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The Belly Bloat Cure Diet

Win the battle of the bulge in just three days flat!

By Jennifer Abbasi; Recipes by Maggie Moon, R.D.

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Muffin top. Belly pooch. Jelly roll. The names we come up with may be cute, but the impression tight waistbands leave on your stomach isn't. Thankfully, you can give the button on your jeans a break by avoiding foods that are hard to digest, cause you to retain water or produce excess gas. We cut back on these midriff offenders in our bloat-busting menu, created by Maggie Moon, R.D., an instructor at Brooklyn College's department of health and nutrition sciences. "You could see an inch of difference in just three days," says Moon. "You'll also reduce inflammation, a condition linked to heart disease, cancer and diabetes." That's because fried and salty meals get the boot on this plan. Turns out trimming your tummy is good for your whole body.

Your 3-Day Meal Plan

For a real gut reaction, we're watching calories—there's about 1,800 per day—and requiring 30 minutes of activity (walking, biking) daily. Feel free to swap meals from different pages, and pick your beverage (tea or water with cucumber or lemon) for each dish. Skip the a.m. snack or dessert for better results.

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Day 1: Breakfast

Target calories: 350-400

1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese topped with 1 cup cornflakes, plus 8 ounces 100% orange juice, no pulp

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Day 1: Midmorning Snack

Target calories: 250-300

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce with 1 ounce almonds (24 nuts)

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Day 1: Lunch

Target calories: 350-400

One 4-ounce lean turkey burger patty with 1 cup zucchini sautéed in vegetable oil and 1 cup smooth tomato sauce

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Day 1: Midafternoon Snack

Target calories: 200-250

1 brown-rice cake topped with 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter and as many halved grapes as will fit on top

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Day 1: Dinner

Target calories: 350-400

4 ounces sautéed skinless chicken strips with 1 cup stir-fry slices of red, orange and green bell peppers served over 1/2 cup cooked white rice

Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry
Makes: 4 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Refrigerate: 30 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes

Ingredients
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup white rice, uncooked (2+ cups cooked)
1 pound skinless chicken breast, cut into strips or cubes
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 bell peppers, any colors, washed and cut into long strips

Directions
1. Combine marinade ingredients and chicken in a plastic bag or shallow pan to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using. Meanwhile, prepare rice according to package directions, but do not add salt. Keep warm until ready to serve.
2. Once chicken is ready, heat large skillet or wok on stovetop to medium heat. Add tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat until oil spreads easily across pan.
3. Add chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 3-5 minutes. Remove chicken from heat and cover with tin foil to keep warm.
4. Add teaspoon of vegetable oil to skillet, if needed, before adding bell pepper strips. Sauté for 3-5 minutes or to desired doneness.
5. Return chicken to skillet to combine chicken and bell peppers.
6. To serve, scoop 1/2 cup cooked rice into a bowl or onto a plate. Top with chicken and vegetable mixture.

Nutrition Facts
Servings per recipe: 4
Amount per serving: 360 cal; 38g protein; 30g carb; 9g fat; 95mg chol; 1.5g sat; 0g fiber; 220mg sodium

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Day 1: Evening Snack

Target calories: 100-200

Low-fat vanilla pudding garnished with a few dark chocolate shavings and toasted almond slivers

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Day 2: Breakfast

Target calories: 350-400

2 scrambled eggs cooked with 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach and dried or fresh chopped herbs to taste, plus 1 slice white toast with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil soft spread

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Day 2: Midmorning Snack

Target calories: 250-300

1 ounce almonds (24 nuts) with a 1-cup prepackaged fruit bowl of diced peaches in 100% fruit juice

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Day 2: Lunch

Target calories: 350-400

1/2 cup tuna salad with 1/4 cup avocado cubes in a white or multigrain pita pocket

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Day 2: Midafternoon Snack

Target calories: 200-250

1 cup cucumber slices in 2 tablespoons Italian dressing topped with freshly cracked pepper and 1 ounce cubed cheddar (size of 2 dice)

