Just like vegetables, this can be as simple or as complex as you want it. Maybe you’re just making sure there’s a protein source at each meal (if it was lacking before). Maybe you’re figuring out rough portion sizes. Maybe you’re taking it to the max and actually weighing your food. The point is, you should be including it throughout the day and week.
A slim, sexy stomach is something most of us covet. Unfortunately, you can't just exercise your way to it. A lot has to do with what you put into your mouth. I find that one contributor to a bloated belly is gluten. That's why I choose to eliminate it from my diet. But not everyone can (or wants to!), especially since it pops up in everything from salad dressing to soy sauce. I advise women to try giving up gluten for a week and see how they feel. Rather not? Simply stick to whole grains, which are a much healthier choice than the overly processed alternatives. A cleaner diet, along with the following moves, will improve your core by the end of the month.
Bloating isn't all in your head. It IS possible to carry extra water weight in your tummy. To beat the bloat, decrease your sodium intake to no more than 2000 mg a day and increase your water consumption. It's easy to start monitoring your sodium intake by reading food labels. Limiting the amount of sodium you consume will help you reduce your water retention and look leaner in your clothes.
Sodium is a big culprit of bloat by causing your body to retain water, but potassium helps counterbalance that salt—here are some other causes of bloating to know about. “By eating more potassium, you can help reduce bloating,” says Torey Armul, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. Slice banana into your yogurt, or scramble up eggs with tomato and spinach, which are other good sources of potassium.
Eating eggs is a low-cost way to incorporate belly fat-fighting protein into your diet. Studies show those who ate two eggs for breakfast lost 65% more weight than those who opted for a carby bagel, so start your day with a MUFA-packed scramble or take a hard boiled egg for a slimming midday snack. (Start the day off right with these 10 belly-flattening breakfasts.)
A natural source of melatonin, which helps lower cortisol, tart cherry juice can help you achieve a good night's sleep. Getting only 6 hours of sleep versus the recommended 8 hours means that you can have up to 50% more cortisol exposure – and that can lead to more sweet-tooth cravings and belly fat. Elevated cortisol also keeps you restless and alert when you don't need to be, making it hard to fall asleep. Drink an 8-ounce glass in the morning and 2 hours before bed for sweet dreams. To get the full benefit, drink this juice at a scheduled time every day.
Another imbalance that plagues the abs is between the obliques, the muscles that cinch your sides. You have two sets on both your right and left, and if you show them love, they'll give you a nice hourglass shape. Sadly, your left obliques start out at a disadvantage, says Hahn. Blame your heart, which takes up extra space and makes the obliques difficult to tone—an issue that's compounded if you're right-handed. "Think about where your mouse pad is," says Hahn. "Then you shake hands, change the radio station in the car—you do so much with your right side, making it stronger."
Want a flatter stomach in two seconds? Stand up straight! Slouching emphasizes belly rolls but straightening your spine elongates your whole body, making you look taller and sleeker. Want to go even flatter for a picture? Use the old modeling trick and arch your back slightly—this will pull your skin tighter across your stomach while moving it farther away from the camera, making it look slightly smaller. Yeah, it’s a temporary fix but good posture offers many health benefits beyond looking good.
Honestly, children and young teens shouldn't push themselves too hard, however, if desperate try drinking cold iced water before every meal (helps lose excess fat), eating smaller portions, and doing 10-30 minutes of exercise in the morning. Also, leisure activities like swimming are great for working abs and the rest of your body at the same time.
Want a flatter stomach? Look in your glass—milk and soda are two major causes of tummy inflation. Approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy, which means that your glass of warm milk before bed may be the reason you wake up with too-tight pajamas. And when it comes to soda, both regular and diet are belly busters both from the sweeteners used and the carbonation. Try eliminating these from your diet and see if it helps flatten your tummy.
It’s probably no surprise that pasta isn’t the best flat-belly dinner choice—after all, simple carbs won’t fill you up, so you’ll probably end up eating a huge portion—but even your vegetable choice can make you overdo it on carbohydrates. Load your plate with starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, and peas, and you could practically watch your belly blow up. “That’s going to take you longer to digest, which will make you feel bloated,” says Rumsey. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage could also make you gassy and bloated, says Crandall. While all of those veggies can be a part of a healthy diet, stick with non-starchy, non-cruciferous choices like tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms on days when you’re particularly worried about bloat.
