Think crunches and crash diets will banish that belly fat? Not a chance! According to Dr. Travis Stork, author of "The Lean Belly Prescription" (and the object of affection on season eight of ABC's "The Bachelor"), it's all about making simple changes to your diet. Check out his six diet do's to tone up your tummy!
1. Snack Early and Often
If you are going to a party, have a healthy snack beforehand and it will help you dodge the high-calorie hazards of the buffet line. Here's another party tip: Make sure you leave space between any foods you put on your plate and you'll eat up to 20 percent fewer calories, yet still experience the variety.
2. Ditch the Soda (Yes, That Means Diet Soda, Too!)
Americans average 450 extra calories a day from sweetened beverages, and soda is high on that list. Unfortunately, diet soda doesn't seem to help much. More and more evidence suggests that those who drink diet soda are still at higher risk for obesity, and it may have something to do with how artificial sweeteners affect our other tendencies. I have an entire section dedicated to helping people kick their soda habit in "The Lean Belly Prescription."
3. Pack in the Protein
Include protein in every meal and snack. Your gut has to work overtime to digest protein, so your body actually burns calories while you digest. The most important bonus, however, is that you'll feel full longer and avoid the false hunger signals that we so often get after eating simple carbohydrates.
4. Whole Fruit is Your Friend
Replace fruit juices with whole fruit and eat more berries. Unfortunately, fruit juice tends to act like pure sugar in the body. If you choose whole fruit, you are eating more fiber and fewer calories. As for berries, they are loaded with antioxidants and may keep you mentally sharp and help ward off cancer. That means more quality years to enjoy your lean belly!
5. Go Nuts
Assuming you don't have a nut allergy, don't fear peanut butter, almond butter or any kind of nut butter. Yes, nuts are high in calories, but they are nutrient-dense foods. And, when eaten in moderation, they can actually help fight off hunger. If you choose an all-natural spread like almond butter without added sugar, you have a perfect hunger-stopper that is loaded with protein and healthy fats to spread on top of an apple slice or whole grain toast.
6. Go Grain
One of the simplest steps you can take to improve the health and waistline of your family is to replace refined grains with whole grains. I partnered with General Mills to get the word out about this last tip, which can contribute to better weight and diabetes management, and even a possible reduction in the risk of heart disease and some cancers. You should be getting at least three servings, or 48 grams, of whole grains each day. Look for a whole grain as the first ingredient on any packaged foods you may be buying.
Dr. Travis Stork is host of the Emmy-Award winning show "The Doctors." He is also a faculty physician in the emergency department at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, TN. His credentials include graduating magna cum laude from Duke University and earning his M.D. with honors from the University of Virginia. He completed his residency as an emergency room doctor at Vanderbilt University. He is on the Medical Advisory Board for Men’s Health magazine in addition to having a monthly column. He is also the author of The New York Times Best Seller "The Lean Belly Prescription: The Fast and Foolproof Diet & Weigh-Loss Plan from America’s Favorite ER Doctor" and "The Doctor Is In : A 7-Step Prescription for Optimal Wellness."