My Top 10 Kitchen Secrets for Fat Loss
And no, this isn’t about organizational psychology or keeping your counters clean.
Today, we’re talking food.
As you know, I’m always intrigued by healthy fat loss and weight maintenance – especially the systems that help people accomplish these goals while staying happy. Because let’s get real, it’s not about fast overhauls – it’s all about the little things that you do over and over again, day in and day out, that really work for you and enhance the quality of your life. And as most of my readers (and certainly all my clients) know, exercise often is not enough to maintain fat loss – nutrition is essential.
In that spirit, I’ve already created the Fit Smart Fast Cookbook, which contains 30 free downloadable recipes that are perfectly portioned and pre-synced with MyFitnessPal and are oriented around batch cooking.
But the other day, it occurred to me that even though I’ve made my cookbook free for download, there are certain things that I eat on a regular basis that aren’t in the cookbook at all. They are foods that I eat, or certain combinations of foods, that aren’t quite sophisticated enough to be an actual “recipe.” Often, there’s no real cooking involved – it’s just the way I throw something together that favors fat loss.
So today, I’m going to share my top 10 kitchen secrets for fat loss – easy, no-cook (or make ahead) combinations that make up probably 30% of my eating every single week through snacks, breakfasts, desserts, and fun weekend meals.
Everything on this list is:
- Less than 500 calories if a meal
- Less than 300 calories if a snack or dessert
Let’s get started!
This combination features in my eating almost daily. I’m constantly trying to get clients hooked on it! It has a delicious, mousse-like consistency and has 20+ grams of protein per serving. I often eat it at night, as my evening snack. It’s filling, tasty, and provides important calcium and muscle-building fuel.
Here’s how I make it each time:
- 1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 dropper-full liquid Stevia (I use Trader Joe’s brand)
- 1-2 tbsp dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s “Special Dark Cocoa Powder”)
This is one serving.
If I want to make it a bit more decadent, I also stir in:
- 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
- ¼ cup low/no-sugar brown rice crisp cereal (I use the Barbara’s brand)
This is an extremely easy breakfast. I keep a large container of instant oatmeal in the kitchen cabinet and use a cup measure to quickly make oatmeal in the microwave.
- ½ cup instant oats
- 1-2 cups water or milk of choice
This makes one serving.
It’s versatile, because it can be prepared sweet or savory.
This one’s my favorite.
- 1-2 cups water or milk of choice
- 1 dropper-full liquid stevia
- 1-2 tbsp nut butter or choice or 1-2 tbsp nuts/seeds
- Spices like cinnamon
(Michael likes this but I don’t.)
- 2 boiled or scrambled eggs
- ¼ cup cheese
- Salt and pepper
Whether you want sweet or savory, it’s a fast and tasty dish that provides a hearty dose of heart-healthy soluble fiber.
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes take about an hour to bake, which is why I do several at the same time and then eat them throughout the week. They take about an hour at about 400 degrees. Make sure to eat the skin, too, for maximum benefit! Also, because beta-carotene is fat-soluble, I encourage you to eat sweet potato paired up with a fat source like nuts, eggs, olive oil, or avocado.
This week, for example, I baked four sweet potatoes and then they can be added to a meal that needs a carbohydrate, like eggs at breakfast or mashed into a meat-and-cheese quesadilla.
A rich source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, don’t miss out on the power of having baked sweet potatoes around, ready to eat.
These brownies are seriously my secret weapon. They are one of the few faux-treats that I make that really fly under the radar. I brought them to a social function last week and they vanished off the plate. Unbelievably, they’re only 75 calories per brownie.
Here’s how to make them:
- 1 cup applesauce
- 8 dropper-fulls liquid stevia
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup brown rice flour (or your flour of choice)
- ½ cup dark cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
Combine and bake in a sprayed pan at 350 for about 20-30 minutes. I use a Pyrex glass plan. Makes eight servings.
They’re especially delightful with a quarter cup of Enlightened Vanilla Bean ice cream served on top!
You may read this and think, “Wait, frozen?”
Buckle up. I make a strong case for frozen vegetables.
Here’s my rant:
As a culture, we are too obsessed with “fresh.” A company can throw the word “fresh” on something and it seems instantly healthful.
So, “fresh” vegetables from the supermarket seem a lot more palatable than frozen, right? Aren’t frozen vegetables just lifeless shells of former vegetables that have given up the ghost?
However, unless you are eating local vegetables, the great likelihood is that your grocery store’s frozen vegetables are fresher than the raw ones.
Yes, you read that right.
What many people don’t realize is that when vegetables are frozen, they are picked, blanched, and flash-frozen. This means that they are fresh vegetables put immediately into a cryogenic state. When you thaw them, it’s basically like they were just picked.
Plus, some vegetables’ properties even intensify while frozen!
“Fresh” vegetables, on the other hand, are often picked and then driven long distances to the distribution center and then supermarket, getting bumped and bruised and beginning the process of decomposition along the way, losing some of their potency as they go.
Think of it like Captain America – he may technically be 100 years old, but he lives like he’s in his 20’s because he was on ice.
Your frozen vegetables are Captain America.
To be clear, I’m not saying: “Don’t eat fresh vegetables.” But what I am saying is: don’t turn up your nose at frozen, for one very important reason:
I see plenty of my clients buy fresh vegetables and then let them go bad on their counter or in their crisper. Buying vegetables doesn’t count as eating them.
