After the back-to-back holiday celebrations of the New Year, Valentine’s Day is already around the corner. If you’re busy getting in shape for a romantic holiday getaway, here are a list of 11 foods to incorporate into your daily diet to help you get firmer, more flat abs.
According to Ella Magers, author of The Six Weeks to Sexy Abs Meal Plan cookbook and founder of Sexy Fit Vegan, the key to a more flat abs is to focus on filling your plate with as many whole plant foods as possible.
1. Leafy greens
Leafy green vegetables are nutrient-dense and calorie-light. Fresh salads with leafy greens are a great way to get nutrients and will help you eat slowly and know when you’re already full. But Magers suggests consuming a variety of raw and cooked leafy greens. You can sautée spinach and add lemon to help with nutrient absorption. Massage kale, add a touch of extra virgin olive oil and bake until crispy for a snack. Don’t forget that heartier vegetables like bok choy and beet greens also fall in the leafy greens bucket.
Filling and satisfying, avocado is a great addition to salads and sandwiches. Although it has fat, it’s a kind of healthy fat that is in a whole food instead of the unhealthy derivative fats we tend to get from oily foods. According to Magers, the best way to consume fat is having it as part of a whole food. “Avocado’s creamy texture makes it a great replacement for mayo, and of course when it’s turned into guacamole with chopped tomatoes, onion and cilantro, it’s a perfect ab-flattening snack,” she added.
3. Fresh fruit
Magers says the key is to eat a variety of fruit in order to get the different nutrients they offer. Although berries are the most nutritious and grapefruit has the lowest calories, you should not limit yourself to those and try to eat a different fruit every day. Ideally, fruit should be eaten by itself in the first half of the day because it is digested quickly and will give you quick release energy and won’t bog you down, especially before a workout, Magers said. Eating it alone is best because combining it with protein or dairy makes it harder for your body to break it down. If you absolutely can’t eat fresh fruit by itself, try it with a dairy-free coconut yogurt.
4. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Garbanzo beans are high in fiber and protein and a great addition to leafy green salads. Blend them into a creamy hummus and use raw vegetables for dipping. In soups, leave them whole or blend them to make a creamy base.
5. Flaxseed meal (ground flax seeds)
Flaxseed meal is better than straight flax seeds because it’s ground up and easier for the body to digest. “Adding a tablespoon to a smoothie thickens it up and also adds fiber, protein and omega 3s. Flax meal is also a great egg replacement in baked goods: just add some water and whisk together to create a gel-like consistency,” Magers suggests.
6. Fresh vegetable juice
Fresh vegetable juice, especially green juice, gives your digestive system a break as it lets you pack in the nutrients of leafy greens but requires less work to digest. To get started, choose darker vegetables like kale, which is more nutrient-packed than lighter colored lettuces like romaine. But also consider dandelion greens — they’re something you probably wouldn’t eat alone but they’re great in a smoothies. Since leafy greens don’t produce that much juice on their own, Magers likes to add cucumbers, parsley, carrots and a little celery.
7. Portobello mushrooms
A perfect meat substitute with their deep umami flavor and hearty texture, Portobello mushrooms are filling and very low-calorie. They can be grilled, sautéed or broiled. Another bonus: they soak up any flavor and are great alone or in a sandwich. For a healthy and easy marinade without any oil, Magers suggests putting the mushrooms in a combination of Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar and a low-sodium soy sauce substitute.
8. Nut milk
Even though dairy is the worst for promoting flat abs, any kind of nut milk is a perfect replacement in cereal, coffee, oatmeal and smoothies, according to Magers. “I never thought I’d do this, but I make my own nut milk and it only takes 5 minutes!” says Magers. As a backup, she also buys unsweetened nut milks which are often fortified and keeps flax milk at home because it has a very neutral flavor.
For her homemade nut milks, Magers soaks raw almonds, hazelnuts or Brazil nuts overnight in water. The next morning, she blends the nuts with water, a couple of dates for sweetness, and some vanilla and cinnamon. “Strain the liquid through a nut milk bag and you’ve got your nut milk,” she says. If you want to skip the last step, use soaked cashews which are soft enough that you don’t even have to strain them.
Tempeh is packed with protein so it’s a great ab fat blaster but a lot of people are unfamiliar with it. “Tempeh is made with soy beans but unlike tofu, it’s fermented so it’s easier to digest. Cut it in blocks, then grill it alone, bake it or put it in stir-fries or salads to add that much more protein to your meal.” For a quick fix, buy a pre-made low-sodium spice rub or make your own (Magers likes a combination of garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme and paprika), massage it into the tempeh and then put it in a frying pan.
Considered a superfood, dates are the perfect whole food and are full of fiber. Plus, they’re such a great sugar substitute and can sweeten up anything.Their sticky texture makes them ideal for the base of raw food desserts and homemade protein bars. Throw them in smoothies or blend them with nut milk for a quick snack. Magers also likes to mash them into a paste which she uses as an unrefined substitute for honey and agave. Or just enjoy them whole. “I put a few in my bag everyday and they provide immediate energy when I need them, especially before a workout.”
Farro is an ancient grain that has same amount of protein, calories and fiber as quinoa, but has twice the amount of calcium. “It’s a slow-release energy grain that’s very filling and has lots of nutrients. Plus it has a nutty flavor that’s so delicious. It takes a while to cook, but putting it in a slow cooker makes it easy.”