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Skinny Up Your Kitchen

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banish-bloat-yogurt

Kitchen conversation

Right now, in your home, you have a powerful belly-shrinking tool you’re not taking advantage of. No, it’s not that Ab Roller you ordered off of late-night TV and promptly banished to the attic.

It’s your kitchen: Set up and stocked the right way, it can make all the difference in whether you pile on midsection fat—or keep it off. With a quick cabinet reorg, simple food swaps, and even a workout move to do during boiling-water downtime, you can transform a fat-belly kitchen into a flat-belly one.

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ditch-diet-soda

Slim down your fridge

Ditch it: Lose the diet soda (carbonation plus artificial sweetners equals bloat), and replace it with iced green tea.

Its antioxidants may boost metabolism and help you burn more ab fat when combined with just three hours a week of moderate-intensity exercise, says a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. Aim for three 8-ounce glasses a day.

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veggies-for-stirfry

Say yes to this cheese

Replace fat-free cheeses with organic 2% varieties—like reduced-fat feta. Not only is the fat-free kind tasteless, but it also fails to deliver the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in full-fat or reduced-fat organic dairy products that have been shown to help diminish belly fat.

Stack 'em: Invest in fridge- and freezer-friendly stackable containers so the healthy stuff is easier to grab than fattening fare. Chop several days’ worth of veggies at once, and you can throw together a quick salad or stir-fry. Fiber-rich foods take longer to digest, leaving you full longer. Double the recipes for lower-calorie eats like gazpacho or turkey meatballs, and freeze the extra.

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upgrade-your-meat

Upgrade your meat

Stock up on lean ground turkey breast instead of regular ground turkey, which often includes the skin—and more saturated fat. Besides overloading you with calories, fatty foods linger in your stomach longer, leading to gas and bloating, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Other lean picks? Pork tenderloin, skinless chicken breast, and top round roast. And when possible, go for grass-fed beef, suggests celebrity dietitian Ashley Koff, RD. It can be more expensive than grain-fed, but it boasts more belly-fat-burning fats.

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hot-spices-woman

Turn up the heat

Stock up on fresh salsas and cayenne pepper hot sauce. Capsaicin, the stuff that gives hot chiles their zing, has been shown to boost metabolism, Blatner says. Plus, hot sauce is a calorie-free way to add flavor.

Chill off fat: Stash dark chocolate in the freezer. It’s rich in heart-smart monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which research suggests can help control belly fat.

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funny-photos-fridge

Get tickled

Post a funny photo from your vacation on your fridge. A good belly laugh can lower stress hormones, reports The American Journal of the Medical Sciences—and those hormones have been linked to ab fat.

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hand-held-blender

Create a slim counter culture

Grab tools: Your flat-belly magic wand? A handheld blender. It’s the secret to churning out homemade soups, sauces, and dressings that are lower in calories and bloat-inducing sodium than store-bought versions, Blatner says.

Another great grab: an oil mister. It’s the perfect way to control the amount of olive oil you put on dishes like pasta. "The mono-unsaturated fat in olive oil can help flatten your stomach, but at 120 calories per tablespoon, the benefits can be undone when you pour it freely," Blatner says.

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grow-own-herbs

Chop, snip, and squeeze

Set out a wooden block or hang a magnetic strip for chopping knives to make it easy to trim excess fat from meat and slice fiber-filled veggies and fruit. Couple those slicers with kitchen shears for snipping herbs.

Use decorative hooks to dangle tools like an apple corer, a citrus zester, and a handheld squeezer (to add no-fat flavor to fish, pastas, marinades, and salad dressings).

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veggies-in-steamer

Stash this fat-blaster

Store a steamer basket inside your pasta pot—it’s a good reminder to toss veggies in that basket while you’re cooking whole-grain noodles. Fiber-rich foods fill you up on fewer calories, according to research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

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listen-music-ipod

Plug in an iPod speaker

Then play whatever de-stresses you: Research suggests that visceral fat cells, the ones in the abdominal area, may expand in response to the stress hormone cortisol, but cortisol levels decrease faster in people who listen to relaxing music than in those who don’t. So set your iPod to chill-out tunes like Dido’s "Burnin Love" during meal prep.

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clutter-basket

Declutter

Buy a pretty basket for the countertop, and use it to contain kitchen-table clutter, so you won’t be tempted to multitask during meals. Eating without distractions will help you focus on chewing slowly—the number-one way to prevent bloat, Blatner says.

Lose it: The kitchen stool, that is. Instead of sitting while dinner’s simmering, march in place to keep burning calories.

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make-over-your-pantry

Make over your pantry

Get the real stuff: Skip sugar-free sweets. They often contain tough-to-digest sugar alcohols like sorbitol, which can lead to bloat. Instead, buy the real thing, but store those treats on a high shelf so they’re out of everyday sight. Over-indulging in sweets can raise your blood-glucose level, which boosts insulin, a fat-storage hormone.

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whole-grain-bread

Go whole

Slim your stomach with whole-grain breads, pastas, and crackers, and ditch their white-flour counterparts. Adults who eat at least three daily servings of whole grains and less than one serving of refined grains per day have about 10% less visceral fat than adults who don’t, according to a study from the Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University. Ten percent less fat? We’ll take that.

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sneak-this-move

Sneak in this move

"Capitalize on all the downtime you have in the kitchen, waiting for the microwave to beep or the water to boil, and squeeze in a flat-belly move," says fitness expert Joan Pagano, author of 15-Minute Abs Workout.

Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the edge of a counter; arms should be straight. Walk your feet back to come into diagonal plank position with your body in a straight line from shoulders to ankles; pull your abs in. Inhale and bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the counter; exhale and push back up. Do 10–15 reps, rest for 10 seconds; repeat twice more.

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