Abs that pop are made in the kitchen, they say, and it's always the hardest part of the equation. Reaping the benefits of workouts won't come as easily if one ingredient is sabotaging everything: salt. The holiday weekend was pretty awesome, yea? After all the fun is said and done I feel like a puffer fish from excess salt I consumed all weekend. At home, I can control everything but away as a guest is a lot harder. I had a delicious tomato and onion salad this weekend. Sounds healthy enough but a few hours later I felt bloated and uncomfortable. Turns out the dressing came from a bottle that had over 450mg of sodium per serving. Bingo. Americans have a salt problem and it's not just as easy as putting down the salt shaker. Here are some salt tips and overall diet tips I stick to to keep a flat stomach.
- Break it down, cook it up. Most things that come out of a jar/can/package are loaded with excess sodium. Some things really don't need to be bought in packages but can be made easily with fresh ingredients. Two examples. The first, dressings. I never use dressings from a bottle. Olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon and cracked pepper whisked together is a great fresh and pure alternative. The second, tomato sauce. Jars of tomato sauce for pasta have a ton of excess sugar and sodium. It takes only 40 minutes to create a sauce from scratch using no salt added crushed tomatoes along with fresh tomatoes. Then, I salt as I see fit but it's rarely a lot. I really love Giada's recipe.
- Spice, don't salt. I love using natural spices to flavor food rather than over-salting. Turmeric (a fantastic anti-imflammatory), paprika, cumin and cayenne are a few of my favorites and have relatively low sodium and added health benefits. One of my favorite cookbooks is Thug Kitchen where I found one of my favorite chick-pea recipes of all-time and adapted it just a tad to fit my taste.
3 cups low sodium organic chickpeas, a bit of olive oil (about 1 tbs)in the frying pan, heat up until the chickpeas start 'poppin'. Coat the chickpeas in this mixture below:
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy (I sometimes skip this to limit salt even more)
1 teaspoon organic maple syrup
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
Cook for 30 seconds then add:
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Cook for another 30 seconds and done! I put it over a bed of arugula with avocado and my homemade dressing. (This makes a lot of chickpeas so I save some or cut the recipe down)
- Sweat, Sweat, Sweat. Do something to break a sweat and get the heart rate up every day. I hate running and, in fact, never run unless it's sprint work. A power walk, a long bike ride, a favorite class all will help the body regulate and de-bloat.
- Eat and Drink Your Water. Hot water with lemon in the morning and a hot cup of chamomile tea at night helps with digestion and combating stress. I'm terrible at consuming lots of liquids so introducing foods with high water content can aid in getting enough hydration to flush out toxins. Cucumber, radish, watermelon, green peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupe and iceberg lettuce are all great examples of foods with high water contents. My struggle to give up diet soda is real so I also try to switch to La Croix (the orange flavor is the best) since it's sodium, sugar and calorie free when I need the bubbles.
- Reduce Stress. I talk a lot about stress and anxiety on this site but it's for good reason because it's the root of a lot of health evils. That cup of chamomile tea I mentioned above can help with digestive issues by calming the stomach and also the mind. When I came back from Mexico with a stomach bug chamomile tea was the only thing that helped calm it down. Yoga, of course, can help by reducing anxiety and stress greatly but also for helping beat bloat by aiding in digestion. There are certain yoga poses as simple as a seated twist that can help wring out the insides.
- Probiotics- I have a love/hate relationship with yogurt. If I eat it for snack or breakfast with fruit and grain free low sugar granola I feel very light but sometimes the dairy can cause bloating issues for some people. Know your body and what works for you. If dairy is an issue, try a probiotic supplement. Greek yogurt has a higher concentration of protein and probiotics and usually has less added sugar than most brands.
Photos: Marianna Massey