Eat to stay svelte and feel great in your swimsuit all summer
Best Food: Leafy Greens
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"Not only are leafy greens a great way to add volume to your meals without the calories, but they are chock full of nutrients (vitamins A, C, K, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and fiber) and easy to incorporate into your day," says Mary Dinehart-Perry, a registered dietitian and clinical trials director for Zone Labs, Inc. She recommends swapping out iceberg for spinach in your salads, adding mustard greens or collards to your soups, or dishing up a side of sautéed kale to fill up, fight disease, and look fab in your bikini.
Related: Get an advance copy of The Bikini Body Diet by Tara Kraft. It's packed with delicious recipes to help you maintain your bikini body all year long!
Best Food: Peppermint
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Best Food: Red Bell Peppers
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"This beautifully colored vegetable is bursting with antioxidants (especially vitamin C and beta-carotene) to help your body fight off infections," says Margaux J. Rathbun, a certified nutritional therapy practitioner and creator of nutrition website Authentic Self Wellness. "They are also stimulating for the digestive system and have been shown to be metabolism-boosters, helping you to lose unwanted pounds. They are perfect for dieters when eaten raw or prepared in a juice concoction."
Best Food: Salmon
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"Salmon is naturally low in calories, saturated fat, and sodium and a good source of protein; what really makes it stand out is its omega-3 fatty acid content," Dinehart-Perry says. "Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, are becoming increasingly popular for their anti-inflammatory benefits."
Best Food: Greek Yogurt
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Just one 6-ounce container of plain Greek yogurt has 0g fat and 18g protein, plus it contains probiotics and supplies 20 percent of your calcium needs, Dinehart-Perry says. Unlike other yogurt brands (which can be packed with sugar), Greek yogurt works for gluten-free, vegetarian, or diabetic dietary needs, and even those with lactose intolerance may be able tolerate yogurt better than milk. Can't handle it plain? Add some fresh fruit or turn it into a healthy parfait.
Best Food: Quinoa
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Looking for a healthier alternative to rice or pasta? Try Quinoa! "Quinoa is actually a seed, but the texture is very much like a grain," says Lauren Kelly, staff nutritionist for The Bar Method in Montclair, New Jersey. "Unlike grains, this super food is a complete protein (it contains all nine essential amino acids), loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants."
Best Food: Raw Nuts
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"Raw nuts are high in healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants," Kelly says. "Eating raw nuts (like almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts) regularly has shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and possibly prevent breast cancer." Kelly recommends steering clear of roasted and salted nuts and sticking with raw varieties for the best slimming (and health) benefits.
Related: For more slimming bikini-body foods, check out The Bikini Body Diet by SHAPE editor-in-chief Tara Kraft.
Best Food: Steel Cut Oats
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Steel cut oats are the least processed type of oatmeal and are packed with fiber, protein, and whole grains, Kelly says. "Oats have shown to help reduce cholesterol and help maintain healthy blood sugar levels." Prepare plain, steel cut oats and add honey and/or fresh fruit for a little sweetness.
Best Food: Eggs
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Eggs are chock full of amino acids and the combo of protein and fat helps you feel full and avoid overeating. "The protein in the egg helps to build muscle and burn fat which tones your physique," says Ilyse Schapiro, a registered dietitian and owner of a private nutrition practice specializing in weight loss in New York City. And you don't have to save them for breakfast. Eggs are incredibly versatile and can be added to almost any meal or snack. Try any (or all) of these 20 quick and easy ways to cook eggs.
Best Food: Berries
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Berries are packed with antioxidants and fiber, so they'll keep you feeling full on fewer calories, Shapiro says. Plus, the antioxidants will help you with your workouts by improving blood flow to your muscles. Sounds like a great summer snack to us! Or when you're on the go, drop by Jamba Juice for an Orange Berry Antioxidant juice.
Best Food: Celery
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Still hungry after a meal? Chew on celery sticks! They'll help decrease fluid retention and fill you up without adding many calories to your daily total, Berman says.
Best Food: Pineapple
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This tropical, naturally sweet fruit is perfect for summer, and it's great for your bikini bod too. "Pineapple contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme that can help reduce gas," Berman says.
Best Food: Grapefruit
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Another tasty tropical fruit, grapefruit is a great summertime snack. "Grapefruit is high in water content for hydration and contains a healthy dose of vitamin C, which is important for skin health—to keep that glow all summer long," Berman says. What's more, studies show grapefruit may help promote weight loss by reducing insulin levels and boosting your metabolism.
Best Food: Pears
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Stay full and regular (both play a helpful role during your quest for a better beach body) with pears. "Pears are a great source of pectin, a soluble fiber that helps to keep the digestive tract healthy," Rathbun says. "They are also a good source of heart-healthy potassium and bone-building calcium."
Best Food: Apples
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Did you know that apples could help reduce cellulite? "Apples are full of enzymes that can aid in the digestive process of breaking down and eliminating fatty deposits in the body's cells. These enzymes are called malic acid and may assist in ridding the body of toxins that can lead to cellulite," Rathbun says.
