Food is a large part of holiday celebrations, but while you celebrate America’s independence from England, you can still celebrate your independence from Spanx.
Even those who remember to focus on the family and fun (instead of the food) are not above asking for cheese on our burger or trying Auntie Em’s strawberry chocolate pie. And as the picnic goes from day to night, it’s too easy to graze or munch every time we walk by the chip bowl.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your Independence Day without packing on the pounds; just use our tips for weight loss at your 4th of July cookout.
Start seeing red… plates.
Building on an earlier experiment that suggested contrasts between plate color and food color leads to increased portion sizes, researchers from the University of Parma, Italy, conducted a study that found red plates reduce portion size.
If you’re hosting, in addition to providing smaller red plates as an option, make your patriotic picnic red with a matching tablecloth.
Supersize your fork.
You know what they say about men (and women) with big forks?
They eat smaller portions.
Just as smaller plates make it easier to accept a smaller portion, fork size matters.
“Because there’s a time lag between when our stomachs are actually full and when our bodies let us know we’re full, we often rely on visual cues to determine when to stop eating,” study co-author Arul Mishra explained to Shape. “A bigger fork makes it seem like you’ve made more of a dent in your meal, so you stop sooner.”
There is a catch: This only works if you’re actually hungry. If you’re forking foods out of boredom or emotional eating, you’ll actually tuck away more calories with a big fork.
Sniff your way skinny?
Certain scents help us relax or revive us, but a 2008 study found that participants who inhaled peppermint oil every two hours for five days were less hungry and had fewer cravings than those who didn’t use the oil.
Study participants kept food journals, and researchers found that the mint sniffers consumed fewer calories than their un-minty peers.
Breakfast of champions
One way to avoid grabbing a few handfuls of chips while your food grills is to eat a healthy breakfast. Starting your day off right can fuel good food decisions throughout the day.
Eggs are a great way to pack in protein and hard-to-get choline, a nutrient that can curb anxiety and boost memory and metabolism.
The human body produces some choline in the liver, but it isn’t enough. You can add choline through your diet by eating animal-based foods, cruciferous vegetables and certain beans.
Try adding chili peppers to your scrambled eggs to give your metabolism another kick (and elevate your mood), or try a recipe from Health, like asparagus with poached eggs and parmesan or a braised kale frittata.
Another tummy-filler is healthy fat.
“This may sound counterintuitive, but when trying to lose weight, many people make the mistake of cutting fat from their diet, which can leave them feeling super hungry, cranky and less likely to stick to the plan long-term, which is key!” Liz Moody, healthy food blogger and founder of Sprouted Routes, told BuzzFeed. “Adding in healthy fats boosts satiation and keeps you from noshing on simple carbs and sugar, or giving up too soon.”
“Try to incorporate healthy fat throughout the day. I like to start my day with an avocado-filled green smoothie, throw nuts on my salad for lunch, and sip on a mid-afternoon turmeric latte.”
Just be aware of portion sizes when spooning guacamole on your scrambled eggs.
Keep it cool and let them eat potato salad.
Yes, we said potato salad, but forget what you know about the mound of uniformly colored white mush you might be accustomed to by making a vinegar-based potato salad.
Before we get to the lower-calorie benefits of swapping vinegar for mayo, we have good news about potatoes — tubers are not the enemy!
Carbohydrates like potatoes, corn and rice might not have passed your lips in years, but they actually contain resistant starch, which takes up room in your digestive tract with its bulk and (as the name suggests) resists digestion and absorption; ergo, it doesn’t get stored as fat.
The key is keeping it cool, according to Prevention.
Starch absorbs water and swells as it cooks. As the food cools, the starch crystallizes into resistant starch. Don’t reheat, since that will break down those lovely crystals.
Vinegar is your friend.
Studies have shown that vinegar can contribute to weight loss, although the “why” isn’t exactly nailed down. A 2009 study in Japan found that swallowing two tablespoons of diluted apple cider vinegar twice a day with meals helped people lose about four pounds after 12 weeks.
“There’s some evidence that the acetic acid in vinegar may turn on fat metabolism,” Carol Johnston, a professor in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University, explained to Time. “It just hasn’t been examined adequately in humans, so we don’t have good evidence that it’s effective.”
A later study said vinegar “does not seem appropriate” as an appetite suppressant “largely due to poor tolerability following ingestion, invoking feelings of nausea.”
The best argument for vinegar is probably that it’s an easy way to cut fat calories while adding flavor.
Channel your inner Rosie the Riveter (or Arnold Schwarzenegger) and flex.
A study out of Northwestern University found that “firm muscles” lead to “firm willpower.” When you have a craving, make a fist, stretch out your fingers or calves, build your biceps or clench your glutes.
“We showed that firming muscles while engaging in self-control facilitates self-control,” the study authors wrote. “We observed these enhancing effects only when the act of muscle tightening occurred among participants trying to engage willpower and only while they were engaging in willpower.”
And hey, cut yourself some slack and just believe in yourself. Studies have also shown an increase in willpower from just believing in your own willpower. Your brain is your biggest cheerleader, whether you’re battling the bulge or packing on pounds of muscle.