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Day 2: Dinner

Target calories: 350-400

One 4-ounce piece baked or broiled salmon over 1/2 cup cooked rice with a side of 1 cup sautéed spinach

Broiled Salmon with Garlic Greens
Makes: 4 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes

Ingredients
1 cup white rice, uncooked (2+ cups cooked)
2 salmon fillets (8 to 10 ounces each)
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
10- to 11-ounce package baby spinach, washed and dried
2 lemons, one cut into wedges and one thinly sliced into rounds

Directions
1. Preheat broiler and prepare rice according to package directions. (Keep warm until ready to serve.)
2. Line a heavy baking sheet with foil. Pat dry salmon fillets before arranging on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with lemon slices, to taste. Broil 4 inches from broiler for 5 minutes.
3. While salmon is broiling, heat olive oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and sauté briefly, until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add baby spinach, a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cover with lid and let cook 2 minutes. Remove lid, squeeze lemon juice over greens, and stir before removing from heat.
4. Return to salmon and squeeze lemon juice over fillets before returning to broiler for an additional 3-5 minutes, or to desired doneness.
5. To serve, scoop a 1/2 cup cooked rice onto a plate, add a quarter of the cooked spinach to the plate, and top with half a salmon fillet.

Nutrition Facts
Servings per recipe: 4
Amount per serving: 390 calories; 33g protein; 26g carb; 17g fat; 135mg chol; 2.5g sat; 2g fiber; 135mg sodium

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Day 2: Evening Snack

Target calories: 100-200

1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1/4 cup sautéed apples topped with cinnamon

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Day 3: Breakfast

Target calories: 350-400

PB&J smoothie made with 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, 3 tablespoons peanut butter and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

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Day 3: Midmorning Snack

Target calories: 250-300

1 very ripe pear and 1 stick string cheese plus 1 or 2 servings crispbread (superthin) crackers

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Day 3: Lunch

Target calories: 350-400

One 3-ounce grilled skinless chicken breast over 1 cup spinach sautéed with vegetable oil, with 1/2 cup cooked brown rice and carrot-ginger dressing

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Day 3: Midafternoon Snack

Target calories: 200-250

2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips with 1/4 cup high-protein granola

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Day 3: Dinner

Target calories: 350-400

1 broiled flounder fillet over 3 cups of kale, fennel, and grapefruit salad, with 2 tablespoons olive oil-red wine vinegar dressing

Broiled Flounder with Kale-Citrus Salad
Makes: 4 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Let stand: 30 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes

Ingredients
2 flounder fillets, 8 to 10 ounces each
1 tomato, thinly sliced into rounds
1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
10-11 ounces pre-cut kale, rinsed
1 bulb fennel, rinsed and sliced into thin slivers by knife or mandolin
1 red grapefruit, segments peeled and broken into 2-3 pieces per segment
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1/4 cup toasted and chopped hazelnuts

Dressing
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Black pepper, to taste
Dried herbs, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat broiler and line a heavy baking sheet with foil. Pat dry flounder fillets before arranging on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with tomato and lemon slices to taste. Broil 4 inches from broiler for 5-10 minutes or until fish easily flakes.
2. For dressing, whisk to combine all ingredients except olive oil. Add olive oil in slowly, while whisking to combine.
3. In a large bowl, combine kale, fennel, grapefruit flesh, and dressing. Mix well to coat, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Optional: to break down fiber further, you can blanch kale and fennel before adding to salad)
4. To serve, divide generous servings of kale salad among plates and top with half a flounder fillet and hazelnuts. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Nutrition Facts
Servings per recipe: 4
Amount per serving: 330 calories; 24g protein; 21g carb; 17g fat; 70mg chol; 2g sat; 5g fiber; 520mg sodium

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Day 3: Evening Snack

Target calories: 100-200

Wedges of one mango brushed with canola oil, broiled and garnished with fresh lime zest

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Tummy Troubles

If our plan doesn't whittle your middle and PMS isn't to blame, it could be...