Best Food: Asparagus
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"Perfect (and in season) for the summer, asparagus is a slow-releasing energy food, helping to normalize blood sugar levels," Rathbun says. "This tasty green can act as a powerful stimulant to the liver and kidneys, helping to reduce water retention and bloating. Asparagus has also been shown to act mildly as a laxative to help promote regular elimination. They are also a good source of vitamins C, K, and beta-carotene."
Now for the bad news: The rest of the foods on this list won't do you any favors on the beach this summer. Proceed with caution...
Worst Food: Brussels Sprouts
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A nutritious, low-cal veggie, Brussels sprouts may not be the most bikini-friendly, Berman says. "While they contain fiber and nutrients, they can also cause gas and GI expansion, so incorporate them slowly into your diet to reap high fiber benefits." They will help you stay healthy and bikini body ready, just don't eat them right before you head to the beach for the best bikini belly.
Worst Food: Sushi
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Sushi may seem like a good, low-cal meal option, but not all sushi is created equal. "When it comes to ordering sushi this summer, stay with simple rolls," Rathbun says. Steer clear of deep fried rolls and those covered in sauce and choose slimmer sashimi and veggie rolls with brown rice instead.
Worst Food: Pretzels
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Even though they're low fat, Berman says this is a empty calorie snack you can skip. "Pretzels are high in sodium, which can result in water retention and bloating. Not to mention, pretzels are devoid of any wholesome nutrients and therefore will leave you hungry and wanting more."
Worst Food: Pre-Made Smoothies
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Don't be fooled by a healthy reputation. Sipping a smoothie may not be any better for your waistline than a fully loaded sandwich!
"Many people don't know that commercial smoothies can have 600 to 1000 calories a pop," Shapiro says. "Not only is that more calories than a typical meal, but the sugar content can be through the roof, which your body stores as fat."
You're better off grabbing some real fruit instead, or if you love a good smoothie, make your own at home so you can control what goes in the blender.
Worst Food: Sugar Free Gum
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Skip that sugar-free gum before sliding into your swimsuit. "Chewing gum can result in swallowing air, which can lead to a bloated feeling. In addition, sugar alcohols found in sugar-free products can upset the stomach and leave you feeling less than sexy in your swimsuit," Berman says.
Worst Food: Margarine
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Switching from butter to margarine isn't going to be any better for your bikini body. "This once popular spread was thought to help us maintain a healthy weight, but it turns out margarine contains trans fat (the "bad fat") which contributes to not only weight gain but cardiovascular disease," Rathbun says. Stick with lower-cal toppings like Greek yogurt and all-fruit spreads instead of margarine and butter whenever possible.
Worst Food: Fruit Juices
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You may want to rethink that glass of OJ in the morning, Rathbun says. "Most fruit juices contain a lot of sugar (both naturally occurring and some that companies add) that can cause a massive spike in our blood sugar levels. Fruit juice is also loaded with calories, something we want to pay attention to when maintaining a healthy weight."
If you just can't do without juice, Rathbun recommends diluting it with some water to help slash the calorie and sugar content.
Worst Food: Soy Sauce
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Avoid belly bloat and water retention by steering clear of soy sauce, Rathbun says. "The last thing we want to feel is bloated when wearing a bikini! Soy sauce is loaded with sodium that will cause our bodies to retain water."
Try using a high-quality sesame oil dressing or liquid amino acids to add flavor, sans bloat.
Worst Food: White Flour Pasta
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"Eating any product made out of white flour causes your blood sugar to spike and then crash—the body recognizes white flour as sugar and stores it completely," Shapiro says. "Because of its effect on your blood sugar, when you crash, you crave more food, specifically in the form of sugar, a total blow to your waistline. There are so many delicious whole wheat breads and pastas on the market, there is no need to waste calories on this dead end food."
Worst Food: Bacon
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Forget what low-carb diets tell you. Kelly says bacon is one of the unhealthiest processed meats out there, thanks to its high sodium and nitrate contents.
"Nitrates are preservatives that are used in processed foods to maintain their color. When these nitrates are baked or fried at high temperatures, they become carcinogenic."
Yikes! If you really love bacon, look for leaner, low-sodium options that are nitrate free, and enjoy it in an equally decadent recipe that won't ruin your diet).
Worst Food: Frozen Pizza
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Okay, so it's not that surprising, but we're all guilty of giving in to the convenience of frozen pizza for dinner. Try to limit those indulgences to the cold seasons.
"Frozen pizzas are loaded with sodium and preservatives; most are made with white flour that has been bleached and reacts in your body just like sugar, which can lead to weight gain," Kelly says.
The good news is you don't have to give up pizza altogether, Kelly recommends making your own with whole-wheat pizza dough, reduced-fat cheese, and tons of veggies (We love these healthy pizza recipes).
Worst Food: Ice Cream
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Again, not so shocking, but ice cream is synonymous with summer! It can also rack up your daily totals by supplying up to 300 calories, one third of your daily recommended fat intake, half your saturated fat, and one third of your daily cholesterol intake, Dinehart-Perry says. And that's just in one half-cup serving (and who eats only a half cup?). Dinehart-Perry recommends trying non-fat or low-fat varieties instead or switching to sorbet, sherbet, or bars made with 100-percent fruit or Greek yogurt.