Studies have shown that people who eat oats for breakfast feel full longer, and whether you prefer oatmeal or overnight oats, try tossing some berries and nuts into the already protein-packed meal to make it even more nutritious. The tasty additions are both great sources of satiating fiber, which is an excellent weight loss ally, and are healthier than brown sugar of syrup, which can cause the formation of belly fat. For an added boost, sprinkle some cinnamon on top. New research suggests the comforting spice improves metabolic health by acting directly on fat cells, inducing them to start burning energy via thermogenesis.
Throw intense, high-speed intervals into your usual cardio workout, and you’ll burn the same or more total calories in a shorter amount of time—and the harder you push it, the more calories you burn after your workout, Holland says, meaning the fat will melt off to reveal your abs. Peterson recommends adding sprints of 10, 20, and 30 seconds and recovering for two to three times that long. Bonus: You can “sprint” on anything: treadmill, bike, rower, swimming, elliptical—you name it.
Many people chew gum as a way to stifle cravings or prevent mindless eating but this tactic may have an unfortunate side effect: belly bloat. Everyone naturally swallows a small amount of air when they chew but it’s magnified for people who chew gum, which causes gas and bloating. In addition, some artificial sweeteners have been shown to increase your appetite for junk food, so gum could be increasing your waistline on two fronts.
Many of us grew up eating white bread and bagels, so we understand why they may hold a special place in your heart. But these starchy grains (and things like white rice and pretzels) are anything but healthy. Made with enriched flour instead of healthy whole grains, they’re void of the belly-filling fiber that boosts satiety and keeps blood sugar stable. What’s worse, refined white-flour foods like these are linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, they lead to weight gain and make it more difficult to lose weight, too. For more ways to get the slim body you crave, check out these 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast.
Stoke your body with meals that combine belly-friendly fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats so you never feel hungry. We’ll stay largely carb-light, but now you’re ready to reintroduce sweets to your diet, with a delicious dessert every other day. Meals feature an ideal balance of 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat, which research indicates is the best mix for decreasing inflammation and improving digestion. It’s the combination we recommend you stick with for life.
HOW TO MAKE IT: Using leftover pork from yesterday, throw together a Thai pork salad. Combine a quarter pound of pork (a third of the leftovers), 2 cups romaine lettuce, ¼ red bell pepper, ½ cup cilantro leaves, and 1 shredded carrot. Top with the rest of the cilantro-lime dressing. We like the two-dressing combo with some peanut sauce. To make, combine ½ tablespoon of peanut butter, a squirt of Sriracha, a teaspoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, and enough water to thin it out.
Make dessert an occasional treat rather than an everyday event so it doesn’t become a habit, says Rumsey. If you’re already feeling bloated, eating sweets full of simple carbs could just make it worse, says Armul. “But if it’s been a healthy day and you’ve stayed active, a small portion of dessert should be fine and won’t cause major bloating,” she says. The key to making it fit into your flat-belly day is sticking with one small portion—a serving of ice cream is probably smaller than your usual scoop (or two)—or picking a healthier choice, like frozen fruit, to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Carbohydrates hold water in your body, which may make your belly bloat. Plus, high-carb, high-sugar breakfast foods like bagels or cereal might fill you up initially, but you’ll probably end up searching for more food within an hour, says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. “Those digest pretty rapidly, and then your blood sugar spikes up and drops back down pretty quickly because they digest so fast,” she says. That extra morning munching will likely add up to more calories and bloat than you would have had if you’d started with a more filling breakfast. Be sure to follow these other daily habits that reduce bloating and flatten your belly, too.
Essentially, that meal plan involves eating plenty of leafy greens and fiber-rich vegetables, as well as high-fiber, low-sugar fruits, like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and pears. He also recommends two to three servings of whole grains per day, as well as six to seven servings of protein — with a preference for nuts, legumes, fish, and dairy over beef, pork, and chicken.