ cup parsley, honey and raisins. Cover and cook another 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick. Divide into bowls and garnish with remaining parsley.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 406, fat 17 g, carbs 29 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 22 g, protein 37 g, sodium 694 mg

Coconut Cod and Spinach With Rice

Coconut Cod and Spinach With Rice

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 15 Minutes

Coconut milk contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are digested immediately and used as energy rather than sitting in your gut. Research suggests that MCT oil can help reduce overall calorie consumption, leading to gradual weight loss over time.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup jasmine rice
  • 1½ cups full-fat organic coconut milk
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1½ tbsp tamari
  • 1½ tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 (4-6 oz) cod fillets 
  • 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste

Directions

Cook rice according to package instructions and set aside. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, then add coconut milk, water, tamari, vinegar, bay leaves and salt. Stir to combine. Add cod fillets and simmer about 8 minutes, or until fillets are white and flake easily with a fork. Stir in spinach and remove from heat; stir until spinach has wilted. Serve with rice.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 574, fat 23 g, carbs 43 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 2 g, protein 47 g, sodium 831 mg

Salmon Chowder

Makes 4 Servings
Takes 40 Minutes

When you consume acidic foods such as dairy, grains and processed sugar, your body has to work overtime to maintain a neutral pH. Eating more alkaline foods such as fennel helps balance your pH and reduce stomach acid.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced
  • 2 cups celery root
  • 2 cups rutabaga, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups organic chicken broth, plus an additional splash
  • 4 (4 oz) salmon fillets
  • 1 cup full-fat organic coconut milk 
  • ¼ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped

Directions

In a large soup pot, melt coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add fennel, celery root and rutabaga. Cover and cook 15 minutes, or until tender. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook another 10 minutes, then use an immersion blender until soup achieves a semi-chunky finish. Reduce heat to low. Meanwhile, add a splash of chicken broth to a saucepan and place salmon skin-side down. Bring to a simmer and poach 5 to 10 minutes. Remove fish from pan, remove skin and discard. Cut flesh into chunks and add to soup. Increase heat to medium and add coconut milk. Cook until heated through. Garnish with parsley when serving.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 414, fat 25 g, carbs 20 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 8 g, protein 27 g, sodium 793 mg

Cranberry Protein Cookies

Makes 8 Servings
Takes 20 Minutes

Cinnamon is one of the most delicious and healthful spices around, helping reduce inflammation and acting as an anti-bacterial agent. In addition, 1 teaspoonful contains 22 percent of your daily value of manganese, which according to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, helps you metabolize fats and carbohydrates and regulate your blood sugar.

Ingredients

  • 1 banana, mashed
  • ¼ cup vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup dried, unsweetened cranberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, combine mashed banana and protein powder and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and combine until a dough forms. Roll dough into 8 balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten lightly with a fork. Bake 20 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 cookie): calories 266, fat 18 g, carbs 19 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 6 g, protein 10 g, sodium 8 mg

Pear Spice Overnight Oats

Makes 4 Servings
Takes 8+ Hours

Kefir is a fermented dairy drink that tastes like thin, tangy yogurt, but it contains a more potent and diverse range of probiotics. Overconsumption of sugar, alcohol and processed foods can kill off a lot of the good bacteria in your gut, allowing the bad bugs to take over and increase inflammation. The probiotics in kefir help replace those lost microbes and restore balance in your system.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain kefir
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 pears, sliced 
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¾ cup vanilla protein powder

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except pears and tahini. Stir until well-blended. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, top with tahini and pears.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 474, fat 14 g, carbs 61 g, fiber 11 g, sugar 22 g, protein 29 g, sodium 135 mg

Rainbow Chopped Salad Jars

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes

Tahini — aka sesame-seed paste — is a great source of magnesium, which is needed for energy production in the body. And purple cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, which is necessary for both a healthy immune system and a healthy gut.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained 
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cups purple cabbage, chopped

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together tahini, lemon juice and sea salt, adding water as needed to attain a creamy consistency. Divide dressing equally between 3 large Mason jars. Layer in chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and cabbage. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 days. When ready to eat, dump salad into a bowl and toss.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 496, fat 18 g, carbs 69 g, fiber 19 g, sugar 16 g, protein 22 g, sodium 493 mg

HYDRATION RECOMMENDATIONS

“I always say to start with drinking half your bodyweight in ounces per day as a minimum,” Uherek says. “However, if you’re sweating more because of workouts, add in about 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise. Add in a clean electrolyte option, like Nuun tablets to replenish electrolytes — clean brand meaning no added artificial sugars and food colorings.”

