If you think the words flavor and diet don't go together, you need to meet the kitchen wizards at Hilton Head Health (H3), a resort and wellness spa in South Carolina. Taste is their most powerful weight-loss tool; the yummier the meal, the more satiating it is (so you put the fork down faster and avoid grazing later). Now the H3 pros are sharing their best kitchen tricks and recipe ideas, turning you into an incredible shrinking chef.
Want to lose up to 8 to 10 pounds? Stick with the Slimlicious approach to cooking and eating over a month's time and that's the difference you could see on the scale. Guests at H3 lose, on average, 1 to 2 percent of their body weight in the first week, then keep going.
"Weight loss becomes a by-product of a healthy lifestyle," says Bob Wright, H3's director of education. As you adopt better habits, you'll transform your body naturally.
Slim Secret #1: Don't Bury the Good Stuff
If you've ever taken a bite of an omelet or salad and asked, "Wait, where's the cheese/bacon/whatever I threw in there? Did it disappear?" then you need this tip: Make the exciting ingredients in your meal more available to your taste buds, says H3 registered dietician Felicia Hackett.
You could do that by, say, crumbling a smaller amount of something flavorful — like feta — on top of your greens or eggs. Go for an open-faced sandwich with a few slices of avocado laid on last. And with salad, dip your fork in your dressing first, and then in the greens.
Slim Secret #2: Spruce Up That Snoozy Breakfast
Do oatmeal, only better. Add one part raw oats to two parts water or milk in a lightly greased baking dish, top with fruit, and bake at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed.
"Berries or peaches make this taste like a cobbler, and who doesn't love dessert for breakfast?" says H3's Healthy Kitchen executive chef, Karla Williams. Or skip the fruit and stir in canned pumpkin puree. Another trick: Williams blends her oats with buck wheat, quinoa, or barley. New textures keep your mouth content.
Slim Secret #3: Play Pick-a-Carb
Think that staying slim means brown rice for life? Nope! Burn out on a healthy carb and you'll be tempted to reach for pizza or bagels. Instead, make a different grain at the start of every week, says Williams. Cook enough for seven days — that's how long grains last when refrigerated. In one month you could try barley, quinoa, farro, and millet; the next you could sample kamut, buckwheat, teff, and bulgur wheat.
Slim Secret #4: Hide and Eek Your Treats
How often have you opened your freezer and found a box of fudge bars staring back at you? You weren't even looking for ice cream — Scout's honor, you were there for frozen spinach! — but now that those pops have introduced themselves, it's tough to say no.
If treats get in your face as you navigate the fridge or cabinets, take them out of their boxes and containers and push them behind healthier stuff. Scatter those fudge bars around the freezer, says Wright, so you'll actually have to hunt for one.
Slim Secret #5: "Budget" Your Oil Wisely
Here's the truth: If vegetables don't taste good, they will never win against bacon. Fat helps with flavor — just pour intelligently. Williams's rule: When roasting or sautéing, you only need ¼ tsp oil per 1 cup of veggies; use a separate bowl to toss them with the oil to spread the love more evenly before putting them in a roasting pan. For leafy greens, like kale or chard, massage the oil into the greens before adding them to the pan — you'll get more of them covered that way.
Slim Secret #6: Pre-Select Your Snack Size
Let's face it: Eating snacks right out of the package is a test in restraint that most of us fail. Our cue to stop eating is the bottom of the container — even if that's a mega-bag. So the key is to portion before you dig in, says Wright. That's why the culinary team at H3 divvies snacks into what they call "FitBites." With nuts, that's half an ounce.
"We don't put out 1-oz bags in the cafeteria with a sign telling guests to eat half now and save the other half for later, because almost anyone would plow through the whole thing without even thinking about it," he says.
Slim Secret #7: Up Your Grill Game
When it comes to turning up the taste without piling on the calories, the grill is your best friend, says Williams. "It's a cooking method that naturally gives food an intense, caramelized flavor." And think beyond hamburgers, hot dogs, and steaks: "Try throwing fruit on there," says Williams.
She suggests sweet pineapple, which pairs well with grilled pork chops. Peaches and apples are also great on the fire. Or make a salsa with grilled mangos plus peppers, onions, and a squeeze of lime juice. You'll love it over your favorite fish.
Slim Secret #8: Focus On Plants
Eating more produce than meat can handle hunger, maximize your health, and minimize your calorie intake. Hackett suggests planning your meals around veggies. Instead of thinking "meatloaf on Monday" or "chicken on Tuesday," plan your veggies first. For example: "mushrooms on Monday" and "zucchini on Tuesday," etc. From there, you can plan your grain, and then your protein. You could even organize it by color, she suggests. Try having red veggies one night, then purple, yellow, and orange to max out on the different nutrients in each group.
Slim Secret #9: Use Healthy Baking Hacks
Another way to trick your taste buds: Replace half the oil in baked goods such as muffins and cakes with an equal amount of pureed 1 percent cottage cheese, which gives a decadent creaminess to treats without altering the taste. If your recipe calls for ½ cup oil, use ¼ cup oil and ¼ cup cottage cheese.
"Leave in a little bit of the oil to get the texture you want," says Williams.
Your Eat-This-With-That Flavor Guide
Season, spice, and spark up your meals creatively using the add-ins from the H3 experts below. Then experiment with your own combos.
- cilantro on scrambled eggs
- dill on a salad with grilled salmon
- parsley or basil on roasted veggies
- mint on a summer fruit salad with pineapple, blueberries, and strawberries
- rosemary on roasted potatoes (add after cooking to maintain flavor)
- red pepper flakes on sautéed broccoli
- ground cloves in oatmeal
- ground cinnamon in chili
- smoked paprika in stewed vegetables or on sautéed shrimp
- cardamom in quinoa
- orange zest on sautéed vegetables
- grapefruit zest on farro or any whole-grain dish
- any citrus zest in marinades or salad dressings
- lime zest mixed in a fruit salad or salsa
- lemon zest in a seafood salad of poached scallops, arugula, and roasted red peppers
Win the Ultimate Spa Vacation — for Free!
One winner will receive a seven-night stay for two at Hilton Head Health in South Carolina — complete with cooking lessons and spa services. A runner-up will get a 90-minute private meal-planning consultation from a Hilton Head Health Registered Dietitian via phone or Skype; a second runner-up can get motivated with a Hilton Head Health Gift Pack, including healthy snacks and fitness gear. Go to drozthegoodlife.com/hiltonheadhealth to enter.