You probably want slim legs to sport a mini-skirt or skinny jeans with style. Weight loss happens proportionally, though; you can't direct fat to disappear from one part of your body, no matter how much you wish for this. Foods that help you lose weight on your legs are the same foods you'd eat to lose weight everywhere. Choose quality, unprocessed options that include whole grains, vegetables, fresh fruits, low-fat dairy and lean protein, in moderate serving sizes. Pair healthy food choices with exercise to achieve an overall slimmer frame that includes shapely legs.
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Why No One Food Thins Your Legs
Your body burns fat stores when you consume fewer calories than you use. Fat is stored in fat cells that lie under the skin, such as in your legs or at the back of your arms, and deep in your middle around your internal organs. Where you tend to store the most fat -- and what part of your body loses fat first -- is determined by genetics.
Fat is stored as triglycerides, but your body can't use this form directly for energy. It must first convert triglycerides to fatty acids and glycerol before it can be burned to fuel activity. But, if you eat fewer calories, load up on nutritionally-dense foods and move more, your body will eventually turn to excess fat in your legs for some fuel.
To create a healthy calorie deficit for weight loss, determine your daily calorie burn rate using an online calculator that takes into account your size, age, gender and activity level. Subtract 500 to 1,000 calories from that number to determine a calorie intake to help you lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you end up with a target calorie intake below 1,200 calories as a woman, or 1,800 calories as a man, settle for a slower rate of loss or move more to raise your daily burn rate. Eating too few calories can stall your metabolism, exacerbate muscle loss and lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Protein Helps With Weight Loss
Protein low in saturated fat, such as lean steak, white-meat poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and low-fat dairy, supports weight loss. It digests more slowly than fats or carbohydrates, helping you to feel full for longer so it's easier to stick to a low-calorie weight-loss plan. Protein, especially when combined with exercise, also helps prevent the muscle loss that often accompanies calorie restriction. Aim to consume about 0.6 grams per pound of body weight per day. For a 180-pound person, this amounts to 108 grams spread over three meals and one or two snacks.
For meal-planning purposes, know that 4 ounces of 97 percent lean ground beef contains 25 grams of protein and 130 calories, a cup of chopped, roasted chicken breast contains 43 grams of protein and 231 calories, and 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese has 14 grams of protein and 81 calories.
Healthy Carbohydrates to Support Weight Loss
Watery, fibrous vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers have few calories per serving. For example, 1 cup of romaine lettuce contains 8 calories, 1 cup of chopped bell pepper has 25 calories, and the same amount of steamed broccoli contains 50 calories. Compare french fries with 378 calories for a typical medium-size serving, or 1 cup of cheese crackers with 303 calories. Carbohydrates with lots of fiber, such as whole grains and fresh produce, also contribute to feelings of fullness so it's easier to stick to a weight-loss plan. The vegetables and fruit also have more vitamins and nutrients to support energy and good health.
A small serving of whole grains, such as quinoa or brown rice, does have more calories than watery vegetables, but the fiber helps fill you up so you feel satisfied even after a low-calorie meal. One cup of plain, cooked whole grains contains about 200 calories. Carbohydrates from whole grains provide energy to complete hiking, jogging or cycling workouts that will help you burn calories and create toned legs. You also need the energy to perform at least two total-body strength-training workouts per week. Train all the major muscle groups at these workouts to create a more muscular body, which helps you burn more calories at rest all day long. This is because muscle is a more "expensive" tissue when compared to fat; your body spends more calories to maintain it. Spend a little extra time on your legs to tone them.
Unsaturated Fats Support Weight Loss
When trying to slim down your body to achieve thinner legs, avoid saturated fats and man-made trans fats. These types of fat can have negative effects on your health and are usually found in foods that don't support weight loss, such as fatty cuts of meat or high-calorie processed snacks.
Unsaturated fats, however, help contribute to weight loss by boosting feelings of satisfaction at meals and providing compounds that you need for optimal health. Polyunsaturated fats are essential, meaning you must acquire them from food to support brain function, reduce inflammation and promote muscle movement. Flaxseeds, fatty fish and walnuts are sources of a type of polyunsaturated fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and avocados, also support vitamin absorption and heart health.
Fats contain 9 calories per gram, versus 4 calories per gram in proteins and carbohydrates, so watch your portion sizes. One-quarter of an avocado, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, or 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds added to meals is a good target serving.
- Yale Scientific: Targeted Fat Loss: Myth or Reality?
- British Journal of Nutrition: Dietary Protein - Its Role in Satiety, Energetics, Weight Loss and Health
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes
- Healthaliciousness: Lettuce, Peppers, Broccoli
- Healthaliciousness: Ground Beef, Chicken Breast, Cottage Cheese
- Healthaliciousness: Cheese Crackers, French Fries
- Healthaliciousness: Barley, Brown Rice, Quinoa
- Harvard Health Publications: The Truth About Fats: The Good, the Bad, and the In-Between