Spicing Up Your Diet With Metabolism-Saving Foods

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Vegetables are low calorie, fiber filled, and nutrient packed. Here’s how to season them without calories and other tips to enjoy these metabolism-friendly foods. From Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames, authors of Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever.

At the end of the meal, vegetables always seem to be sitting on the plate; they are the resisted food. And we understand this — it’s the meat and potatoes, the items that you can really sink your teeth into, that we love the most because they are so satisfying. However, it’s time to think of veggies as your metabolism-saving medicine.

Vegetables, which we consider “always” carbohydrates, should be a part of at least half of your meals and snacks. With the exception of peas, potatoes, and corn, which are more calorie dense, you can eat as many vegetables as you want. They are low-calorie, fiber filled, and nutrient packed.

Vegetables are particularly great before a meal, as their fiber will start to fill you up and help you to eat less of other foods. Now before you start complaining about their lack of flavor — and before you give in to the temptation to add butter, oil, dressing, or other fats — let us give you some ways to please your taste buds when eating vegetables — without hurting your metabolism.

All vegetables are carbohydrates. And all of them are “always” carbohydrates. Just be sure to keep them lean by not seasoning them with butter, oil, or any other fat source.

Seasoning Vegetables Without Calories: Spice It Up
Asparagus: Black pepper, garlic powder, lemon, nutmeg, vinegar

Broccoli: Basil, black pepper, garlic powder, lemon, onion, oregano

Brussels sprouts: Chestnut, lemon, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, sage

Cabbage: Caraway, celery, or poppy seeds; dry mustard; green pepper; onion; oregano; pimiento; vinegar

Carrots: Black pepper, chives, cloves, garlic powder, ginger, lemon, marjoram, mint, thyme

Cauliflower: Basil, chives, lemon, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, Rosemary

Collard, Kale, Mustard: Garlic powder, lemon, onions, oregano,

Cucumbers: Basil, dill, lemon, oregano, vinegar

Eggplant: Basil, chives, garlic powder, lemon, onion, oregano, parsley, tarragon

Green beans: Basil, celery, dill, garlic powder, lemon, low-sodium bouillon powder, nutmeg, onions, pimiento

Okra: Bay leaf, black pepper, lemon, thyme

Onions: Garlic powder, green pepper, nutmeg, red pepper

Tomatoes: Basil, bay leaf, black pepper, celery, curry, dill, garlic powder, onion, oregano, sage, savory, thyme

Turnip Greens: parsley, vinegar

BROCCOLI BY THE BARREL…THAT’S THE WAY YOU SHOULD EAT THIS WEIGHT-LOSS POWER PLANT! Raw broccoli provides just twenty-five calories per cup, which will fill you up. The fibrousness of this carbohydrate means that it is digested gradually, providing a consistent release of fuel so that you have plenty of energy to burn calories — and you can benefit from thermogenesis.

PASS THE PEAS, PLEASE! BUT ONLY 1/2 CUP. Packed with fiber, vitamins, and especially vitamin C, peas give you a metabolic boost. However, limit to just 1/2 cup, as they are not as low in calories as most other veggies.

CALLING CAULIFLOWER. Already touted as an anti-carcinogen, cauliflower also helps to rev your metabolism, as its fiber extends the metabolic boost of the cauliflower’s carbohydrates. Trick those family members who aren’t fans of this veggie by pureeing it with mashed potatoes for a great texture. The family will get more fiber and vitamins with fewer calories, yet won’t taste a difference.

GO FOR THE GOLD! For a change, instead of a baked potato, choose a sweet potato that is about the size of your fist. This veggie has more nutrients than its white cousin but just as much fiber to extend the metabolism boost of the carbohydrate. (White potatoes are okay if you eat the fibrous skin.) As a bonus, you get a burst of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that may help your body to fight off diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

TOMATO SAUCE — NOT ONLY FOR PASTA! Tomato sauce is packed with nutrients and doesn’t weigh you down like other fatty sauces. Use canned, crushed tomatoes (lots of fiber) and add garlic, oregano, and pepper to top different types of grains, such as barley, bulgur, couscous, or millet. Or top your baked potato with tomato sauce and pepper.

FORGET ABOUT THAT LETTUCE SALAD FOR LUNCH. Surprisingly, if your salad consists of lettuce topped mainly with vegetables, you aren’t revving your metabolism the way you should be. First of all, the low-calorie veggies aren’t providing enough calories to provide a significant source of energy. In addition, this only-carbohydrate meal won’t keep you satiated for long, and within an hour or two you’ll be ravenous and ready for more food. What’s more, if you have added one scoop of full-fat dressing, you are getting five hundred extra calories that you didn’t bargain for (causing you to gain one pound of weight a week). So if you want to stay lean and satiated, make sure to include in your vegetable salad a slightly more substantial “always” carbohydrate and a “thumbs-up” protein or a “friendly” fat.

Get more veggies without blinking an eye. You’ll fill up faster, too.

  • Order your pizzas stacked with vegetables and your pastas topped with mushrooms, broccoli, and other veggies.
  • Stack your sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, and sprouts.
  • Pack your burritos with peppers, onions, and lettuce.
  • Add spinach to your soups and pasta sauces.
  • Toss peppers, onions, and spinach into your omelets.
  • Vegetables should fill more than one-third of your plate.

ORDERING CHINESE? Instead of ordering Chinese chicken and rice, order Chinese broccoli, snow peas, or string beans, with chicken and rice. Fill your stomach with the veggies and eat a little less rice and chicken to save calories.

DON’T FLIP OVER VEGGIE CHIPS. We all would like to think that anytime a vegetable is mentioned in a food, it is a healthy food. However, this is not always the case. Ounce for ounce, they are very close in calories to their full-fat counterparts. An ounce of regular chips has 150 calories, while Veggie Booty with Spinach and Kale has 130 calories, Good Health Veggie Stix have 140 calories, and an ounce of Terra Stix have 150.

Do be warned, canned vegetables are not quite as nutritious as frozen or fresh. Some of the water-soluble vitamins in canned vegetables leach out into the water they are packed in, and sodium is added in the canning process. However, eating canned vegetables is better than forgoing vegetables altogether. (If you do eat canned veggies, reduce the sodium by rinsing the veggies in a strainer under cold water.) When eating canned fruits, choose those that are canned in water or in their own juice rather than in syrup. Added syrup makes an “always” carbohydrate a “sometimes” or “rarely” one. So stick to the fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables as much as possible.

Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are actually equally nutritious. If you always come home to wilted vegetables and therefore cannot add them to your meals, you can now turn to frozen ones to top your pizza, toss in your pasta sauce, or throw in your stir-fry, omelet, casserole, or soup.

Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames, authors of Fire Up Your Metabolism (Copyright © 2004 by Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames), are registered dieticians, nutritionists, and personal trainers, and are the founders of Healthy Happenings, Inc., a company that provides nutrition consultations to more than 300 corporations. Their advice has appeared in Self, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, and Good Housekeeping. They live in New York City.



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