It's July ... already. You swore you'd be in shape by now, but somehow the swimsuit season is upon us, and the slim-down-firm-up part of your promise hasn't come to pass. To help make up for lost time, start with the basics: Limit fatty red meat and opt for lean poultry and fish; choose low-fat dairy and whole-grain products; eat more filling fiber (like in beans, barley and raspberries) and less bloating salt; do lots of shopping in the produce aisle; and of course, watch your portions of everything.
Just as important: Walk, jog, or ride your bike on most days (combined with a healthy diet, regular cardio helps shed pounds and boost energy) and work strength training into your routine at least twice a week to tone muscles and help you better burn calories. Here are seven more tips - all based on science - that may help boost your shape-up plan so you look your best this summer:
Swap out soda.
Even if you change nothing else, you can still drop a few pounds by simply trading your sugar-soaked soft drink for water, reports new research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Water is your best choice for overall health. If you need any more convincing to make the switch, maybe these numbers will help: 300 calories and 20 teaspoons of sugar. That's about how much you'll save by replacing just two cans of soda in your diet.
Choose smelly foods.
It sounds bizarre, but a study shows people tend to take smaller bites when a food's aroma is stronger. The possible reason: Researchers suspect that smell alerts the senses that something intense is on its way.
Order a la carte when dining out.
You can still have dinner at your favorite restaurant, but there's no reason to eat everything that comes with the special. Pick and choose your meal and you're more likely to save calories. That's just one tip on a list of strategies compiled by researchers. What else was in the bag of eating-out tricks? Box up half your meal "to go" before you start eating; skip the "unloved" calories (are cold fries really worth it?); order dressings on the side; and always choose steamed over fried.
Try an app to stay on track.
Overweight adults who used electronic devices that gave daily feedback stuck to their programs better than those who kept pen and paper diaries, research shows. Choose one that offers gentle reminders to keep you focused on your goal.
Work out harder, faster....
By doing so, you can burn bonus calories long after you finish exercising - more than 10 hours after - previously published research suggests. A study found that men who pedaled vigorously on a stationary bike for 45 minutes burned an extra 190 calories over the 14 hours after their workout - that's on top of the 500-plus calories they burned on the bike. Researchers believe the same effect could apply to other high-intensity activities such as running, jogging and playing basketball.
But don't exercise too close to bedtime.
It could make it tougher for you to fall asleep, and the less you sleep, the more you eat, according to new, preliminary research. Findings presented for the American Heart Association suggest that chronic lack of sleep may contribute to obesity. More specifically, people who are sleep-deprived (which for this study was an hour and 20 minutes less sleep) consumed an average of 550 additional calories each day. Research also indicates when you sleep less, you burn fewer calories and less fat. A few tips to help get your body the sleep it needs to be a lean, calorie-burning machine: Set and stick to a regular sleep schedule; establish a relaxing routine before bed and keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
Eat carrots, spinach, tomatoes, watermelons.
The first two are rich in beta-carotene, the last two in lycopene: Consuming those two plant pigments can get skin glowing for summer, a new study suggests. Fruits and veggies are foremost waist-friendly foods that add fiber to your diet and volume to your dishes (for not many calories). And consider this bonus: According to a study published in the journal PLoS One, people who ate three extra servings of produce a day developed color changes to their skin that made them look healthier and more attractive. Other foods that contain these compounds include yams, peaches, pumpkin, apricots and pink grapefruits.
The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.