  • Food Intolerance: Both lactose intolerance (in which the body has trouble digesting a sugar in dairy) and celiac disease (a reaction to gluten, a protein in wheat, barley and rye) can lead to gas and bloating. If you're lactose intolerant, switch to lactose-free products or take Lactaid pills, which help break down lactose. A gluten-free diet manages celiac disease.
  • Gastrointestinal Condition: If you have symptoms like cramping and abdominal pain, your doctor may check for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
  • Medication: Some over-the-counter and prescription drugs—painkillers containing codeine and certain diabetes meds, for example—may cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. In addition, antidiarrheal meds, fiber supplements and bulking agents can also trigger bloat.
  • Stress: Frazzled folks (aka moms) are more likely to smoke, eat too quickly and feast on fatty, salty comfort foods, all bulge-inducing habits. Make time for healthy meals and your stomach will be one less thing to worry about.

The Bloat List
Six troublemakers that widen your waistline:

  • Fiber: It does help move food through your digestive system and reduce bloating. But eat too much and it absorbs water and causes gas. So consider temporarily cutting back on beans and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage.
  • Salt: "It's like a magnet to water," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., author of Read It Before You Eat It (Plume) and a member of the Family Circle Health Advisory Board. Skip packaged meals and banish the salt shaker from the dinner table.
  • Fat: Pizza and chips get eaten quickly, but they linger in your stomach because fat is hard to digest. That means more time for your body to create bloat-inducing gas.
  • Starch: Give the mashed potatoes a break. The carbs in corn, pasta and bread can also be hard to break down.
  • Carbonation: The bubbles in soda and even seltzer mean more gas in your stomach.
  • Sweeteners that end in "ol": Check labels for sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol and xylitol, commonly used in sugar-free chewing gum, hard candy, diet soda and diabetic foods. These hard-to-digest substitutes can cause gas and diarrhea.

5 Bad Behaviors
These habits have one thing in common: They make you swallow air. Hard to believe, but experts agree they all contribute to belly bloating.

  • Eating quickly
  • Chewing gum
  • Sucking on hard candies
  • Drinking through a straw
  • Smoking

Oops! Now What?
So you picked up a bucket of fried chicken as a quick fix for dinner and now you're filled (literally) with regret. Here, seven tricks to bring down that bulge.

  • Take a hike. Going for a quick walk around the block will reduce the water you're retaining, dissipate some of the air and speed up digestion. What won't work: Doing sit-ups and crunches. "You can't spot-reduce bloat," says Felicia Stoler, R.D., a doctor of clinical nutrition, an exercise physiologist and the author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes: The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great (Pegasus).
  • Try some anise. Pick up a jar of these licorice-flavored seeds—they're eaten as a digestive in India—the next time you're shopping for groceries. "Chew on a few of them after a gassy meal or use them to make a tea with hot water and honey.
  • Push on. Kick off those winter boots for a 30-second technique. Press the inner corners of the base of your big toenails on both feet with your fingers. Touching those pressure points can reduce bloating, suggests Lilian Tibshraeny-Morten, author of Moving the Energy: Reflexology and Meridian Therapy (JLM Publishing).
  • Munch on asparagus. What do Victoria's Secret models do to keep their flat physiques (besides umpteen hours of exercise)? Celebrity trainer David Kirsch, a wellness expert who has worked with Heidi Klum, tells his clients to counter water retention with this natural diuretic. Be sure to cook it thoroughly, though, to break down the fiber.
  • Sip some water. Yes, you may feel fuller after drinking a glass, but it'll quickly move through your body, taking bloat-inducing foods and gas right along with it.
  • Spoon out the yogurt. "The live active cultures in yogurt decrease the time food takes to move through your system and are important in providing a healthy gastrointestinal tract," explains Taub-Dix.
  • Pick a banana. This fruit is loaded with potassium, which Moon says flushes sodium out of the body. Other potassium-rich foods include milk, kiwi fruit, dried apricots, tomato sauce and Moon's personal favorite, pure coconut water with no added sugar.

Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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