Frozen vegetables, on the other hand, can be used serving by serving, which makes it more likely that you can extend the life time of a vegetable and actually get around to using it all.
You can also buy lots of frozen vegetables at once and use them over time, which means that on busy weeks when you don’t have time to plan all your meals, you can still throw in broccoli, peas, and Brussels sprouts with every dish. The ultimate practical result is that you eat more vegetables, which is what will actually make you healthier – not eating the “freshest” vegetable.
The best-case scenario is buying local vegetables in season at your local farmer’s market, and using frozen vegetables to supplement – back-up for dishes where the produce is not the star.
Okay, rant over.
I usually buy frozen broccoli, spinach, cauliflower rice, peas, peppers and onions, and Brussels sprouts. I typically use a serving at a time, or may even buy the “steam in bag” version if I know my husband and I will knock out a whole bag in days (as with broccoli, usually).
Tips for Avoiding Sogginess with Frozen Vegetables
- Don’t use too much water – really follow the cooking instructions so that you steam them instead of boil them
- After you cook, drain excess water and then spray with olive oil and salt/pepper
As a result of the convenience of eating froze, I eat vegetables with almost every meal, hitting a goal of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Otherwise, I find it hard (and frankly, expensive) to fit in so many vegetables.
Rice Cakes with Olive Oil Spray and Salt/Pepper
Want something that tastes a lot like popcorn with far fewer calories?
Try rice cakes with olive oil spray and salt/pepper. I use Lieber’s brand. Lundberg’s “Thin Stackers” and the Suzie’s brands are also great.
(For the spray, I favor Trader Joe’s olive oil spray.)
These thinner rice cakes only 20-40 calories per cake, depending on the brand, so you can have far more volume for far fewer calories than if you had had popcorn or crackers. For example, you can have five 20-calorie cakes and feel like a million bucks from your snack, whereas the same satisfaction may have required 200-300 calories of popcorn.
Almond Milk Latte
While I have and love the Nespresso Citiz espresso machine and milk frother (it was my birthday present to myself last year after staying in a Florence apartment that had one), it’s not necessary for enjoying a delicious almond milk latte at home. You can just use unsweetened vanilla almond milk as creamer instead.
One half-cup of almond milk conveys only 15-20 calories. To put it in perspective, this is half of the caloric value of two tablespoons of half-and-half. This means that you get a much creamier, tastier coffee that’s far lighter in caloric load.
Most coffee-drinkers take in far more creamer than they realize, and it’s not their fault – coffee mugs tend to be large. The more coffee in the cup, the harder it is to get the right shade of creaminess without going overboard. Simply by slashing coffee beverages from 100 to 15 calories each by going from ¼ cup half and half to ½ cup almond milk, you can see how someone could easily lose weight just by making this switch and changing nothing else. If you drink several cups of coffee a day, it adds up.
Here’s what I do:
- ½ cup of almond milk (I use unsweetened vanilla, usually from Trader Joe’s)
- Stevia to taste
I make different flavors depending on my mood! Mocha? Just stir in some dark cocoa powder. Pumpkin spice? Some pumpkin spice seasoning. Vanilla? Vanilla extract. The possibilities are almost endless.
Egg and Cheese Quesadilla
This is exactly what it sounds like – one of those nights when you don’t want to cook, ran out of prepped meals, or “just can’t” with the prepped meals you have. This will rescue you from takeout, I promise.
- 1 tortilla (I use Trader Joe’s brown rice tortillas)
- ¼ cup cheese (I use reduced fat)
- 1-2 eggs (or 2-4 egg whites)
This makes one serving.
I also love buffalo sauce (I use Steve’s and Ed’s brand) and use it in my quesadillas to add some kick.
Don’t forget to steam your veggies for the side!
Reuben with Fries
I know you’re expecting some special Paleo Reuben, but in this case, we’re just talking about smart portion control.
I eat this about once a week or once every two weeks, and here’s how it’s done:
- 1-2 slices bread (I use Three Baker’s gluten-free brand)
- ¼ package Trader Joe’s uncured pastrami
- 1 slice light Swiss cheese or cheese of choice
- ¼ can sauerkraut
- Spicy brown mustard
- 1 serving Oreida Extra Crispy Fast Food Fries
This is one serving.
Of course, it could be made healthier by leaving out the fries, but sometimes… you want fries.
The way I manage that is by pre-bagging the frozen fries into individual servings, and only baking one or two servings at a time (instead of pouring the whole bag onto the baking sheet and eating too much of them later).
I bake the fries at about 350 until they’re golden and crispy, and meanwhile I toast the bread and pan-sauté the pastrami and sauerkraut. Once I’ve loaded up the sandwich with the meat, sauerkraut, and cheese, the fries are usually ready to go, and I often add a side of broccoli or peas to pump up the meal’s color factor.
I’m sure you could make a yogurt-ketchup Russian dressing… but I haven’t gone there!
Ancient Grains Smart Flour Pizza
This is another “save you from takeout” meal if you have the right ingredients on hand (and it doesn’t take much).
I split one pizza between two people. I use:
- 1 Ancient Grains Smart Flour Gluten-Free pizza crust (comes in a pack of two)
- ½ cup part skim mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup pizza sauce (I use Cento)
Again, this is two servings.
… and then you can put anything else you want! I love pan-sautéing mushrooms for pizza.
A salad or vegetables on the side really pumps up this dish’s fiber power.
That’s it! You now know all my secrets.
Want to learn how to put together your own meal plan to match your own goals? Download my Fit Smart Fast Cookbook here: