Bad Foods That Are Actually Great for Your Waist

If you’ve been avoiding burgers, ice cream, and pizza thinking you’re doing your waistline a favor, don’t.

If youve been avoiding burgers, ice cream, and pizza thinking youre doing your waistline a favor, dont. They can actually help you lose weight—and keep it off, too. Here are the hidden slim-down perks of five foods that get a bad rap and the best way to add each one back into your diet.

Red meat
Even burgers and meatballs can be light fare if you make them with ground sirloin, says Bonnie Gluck, MS, RD, a clinical dietitian at New York Methodist Hospital in New York City. “Lean red meat—lean being the operative word—is a great choice for women who are trying to shed pounds,” she says. “Its an excellent source of protein. And protein takes longer to digest, helping you feel full and cutting the likelihood that youll snack later on.”

A study of 100 women from Australian researchers found that overweight women who ate reduced-calorie diets rich in protein from red meat and dairy lost more weight than those whose reduced-calorie plans had little meat and more carbs. “Protein can reduce hunger,” says study author Manny Noakes, PhD, associate professor with the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization (Australias national science agency) in Adelaide. And being less hungry while youre trying to lose weight can prevent overeating.

Best way to enjoy it: Choose ground beef labeled “97 percent lean” or “extralean,” which means it has less than five grams of fat per serving. Want steak? Get lower-fat cuts from the loin, like sirloin tip, T-bone, or strip steak, Gluck says.

Watch out for: Beef thats labeled Prime. “Its very high in fat,” Gluck says. Buy cuts graded Choice; the meat has less fat and still tastes good. And remember to limit your portion size, no matter how lean the meat. “Many restaurants will serve an eight-ounce steak or burger, which means youre getting twice the amount you actually need,” says Dave Grotto, RD, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Stick to a three-ounce serving (roughly the size of a deck of cards).

Ice cream
Good news for ice cream lovers: A recent Swedish study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that women who have at least one serving of full-fat dairy products a day gain less weight than women who dont. Researchers arent entirely sure why, but its believed that a compound in milk fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may aid weight loss.

Not all studies support the dairy-aids-weight-loss claim. But Gluck feels theres more evidence for than against, even if full-fat dairys secret is simply that its more satisfying. “Many women find that low-fat versions of dairy products like ice cream and cheese just arent satisfying,” she says, “so they may eat a lot of them—downing hundreds of calories in the process, trying to fulfill their craving—when just a little bit of the full-fat stuff would have done the trick.”

Best way to enjoy it: Have a little cheese, ice cream, or a glass of milk each day. “You really cant go wrong with that,” Gluck says. “Dairy should be part of your diet, whether youre trying to shed pounds or not. You need the calcium to maintain strong bones. And the vitamin D and CLA in milk both have cancer-fighting properties.”

Watch out for: Fat intake. Remember that full-fat dairy products do contain saturated fat, Gluck says, so its best to limit yourself to two servings daily—and to make your third serving a low-fat or skim choice.

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Camille Noe Pagan
Last Updated: January 30, 2008

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