Craving a sweet treat?

Try these low-sugar suggestions from Alexa Uherek.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Combine 8 oz unsweetened almond milk + 1 tbsp 100% cacao powder + 1 tbsp maple syrup. Heat contents on low-medium in a pot on stove. To reduce sugar, use 1 tsp instead of a tbsp.

Nutrition Facts: calories 116, fat 5 g, carbs 17 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 12 g, protein 2 g,
sodium 164 mg

The Quick Fix

Gather ½ cup organic raspberries + 1 tbsp dark chocolate chips: Stuff one chip in each raspberry and enjoy.

Nutrition Facts: calories 122, fat 5 g, carbs 15 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 10 g, protein 2 g, sodium 1 mg

Additional snack options

¼ cup hummus + 1 cup baby carrots = calories 191 fat 11 g carbs 20 g fiber 6 g sugar 6 g protein 5 g sodium 360 mg

1 slice organic sprouted bread (toasted) + 1 tbsp raw nut butter = calories 205 fat 20 g  carbs 23 g fiber 4 g sugar 5 g protein 9 g sodium 160 mg

2 celery stalks + 2 tbsp nut butter + 3 tbsp goji berries = calories 267 fat 18 g carbs 21 g
fiber 7 g sugar 10 g protein 10 g sodium 116 mg

1 serving protein powder + 8 oz unsweetened cashew or almond milk = (macronutrients depend on protein powder)

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Want to try intermittent fasting? Here are a few things to note before diving in.

The fitness crowd tends to throw shade at the idea of skipping meals and snacks to slim down, believing this will eat away at your hard-earned muscle, grind your metabolism to a halt and spur diet-derailing hunger pangs. These days, however, the idea of occasionally shuttering your kitchen is the guiding principle of an increasingly popular — and increasingly researched — dieting approach with a lot of weight-loss buzz: intermittent fasting.

Believe it or not, fasting wasn’t invented by Instagram hashtags — in fact, people have been fasting for thousands of years: Our ancestors did it (usually because they didn’t have a constant supply of food stashed in the fridge), and a number of religious events such as Ramadan revolve around some form of dietary fast.

As the name implies, intermittent fasting (IF) is a system during which you alternate between periods of restricted calorie intake and periods of normal eating. To be clear, IF does not restrict the kinds of foods you can eat — as do diets like Paleo or keto — just how much you can eat on certain days of the week. Many swear by IF because it’s easy to implement, requires nothing draconian like a horrible juice cleanse, and it has been proved to be one of the speediest and sustainable ways to torch fat stores and promote a lean physique.

Research says fasting has been a favorite research topic as of late, and a number of studies have found intermittent energy restriction — in which people ate fewer than 800 calories at least once per week — to be a valid weight-loss strategy, at least in the short term. In one study, weight loss was similar among participants following either a heart-healthy diet or a high-protein, reduced-calorie IF regimen for three months. However, the IF diet won out for minimizing weight regain after one year. Another investigation showed that IF was just as good at stripping body fat as simple calorie cutting. However, IF did a better job at preserving lean body mass.

As to how exactly IF helps sculpt your physique, theories abound: Some propose that IF flips a metabolic switch that encourages your body to burn more fat. Others state that since IF restricts your window of eating, you’re likely to eat fewer calories during the course of a week, helping trim the waistline with less risk of losing muscle. Even more studies propose that IF might help people get in touch with their true feelings of satiety and fullness on food-restricted days, which can put the brakes on overeating during times of normal food intake.

On another front, IF may have other positive effects on your body, such as reducing memory loss, improving cholesterol and blood pressure, and helping prevent diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. And contrary to logic, IF could actually help — not hurt — your physical performance at the gym: A 2018 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that athletes who participated in an every-other-day fasting protocol (eating 33 percent of their normal calorie intake on fasting days) for six weeks became more energy-efficient during exercise, reported less fatigue and experienced reduced body-fat levels. Researchers theorize that occasional energy restriction might spur changes in hormones and mitochondrial function, helping you get more out of your workouts.

Fit Girl Fasting

Want to give intermittent fasting a whirl? Try this 5:2 eating plan: You eat normally for five days and reduce your calorie intake to about 25 percent of normal for two days. Drink all the calorie-free liquids you want on both days to stay hydrated and healthy, and focus on whole, nutrient-rich foods for all seven days.

Feast Days

5 Days a Week

Breakfast
½ cup rolled oats (cooked) + 1/3 cup low-fat milk + 1 scoop protein powder (Top with 2 tbsp chopped nuts + ½ cup blueberries.)

