TIME

6 Happy Ways to Lose Belly Fat

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Getty Images

Let’s face it: Trying to eat healthier and move more can sometimes feel like a drag. Change your mindset with these six tricks.

Set the table

A beautifully dressed table allows you to really cherish what you’re eating. So use the nice silverware, buy flowers, light candles, and bust out your place mats and cloth napkins. Even if you’re reheating leftovers or having a healthy frozen entree, take it out of the container, put it on a nice plate and savor each bite by candlelight as you listen to your favorite music. Using a knife and fork to cut each bite in to small pieces also makes you slow down and eat less. It takes 20 minutes for our bellies to register that we are full, so the slower, the better.

Eat outside

Dining al fresco can be so much fun. As you enjoy the fresh air and the people-watching, notice how you slow down, stay present, and really taste each yummy morsel of food you eat. When my husband and I went on our honeymoon in Italy we ate outside for many meals and I always took my time and enjoyed the scenery just as much as the food I was eating. Yes, vacations are special occasions but you can easily appreciate your patio or back yard—even a park bench.

Brighten your plate

Add splashes of colors and shapes and use a variety of healthy vegetables, plus lean protein and a small portion of carbohydrates. I notice my 1-year-old son gets such a kick out of all of his different sized mixed vegetables. He’ll pick up a pea and roll it around a few times before eating it, then he grabs a little carrot, next a green bean, then a piece of corn. He is visually stimulated and interested in the textures, tastes, and colors of his food. Following that cue as adults can help us savor our meals.

Go out for a fancy lunch

Not only will you save calories—lunch portions are generally smaller and you’re less likely to drink alcohol mid-day—but you’ll also save money! One of my favorite things to do is go out to lunch during restaurant week in NYC with friends. We have a little salad, a nice meal, and a small but tasty dessert. I’m usually satisfied until dinner and often only want something light for my last meal of the day.

Share your creation

Show off your pretty meal by snapping a photo for Instagram before you eat. You might just appreciate it more if you treat it like an Insta-artwork. You can also share by saving a bite or two on your plate for your partner, friend, or child to try. I give my son Timothy a taste of everything I am eating at each meal. I automatically save a few calories by letting him sample a bit of my salmon and veggies or PB&J.

Hold a competition

with your office colleagues, group of friends, fellow moms or even your spouse. When you have others to share in a goal with you, it makes slimming down more fun…and who doesn’t love a friendly competition? If you are too shy to involve others, buy a tracking device and have a competition with yourself and the online community. Every day you can add more steps to your log or shave off a few unwanted calories.

More from Health.com

20 Ways to Stick to Your Workout

11 Reasons You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

15 Ways to Lose Weight Without Trying

This article originally appeared on Health.com

Kristin McGee leading yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. Contributing fitness editor at Health.

TIME Food & Drink

Behold the Unhealthiest Meal You Can Eat at a Chain Restaurant

Red Robin
A.1. Peppercorn burger, Bottomless Steak Fries, and Monster Salted Caramel Milkshake is seen at a Red Robin restaurant in Foxboro, Massachusetts July 30, 2014. Dominick Reuter—Reuters

At 3,540 calories, this meal is not going to make your waistline happy

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has handed out their annual Xtreme Eating Awards to the fast food meals and chains that they deem the unhealthiest. After surveying over 200 chain restaurant menus for meals and combos that are especially high in calories, fat, sugar and salt, the winner of this year’s ignominious prize is a real monster. Specifically, Red Robin’s “monster-sized” A.1. peppercorn burger, served with “bottomless” fries and a “Monster” milkshake, which clocks in at a whopping 3,540 calories.

According to CSPI, it’s the “single unhealthiest” meal available at a chain restaurant, with 69 grams of saturated fat, 6,280 mg of sodium and an estimated almost three-quarters of a cup of added sugar. CSPI notes that to work off a meal of such, ahem, monstrous proportions, the average person would need to walk briskly for a full 12 hours, presumably not walking from one Red Robin to another. (One takeaway from this dubious distinction is that perhaps limiting one’s intake of foods preceded by the word “monster” should be step one towards healthy eating.)

Joining Red Robin in the winner’s circle for this ignoble prize is the Cheesecake Factory. While Red Robin won the top prize for its monster combo, the Cheesecake Factory earned itself three spots on the list. The popular chain’s Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic clocked in at 2,410 calories, which CSPI notes is “the calorie equivalent of a five-hour jog.” Also in the ranks are the Bruléed French Toast, which rang up 2,780 calories, and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake that contained 1,500 calories. Yes, the cheesecake had almost one thousand fewer calories than the innocent sounding chicken and pasta dish. Luckily the restaurant has many “Skinnylicious” menu options that make it easier to make healthier choices.

Consumers can make healthier eating choices at chain restaurants as they increasingly add low calorie, low carb and weight watching friendly items to their menus. For example, at Red Robin you could swap french fries for steamed broccoli, but that’s a different type of monster entirely.

MORE: 11 Worst Fast Food Restaurants in America

MORE: McDonald’s Liable for Employees’ Treatment, Labor Board Rules

TIME fitness

Study: Running 5 Minutes a Day Could Add Years to Your Life

+ READ ARTICLE

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, running 5 minutes per day can reduce an individual’s risk of premature death by about 3 years. Researchers found that people who ran less than an hour per week also saw an increase in lifespan, not just a decrease in risk of premature death. The study took place over the course of 15 years, testing participants ranging in age from 18-100.

Separate research found that running more than 20 miles per week could take years off an individual’s life, providing further evidence that less can be more with regard to exercise. According to that research, individuals who exhibit consistent but moderate workout patterns are likely to live the longest.

TIME fitness

63% of Americans Actively Avoid Soda

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Crushed can Getty Images

The soda craze is going flat–at least, according to a new Gallup poll, which found that almost two-thirds of Americans actively avoid soda in their diet.

While 41% percent of those polled in 2002 said that they try to steer clear of soda, that number has now jumped to 63%. Gallup’s poll shows that generally Americans are making more effort to have healthier diets. More than nine out of ten Americans try to include fruits and vegetables in their diets, and 52% said that they are trying to avoid sugars.

Don’t start pouring one out for the dying soda business just yet, though. A 2012 Gallup poll also found that 48% of Americans drink at least one glass of soda a day.

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