Leftover Halloween candy, Thanksgiving dinner, holiday sweets—with so much delicious food floating around this time of year, who wants to think about dieting? Not me! Trouble is, this is exactly the time of year we undo all that hard work we did to get fit last spring and summer: Americans gain (on average) a pound during the holidays each year, according to the National Institutes of Health—which may not seem like a lot, except we also tend to hang on to those yearly pounds, and they can add up (10 pounds in a decade!). Here's the good news: Enjoying more of certain foods and drinks can actually help speed weight loss by boosting metabolism! And we're not just talking about celery and carrots (although those aregood). Cheese, at least in small doses, could help fend off holiday heaviness—not to mention make your taste buds very happy. Try adding a few of these satisfyingfat-burning snacks and sips to your daily intake and enjoy season's eatings without the stubborn pounds!
Weight loss food: cheese
Women who ate an ounce of full-fat cheese (picture a wedge about the size of your thumb) daily gained fewer pounds over time than their less-cheesy peers, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows. Whole dairy contains conjugated linoleic acid, which may stoke your metabolism. One low-cal wonder: full-fat ricotta. It weighs in at a scant 49 calories and 4 g fat (2 g saturated) per ounce and has the lowest amount of sodium of any cheese out there. For a decadent-tasting dish, toss ricotta with pasta and fresh herbs or stir it into jarred tomato sauce for a flavor upgrade.
These immune system boosters will keep your body in peak condition while burning off the pounds.
Weight loss food: almonds
These are my favorite go-to snack—I carry almonds with me almost everywhere I go (car, purse) in case of a hunger emergency. I rely on them so much to tide me over between meals, so it's a good thing they have built-in fat-burning power: Dieters who ate 3 ounces of these nuts every day—that's about 12 almonds—reduced their weight and body-mass index by a solid 18 percent compared with an 11 percent drop in the no-nut group, a study in the International Journal of Obesity finds. You eat less bread at the lunch table when you're not famished, and almonds are high in alpha-linolenic acid, which can actually speed the metabolism of fats.
Check out these delicious and healthy lunch ideas for kids.
Weight loss food: coffee
The caffeine in 1 cup of joe temporarily revs metabolism by up to 15 percent, torching an extra 15 to 25 calories on average, says Paul Arciero, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise science at Skidmore College. Researchers don't know whether drinking more delivers a bigger boon (for those of us who drink plenty all day, there may be even more reasons to love our java!), but for the most benefit, order yours black; sugar and milk reverse the fat-scorching effects.
Weight loss food: peppers
A compound in chile peppers called capsaicin—the stuff that gives peppers their kick—could help you burn up to 100 extra calories a day, according to research presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in Anaheim, California. Experts suspect that capsaicin binds to nerve receptors and sends fat-burning signals to the brain. Don't like super spicy peppers such as habaneros or jalapeos? Go for a milder version like poblanos; research suggests you don't have to embrace hot-spicy cuisine to get capsaicin's metabolism-boosting benefits.
Weight loss food: green tea
Sipping three cups of green tea a day may kick up your metabolism enough to erase 30 calories daily, a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows. Experts attribute the benefit to a compound called ECGC, and that extra burn can help you shed about 3 pounds a year! Not everyone loves the flavor of green tea, so if you find it too bitter, try a brew that's naturally sweetened, such as The Republic of Tea's Honey Ginseng or Ginger Peach Green Tea.
Weight loss food: eggs
The amino acids in egg whites help build lean muscle that may in turn help rev metabolism. Scramble up a few for breakfast and top with shredded cheese—remember, it's a fat-burner, too! Another good reason to have eggs first thing: Consuming a high-fat morning meal was shown to help mice burn more fat than those that ate a carb-rich breakfast, a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham finds. The researchers say that eating a little fat early may shift your circadian clock to help you burn more body fat all day long.
Weight loss food: portobello mushrooms
These 'shrooms deliver copper and pantothenic acid, which help keep your metabolism humming. Bonus: Portobellos are also high in potassium, a mineral shown to help shuttle salt out of your body to beat belly bloat. Throw a mushroom kabob on the grill (or make them into a true veggie burger), or whip up this healthy take on classic eggs Benedict for a yummy fat-burning brunch dish.
Grilled Portobello Benedict
Vegetable oil cooking spray
4 portobello mushroom caps (about 4 oz each)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
4 slices Canadian bacon
4 large whole eggs
4 large egg whites
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp prepared basil pesto
8 fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
4 tsp freshly grated Parmesan
Coat a grill or grill pan with cooking spray. With a spoon, gently scrape out the dark inside of each mushroom cap, being careful not to break cap. Brush both sides of caps with oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. Grill mushrooms over medium-high heat until juices begin to release, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer each mushroom to a plate, top side down. On same grill or grill pan, cook bacon over medium-high heat until warm, about 30 seconds per side. Place 1 slice bacon onto each mushroom cap. Whisk eggs, egg whites and 2 tbsp water until well combined in a bowl. Coat a medium nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-low heat. Add eggs and scramble until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Divide eggs among mushroom caps. Drizzle 1 tsp pesto over each; top with basil and 1 tsp Parmesan.
THE DISH 240 calories per serving, 14 g fat (3.5 saturated), 7 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 20 g protein