Your Best Spring Diet Advice, Ever!

These 26 science-backed rules will take your physique from now to WOW!

Allison Young | March 23, 2017

1. Skip a meal or two.

Science says intermittent fasting, as in eating 500 calories one or two days a week or going 12 to 18 hours in a day without food, can help you lose weight and decrease your risk for disease. Heck, skipping meals can even amp up the production of growth hormone and satiating hormones to protect your hard-earned muscles and keep your stomach from grumbling. For best results, work your way up, gradually increasing the hours you fast from 12 to 14 (up to 18).

2. Let them eat salt!

That sweaty workout can have you craving chips, wings and fries, oh my! When sweat happens, so does sodium loss — as much as 5,000 milligrams an hour. Skip the deep-fried salt bombs and sprinkle the white stuff on air-popped popcorn, Persian cucumbers, baked kale chips and even strawberries for a healthier salt fix.

3. Ditch the one-note diet.

Broccoli for breakfast, lunch and dinner isn’t doing your appetite any favors. A study published in Physiology & Behavior found that food monotony could lead to cravings. Mix it up to keep from getting bored.

4. Imagine cravings away.

Close your eyes and picture a colorful rainbow and watch your food hankerings disappear. A McGill University study showed that picturing something pleasurable engaged the imagery section of the brain to cancel out cravings.

5. Trick your sweet tooth.

Healthy sweets are not an oxymoron. Instead of nutrient-void cookies and cupcakes, reach for sweets that satisfy your sweet tooth and nutrient needs: Dark chocolate delivers antioxidants, fruit gives you fiber, and Greek yogurt with honey provides protein and calcium.

6. Get your magnesium fix.

Craving chocolate? You could be low in magnesium, a key mineral for muscle contractions and energy production that most of us are lacking. Yes, chocolate is chock-full of it, but healthier bets are almonds, beans, sunflower seeds, fish and leafy greens.

7. Flex!

Firming up your muscles could strengthen your resolve. In a Journal of Consumer Research study, participants who tightened up their muscles made better food choices.

8. Hack your microbiome.

The microbial makeup of your gut could determine whether you reach for a soda or a salad, suggests a review in BioEssays. Stack it in your favor by eating fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchee, probiotic-packed yogurt and a variety of veggies.

9. Be a sleeping beauty.

Sleep not only does a body good, but it also can work wonders on your appetite. Being sleep-deprived can blunt your frontal lobe, your brain’s decision-maker, meaning you’re more likely to crave junk and eat more calories the next day — an average of 385 more, according to one study.

10. Surf the urge.

Cravings usually go one of two ways: We white-knuckle through them or give into them. But there is another option: Ride out the craving. Picture the urge like a wave in the ocean that builds and eventually crashes — and it will pass.

11. Tetris, anyone!

Playing a computer game, like Tetris, for as little as three minutes could get your mind off food, says a study in Addictive Behaviors. Take that, pizza!

12. Exercise away cravings.

When mental fatigue hits and has you reaching for a cookie, hit back with exercise. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that the lactic acid produced during exercise can feed a tired brain and turn off the urge to overeat.

BLOAT, BE GONE!

13. Farewell, FODMAPs.

Move over gluten, the real bloating culprit could be FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols). These tough-to-digest small-chain carbs, found in foods like garlic, yogurt, asparagus, beans and barley, aren’t unhealthy, but if you’re sensitive, too much of a good thing can mean cramping, constipation and gas. The solution: Go low-FODMAP and watch your belly deflate.

14. Get fermented!

Kombucha, kimchee, sauerkraut, kefir and even probiotic-spiked protein powders can increase good gut microbes to help digest food, absorb nutrients and un-tent your tummy.

15. Down with fructose.

An apple a day could keep the skinny jeans away. Fructose, a naturally occurring sugar in apples, watermelon, mango, honey and agave syrup, can ferment in your colon to cause abdominal pain, gas and bloating if you’re intolerant. For flat-tummy results, cut down on the culprits and skip fruit as a solo snack.

16. Potassium, please!

Retaining water? Potassium can help flush extra fluid from your system, but bananas aren’t your only (or best) bet. Sweet potatoes, avocado, tomato sauce and blackstrap molasses have more.

17. More salmon and sun.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found that 82 percent of participants with irritable bowel syndrome weren’t getting enough vitamin D. Bonus: The sunshine vitamin, which is also found in eggs, milk and tuna, is linked to a boosted immunity and better mood.

DIET MYTHS DEBUNKED

18. Three a day is OK.

You don’t have to eat every three hours if that doesn’t work for you. Need proof? A study published in Obesity found that the three-meal-a-day group reported feeling more full than the six-meal group.

19. Suit yourself.

The best diet is the one you follow. Paleo, gluten-free, Weight Watchers, low-carb … so which way of eating wins? A meta-analysis published in the journal JAMA says the best diet is the one you stick with.

20. Time is on your side.

Eating after 8 p.m. doesn’t make you fat. But there is a downside to late-night noshing: Willpower is lower when you’re sleepy (enter donuts), and before-bed calories could interrupt sleep, causing you to overeat the next day.

21. Enough protein, already!

Protein helps you stay full longer and preserves muscle mass (win-win!), but going hog-wild on, well, hog, is pointless. Researchers from the University of Texas found that consuming 90 grams of protein at one meal provides the same benefit as eating 30 grams. The take-away: Spread out your protein intake across the day.

22. Coconut oil is overrated.

The tropical oil may be touted as the latest superfood (and its high levels of lauric acid could suppress your appetite), but just adding one food to your diet won’t magically make the weight fall off.

SMART SNACKING

23. Refuel the right way.

If you think of your postworkout snack as a guilt-free payment for your sweat session, you could be eating back all the calories you just burned — and then some. Forget reward, think recovery. Eating a healthy 200-calorie snack containing carbs and protein within 30 minutes (chocolate milk, banana and peanut butter, crackers and cheese) can replenish glycogen stores, repair muscle and prevent the dreaded postworkout pigout.

24. Rethink your snacks.

Researchers found that when office workers were sitting near a clear dish of Hershey’s Kisses, they ate 71 percent — or 72 calories a day — more than they did when the chocolate was kept in white dishes. Even better, a stash of protein- and fiber-rich snacks like pumpkin seeds or dry-roasted edamame can keep you satiated, productive and away from the temptation of communal candy.

25. End mindless snacking.

Turn off the television (it can cause you to eat 45 percent more) and tune into your food. Eating with your non- dominant hand, slowing down to savor your food and smaller plates helps, too.

26. Have a late-night strategy.

Yes, we’re most likely to binge at night, but knowing is only half the battle. Stocking healthy go-to snacks with built-in brakes — frozen fruit for sweet cravings and pistachios in the shell for salty — can keep you from diving headfirst into a bag of cookies.

About the Author

Allison Young