Breaking up is hard to do, but starting to say goodbye to hated love handles can give you an early jump on swimsuit-readiness.
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Tossing aside anything salty, sweet, or fried is a no-brainer when it comes to trimming your waistline. However, nutrition experts say there are still certain dishes and drinks, often overlooked, that should get a swift kick to the curb. Whether they increase our daily calorie intake or simply put us at certain health risks, swapping for healthier, dare we say tastier, options isn’t as difficult as trying to squeeze into your favorite jeans again.
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Check out the foods you should break up, as recommended by several personal trainers and nutritionists:
“It’s devoid of any nutrients and spikes your blood sugar,” warns model-turned-trainer Kristin McGee, who has worked with Tina Fey and LeAnn Rimes. As a tastier and more filling substitute, McGee recommends eating whole grains instead. “I personally love Ezekiel sprouted bread,” she says. “If you toast it and add some natural peanut butter and a drizzle of honey, it will beat white bread, cookies, and other pastries any day.”
READ: The Truth About Whole Grains
Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt is a yummy, filling snack that’s healthy and satisfies your sweet tooth, right? It also may be the reason your skinny jeans are feeling a tad snug. “Many fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts have as much sugar as a candy bar,” says celebrity nutritionist JJ Virgin, author of “The Virgin Diet.” “To compensate for the lack of fat, manufacturers load them with extra sugar for palatability." Consider switching to unsweetened Greek yogurt, which is creamier and higher in protein. For a touch of sweetness, layer it with fresh fruit or add a touch of honey.
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Dehydrated fruit may sound like the ideal healthy snack, but this seemingly safe treat can cause more harm than good. Certain products can contain added sweeteners, such as sugar and corn syrup, as well as preservatives. “Dried fruit is lacking the healthy enzymes that are readily available in fresh fruit,” says BUTI fitness founder Bizzie Gold, who has trained Julia Roberts and Jennifer Love Hewitt. “Once the fruit is dehydrated, the sugars are concentrated and most nutritional value is gone.” Gold suggests cutting up your favorite fresh fruit and taking it to go.
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A bottle of soda can have about 200 calories, so it only makes sense to quench your thirst with the diet version, which has zero calories. Experts, however, say cut out the soda altogether. A 2005 study, concluded those who had diet soft drinks were more likely to become overweight. It’s also been reported that the sugar substitutes in diet soda can put one at risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Swap soda with water infused with fresh fruit slices instead.
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Wondering why you spend the night tossing and turning? Perhaps you’re on coffee overload. Fitness expert Simone De La Rue's top tip: Cut out the caffeine completely. “Caffeine is an artificial stimulant,” says De La Rue, who has helped sculpt several celeb bodies. “It dehydrates your muscles and tissues, as well as interferes with sleep patterns.” Instead, replace them with herbal teas and water. You'll also be cutting out calories in cream, flavored syrup, and whole milk that easily do a number on the scale. If you really must have that cup of coffee in the morning, minimize calories you’re consuming by using skim milk. If you really must add syrup, make sure it’s sugar-free. If you need a motivator, keep in mind that those who sleep less during the night are more likely to pack on the pounds.
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“Pretzels have the reputation of being a healthier snack food, when in reality they are not,” says Lori Shemek, author of “Fire Up Your Fat Burn.” “When a food is low in fat, it means manufacturers are most likely not adding any other ingredients to up the taste experience. But in the case of pretzels, it’s salt. Pretzels are high in sodium and made with white flour.” Foods rich in sodium can also give unwanted belly bloat. When you have that sudden urge to crunch, choose air popped popcorn or homemade kale chips, minus the buttery toppings.
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“Processed meats, such as bologna, sausage deli meat, and bacon are high in saturated fats and added fillers,” says McGee. “Stick with cuts from your farmer’s market or anything that comes straight from the source, not a packaged." Choose fresh lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, and fish, as well as grass-fed beef.
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Before you know it, the balmy days of summer will be here and with it, platters of grilled meat slathered with sweet-meets-tangy barbecue sauce. However, you might want to keep portions in mind if you really want to make sure the swimsuit fits all season long. “Barbecue sauce is a hidden carrier of sugar,” says bariatric surgeon Dr. Joseph Colella. “It has much more sugar than you think and everyone uses way too much.” According to nutritionist Tanya Zuckerbrot, one tablespoon of sweet barbecue sauce has 20 calories. Enjoy lean meats with flavorful herbs and spices instead. However, if you really must have the BBQ sauce, remember to keep it as light as possible, not literally dip your meal into a pool of it.
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You may have been raised on it, but not every adult can tolerate a dairy-filled diet. Experts agree that if a physician concludes you are allergic or intolerant to dairy, get your fill from other natural sources. “Make the jump to vegan-friendly unsweetened coconut or almond milk, which provides the creaminess and satisfaction of cow’s milk without the potential food intolerances and other problems dairy can pose,” says Virgin.
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We get it, those thirst- quenching cocktails from your favorite watering hole aren't exactly food, but with all those sugary, artificial mixers, generous serving of salts, and greasy bar food to complement them, cocktails can easily send your calorie intake north of desirable. “I personally love a glass of red wine on most nights, but I can keep mine to 5 ounces and I drink it with a very healthy dinner,” says McGee. “If you’re the type who can’t stop at one drink, or two for men, I would say try to and give it up. Alcohol has empty calories and if you’re not watching the amount you drink you can easily gain weight.” If you can't completely give up on happy hour every now and then, make sure you skip the bar snacks, have a glass of water in between drinks to keep you full and hydrated and stick to wine or drinks prepared with fresh ingredients and sparkling water.
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