Snack
2/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt + ½ cup berries

Lunch
4 oz cooked salmon + 1 cup cooked quinoa + 2 cups mixed greens + drizzle of olive oil vinaigrette

Snack
1/3 cup hummus + ½ cup sliced red bell peppers

Post-Training Shake
1 cup milk + 1 scoop protein powder + ½ frozen chopped banana

Dinner
4 oz pan-seared boneless pork loin chop + 2 cups roasted baby potatoes + 1 cup steamed asparagus + 1 tsp olive oil

Nutrition Facts (per day): 1,953 calories, fat 93 g, protein 146 g, carbs 201 g

Fast Days

2 Days a Week

Midmorning Snack
½ cup cottage cheese + ½ cup chopped pineapple + 2 tbsp unsalted roasted sunflower seeds

Afternoon Snack
½ cup baby carrots + 1 string cheese + 1 oz almonds

Evening Snack
1 oz jerky

Nutrition Facts (per day): 586 calories, fat 36 g, protein 39 g, carbs 34 g

Fasting Cheat Sheet

Want to try intermittent fasting? Here are a few things to note before diving in.

High, low and start slow

There are different ways to put IF into practice, and since the jury is out as to which style yields the biggest benefits, choose the one that best fits your lifestyle.

The most common method of IF is 16:8. Here, you eat during an eight-hour window, say between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and fast the remaining 16 hours in that day. There is also the eat-stop-eat method during which you do a 24-hour fast twice a week and eat normally five days a week, and the 5:2 method during which you eat normally for five days, then reduce your food intake to about 25 percent of normal (which usually totals about 500 to 700 calories) on two nonconsecutive days per week.

If you’re new to IF and aren’t sure you can hang, ease into it so you have a better chance of sticking with it long term: A JAMA Internal Medicine study found that while people on an alternate-day fasting regimen (25 percent of energy needs on fasting days) experienced weight- loss benefits, about a third of the participants failed to make it to the end. To increase your chances of follow-through, consider the 12:12 method: Here, you fast for 12 hours per day and eat within a 12-hour window — which probably isn’t that far off from how you’re eating now. This method also could increase your chances for fat loss: A 2018 British investigation found that people who simply delayed their breakfast by 90 minutes and ate their dinner 90 minutes earlier than normal — with no imposed restrictions on what they could eat — lost twice as much body fat over a 10-week period than those who ate their meals at their normal times. Experts theorize this is owed to a decrease in both appetite and overall calorie intake.

Food for thought

If you choose a routine such as the 5:2 method during which on fasting days you simply eat less, don’t waste an entire day of calories on a couple of slices of gooey pizza. Make those calories count, and focus on nutrient-dense, satiating foods such as legumes, vegetables, fruits and fish — items that deliver plenty of nutrients relative to the number of calories they contain.

Also, beware of the feeding-day binge: Since IF doesn’t dictate the types of foods you should eat, you might be tempted to reward yourself with less-than-healthful foods during normal eating periods. But IF only works for fat loss if you focus on nutrition, not just calories, so on non-fasting days, fall back into a normal diet full of whole, clean foods, and stick to your regular eating schedule of several meals and snacks per day.

Drink up

Dehydration can exacerbate hunger and leave you in a candy-worshipping hangry rage. Keep plenty of calorie-free liquids like water and tea nearby when fasting to promote satiety and replace some of the liquid you’re missing by cutting out much of your food. Not sure you’re getting enough H2O? Keep track of your urine color: The darker the color, the more water you need. As for caffeine — don’t worry about it. Recent research proved that it does not dehydrate people as much as it was once thought, especially if you’re a regular coffee drinker.

Train to gain

The days you train and the days you feed or fast should align properly. If your goal is to nail a personal-record 1-mile run or improve on your strength with heavier lifts, train during non-fasting periods when you have more available energy. If your goal is fat loss, exercise on a fasting day to create a metabolic environment that favors fat burning as your carbohydrate stores become depleted. That being said, however, if you feel exhausted and lightheaded when exercising on a fasting day, either call it quits or eat some food. Your workout will be half-assed, and you’ll increase your risk of injury.

Pop a pill

On fasting days, consider taking a multivitamin to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy: A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also found that women following a weight-loss diet reported less hunger when supplementing with a multivitamin. Make sure your multi also includes the B vitamins that help turn food into energy and control appetite. To reduce muscle breakdown, think about branched-chain amino acids or including a protein powder supplement to your regimen, if it works into your fasted calorie allotment.

It may not work

Like many diets, the success of IF will vary from person to person. Some may rave about their success with fat loss and their clearer mind, while others may experience nothing but prolonged fatigue and irresistible cravings.

