Looking to shed belly fat? There’s only one formula you need to know, and luckily for you, it’s easier than anything you encountered in ninth-grade algebra. The magic equation is this:
If staying slim comes down to simple math, why are so many Americans fat? The short answer: We’re eating our weight in burgers and pasta. People tend to blame their extra flab on lack of exercise (the “calories out” part of the weight-loss equation), but the truth is, overeating is usually the biggest perpetrator of pudginess. It takes 3,500 calories to create one pound of body fat, so if you eat just 500 extra calories a day, you’ll add one new pound to your gut each week. Make that a habit—like so many of us unwittingly do—and you’re looking at 52 pounds of excess flab per year!
But here’s the good news: You don’t have to give up your favorite foods to keep the pounds at bay. Case in point: The list of food swaps below, excerpted from the new Eat This Not That! 2012. Make these tiny tweaks to your diet, and you’ll subtract thousands of calories without sacrificing an ounce of flavor. See, isn't math fun?
#7 Top Swap: Tacos
Baja Fresh Baja Fish Tacos (2)
26 g fat (4 g saturated)
840 mg sodium
Long John Silver's Baja Fish Tacos (2)
46 g fat (9 g saturated, 7 g trans)
1,620 mg sodium
Long John's is one of the few fast-food chains still filling its fryers with trans fats. That's especially worrisome considering that the chain tops each Baja Fish Taco with a big scoop of "Crumblies," the deep-fried shards of trans fatty batter that might qualify as the least heart-friendly food on the planet. Baja Fresh, on the other hand, manages to both fry its fish and embellish it with tangy sauce without inflicting a gram of trans fatty damage. And instead of Crumblies, Baja tops its tacos with pico de gallo, a nutritionally rich flavor enhancer with just a handful of calories.
#6 Top Swap: Caesar Salad
Panera Grilled Chicken Caesar Signature Salad
29 g fat (9 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
820 mg sodium
Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad (full size)
49 g fat (16 g saturated, 1 g trans)
1,810 mg sodium
Compared with the Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad on Panera’s menu, the Spicy Chicken Caesar on Wendy’s has 5.5 times the fat and nearly a third less protein. And thanks in large part to the massive chunks of Asiago cheese, Wendy’s doles out more than 75 percent of your day’s saturated fat with every Caesar sold. Not even the Baconator is that dangerous. Of course, if you think this salad sounds bad, wait until you see our shocking list of 20 Salads Worse Than a Whopper.
#5 Top Swap: Smoothie
Jamba Juice Light Strawberry Nirvana (power size, 30 fl oz)
0.5 g fat
59 g sugars
Smoothie King Lemon Twist Strawberry (32 fl oz)
0 g fat
156 g sugars
Portion distortion! These two cups differ by only 2 fluid ounces, yet Jamba’s is a large and Smoothie King’s is a medium. Order a “large” at Smoothie King and you’ll receive a 40-ounce bathtub of a smoothie. That would have qualified as slapstick comedy 50 years ago, but today it’s become the standard fare. And what’s shocking is the part you can’t see: Roughly a quarter of the sugar in the Lemon Twist Strawberry comes from added sweeteners. That’s 150 unnecessary calories. In contrast, Jamba’s smoothie earns the majority of its 58 grams of sugar from real fruit or fruit juice. And the 30-ounce smoothie you see here? It’s the biggest you can order. That’s good, because if you need more than 30 ounces of smoothie, you should probably consider sitting down to a real meal.
#4 Top Swap: Burger
Carl’s Jr. Guacamole Turkey Burger
21 g fat (6 g saturated)
1,120 mg sodium
Ruby Tuesday Avocado Turkey Burger
61 g fat
1,601 mg sodium
The potential for excess is every bit as high with turkey as it is for any other burger. If the patty is riddled with fat and buried under calorie-dense accoutrements, it’s going to cause damage, and that’s true whether the meat comes from turkey, ostrich, or organic parakeet. Thanks to an oversized patty and an excessively buttered bun, Ruby’s take on turkey has just 39 fewer calories than its hulking Bacon Cheeseburger. In your own kitchen you can construct a turkey burger with a quarter-pound patty, a slice of cheese, and a big scoop of guacamole for 400 to 500 calories, so that’s exactly what you should expect when you eat out. Thankfully, that’s what Carl’s Jr. delivers.
STEALTH HEALTH FOODS: Restaurant menus are awash in empty calories, but amidst the fat-making wreckage are a handful of surprising standouts. You'd be wise to memorize this list: 20 Shockingly Healthy Restaurant Foods. Bonus: Chili cheese dogs and beef burritos make the list!
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