1. Get Lean Abs. There are very few ways to get lean abs quickly, but one change you could make is to reduce your sodium intake. Sodium retains water and thus can give you a bloated feeling. Watch sodium in cereals, soups and other packaged foods. Cereals high in sodium: Raisin Bran: 360 milligrams in 1 cup; General Mills Basic 4: 320 mg in 1 cup; Rice Krispies: 220 mg in 1 1/4 cup; Kellogg's Smart Start: 280 mg 1 cup; General Mills Cheerios MultiGrain: 200 mg in 1 cup; Kellogg's Special K Cereal 220 mg in 1 cup.
Looking for a few ab exercises? Check out the American Council on Exercise's fitness library of abdominal exercises: www.acefitness.org/exerciselibrary/exercises.aspx?bodypart=1
2. Spice It Up. Want to add some pep to your weight-loss routine? It may be as simple as tossing a few hot peppers onto your next salad. Capsaicin is a compound found in cayenne and jalapeno peppers. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition investigated peppers' effects on a group of Japanese women. The researchers' findings showed a 30 percent increase in the women's metabolism after eating a meal that included capsaicin-rich peppers.
In another study reported in the Journal of Proteome Research, scientists fed high-fat diets with or without capsaicin to rats. The capsaicin-treated rats lost 8 percent of their body weight and showed changes in their levels of at least 20 key proteins found in fat. In addition, foods with capsaicin help you break a sweat, and the perspiration then helps you to lower your body temperature - which is why people who live in hot climates often eat hot spicy foods.
3. Watch the Burned Meat. According to a study done at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, people who eat meat that is well done or cooked at high temperatures may have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer. So make sure not to burn your meat. You also might want to add rosemary to your burgers. According to a recent study in the Journal of Food Science, the addition of rosemary to ground beef actually reduces cancer-causing agents that can form upon cooking.
4. Ice Cream Advisory. Fudgsicles (no sugar added) are a good choice at 40 calories. Frozen yogurt and soft-serve ice cream have the same number of calories per serving - about 140. No-fat yogurt is about 110. Italian ices (100 calories per cup) are a better choice than gelato (about 500 calories per cup). Keep in mind that if you're going for a cone, you should make it a wafer cone, which has 20 calories, as opposed to a sugar cone that's 50 or 60 calories or a waffle cone at 100 to 160. Two tablespoons of sprinkles are about 110 calories.
5. Hike or Walk. Check out the following Web sites to get started: Trimbleoutdoors.com, Localhikes.com, Trails.com, Recreation.gov, www.traillink.com
6. Try a Few Water Sports. A day at the beach, whether it be by the ocean or a lake, can provide a lot more exercise than you'd think, so long as you don't spend the whole time on your towel. Try these beach/water sports and burn calories: Beach volleyball: 560 calories per hour; Frisbee: 210 calories per hour; ultimate Frisbee (sort of like soccer, football and rugby with a flying disc): 560 calories per hour; bodysurfing: 212 calories; Kadima (beach paddle tennis): 240 calories; kayaking: 352 calories; canoeing: 211 to 490 calories; rowing: 492 calories; water-skiing: 422 calories; snorkeling: 352 calories; water polo: 703 calories per hour; water volleyball: 211 calories.
7. How about Going for a Swim? Leisurely swimming burns 422 calories per hour, but if you really push it and swim the butterfly stroke you can get up to 773 calories per hour. Even treading water can burn 281 calories per hour.
8. Jog in the Water. Yes, jogging in the water burns 562 calories per hour. Get yourself an Aquabilt Treadmill (www.aquabilt.com), drop it in your pool (It weighs less than 50 pounds.) and start working out. This underwater treadmill, which was originally developed for athletes recovering from injury, offers an amazing low-impact workout. It's non-motorized and simulates real walking motion.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.