It often takes a couple of weeks for your body to adjust to IF, and side effects of fasting like raging hunger, brain fog, grumpiness or low energy will likely subside with time. If you’re still miserable after three weeks, IF is probably not right for you.

WARNING: Certain medical conditions can be worsened by fasting. Consult with your doctor if you’re diabetic, have low blood pressure, take medications, are underweight, are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding before beginning any sort of intermittent fasting. 

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Health and lifestyle coach Rebecca Pfanner breaks down why you’re scared of your appetite and offers steps you can take to permanently change your mindset.

Instead of feeding the fear of your own appetite, let’s get curious and embrace it.

So many of us women fear our appetite. We’re scared to eat that brownie, macaroni or cake because “it’s going to make us fat.” When we give in, we tell our friends, “I was so bad today. I ate a brownie!” We’ve come to believe this is the most horrible thing a woman can do!

This is not true. This is the story we tell ourselves because we’ve been programmed to believe feeding our appetite is wrong.

Our appetite is what keeps us alive. Without it, we wouldn’t know when to eat. We would starve and die! So why have we turned this survival mechanism into something that makes us feel guilt, shame and disgust?

Look at Eve! She wanted that apple so badly. She had an appetite for it, craved it, desired it. So she took a bite. She fulfilled her appetite but was then shamed, kicked from the garden and made a disgrace. Eve’s story may have been the start of female shame and guilt when it comes to feeding the appetite.

Many of us continue to fight our appetite with every fiber of our beings. We don’t want to be kicked from our garden, so we hang onto the fear: “If I let myself experience my full appetite, there will be no end to what I devour.”

We’re making the very thing that gives us life, our appetite, a cause for emotional turmoil.

We’ve become so used to shaming our appetite as a “guilty pleasure” that we truly believe we’re wrong for wanting to appease it. When we do, we fall into an endless pit of desire that won’t stop.

When you desire something, do you feel guilty for thinking about what you want? What about shame for getting what you want because you didn’t “earn” it? Or guilt and shame for being “bad” — like eating that brownie or saying no to a request of our time?

Society often enforces these concepts. If you love sex, you’re a whore. If you love food, you’re a glutton and you’ll get fat when you should be skinny. If you love money, you’re greedy.

Many of us say we want “freedom” when it comes to food and body image, but when we deny or invalidate our natural appetite, we’re creating our own jail cell that keeps us trapped in our current way of being.

Here’s a secret: As our own jailers, we hold the key. We get to decide whether we consider our appetite good or bad.

Our appetite and desires lead us to our truth. So how can we allow for our true selves to step forward if we’re always shying away?

If we continue to fear what we want, we prevent ourselves from fully experiencing life. Some of us believe that if we connect with our sexuality, we’ll want to sleep with everyone we see. If we let ourselves make great money, we’ll become greedy, self-centric women.

What if the opposite were true? Your body doesn’t want to overindulge. It knows when to stop. The challenge lies in listening to its wisdom and separating your thoughts and emotions from your body’s intuition.

Instead of feeding the fear of your own appetite, let’s get curious and embrace it. In my work, my goal is to help you feel empowered to take charge of your feelings, thoughts and decisions.

Here’s how:

Be in Charge Instead of in Control 

We’ve gotten so used to focusing on maintaining our willpower, avoiding “bad” foods, counting calories and logging exercise. These restrictive behaviors lead to the guilt and shame associated with feeding our appetite because they’re so easily sabotaged and lead to feeling out of control.

Being in charge of your appetite keeps you focused on your intention of doing what you love without experiencing the guilt because you make intentional choices that leave you feeling empowered.

Know You Are Capable 

You’ve always had the power to make your decisions without all the rules and restrictions. Never allowing yourself sweetness feeds feelings of guilt and shame when you do indulge. Instead of following a plan desperately and strictly, listen to your body. 

Give Yourself Grace

Acknowledging your appetite can be hard since you may have spent a lifetime hushing it. Giving up the idea that your appetite and desires are bad may sound scary, even impossible. Allow yourself the room to have setbacks and experience doubt and frustration.

Learning how to give up restrictions will change your relationship with your appetite and what was once so scary — cookies, money, sex — will lose its power over you.

Instead of starting another diet this new year, let’s begin to lay the foundation for a new life where you embrace your appetite and desires — a life you’re excited to live, a life where you say yes to yourself.

What if embracing your appetite left you happy beyond measure?

What if it never needed to be so damn hard?

To learn more about working with Rebecca Pfanner, visit her website ModavateCoaching.com.

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