Soda and diet soda are both major offenders when it comes to belly fat. Regular soda contains an average of 36 grams of sugar per 12-ounce bottle, which piles on the pounds in the form of both visceral and subcutaneous belly fat. A recent study showed that even diet soda drinkers gained three times more belly fat over a nine-year period compared to non-consumers. Wondering how else soda is harming your body? Check out these 40 Ways Soda is Killing You.
- Fatty Cuts of Red Meat
If you’re trying to lose belly fat, you might assume that you have to cut out red meat entirely. While diets that limit meat can be a healthy strategy for weight loss, the China Health and Nutrition Survey of over 16,000 participants shows that what distinguishes between meat that causes abdominal weight gain and meat that keeps your metabolism moving is how visibly fatty the cut is. So, when you're buying meat, avoid those of the highly-processed variety, like preservative-laden breakfast sausage and cured meats, and opt for cuts with little to no visible fat on them.
- Potato Chips
Eating potato chips leads to belly fat for a handful of reasons: first, studies show that eating any potatoes more than once per week can contribute to a larger waist circumference. More pressingly, potato chips are deep-fried and highly processed. Deep-frying carbohydrates has also been shown to yield a dangerous, carcinogenic chemical compound called acrylamide, which is associated with abdominal obesity.
- French Fries
Not all French fries are created equal. It’s possible to make a baked, at-home version—ideally with nutrient-rich sweet potatoes—that suits your weight-loss routine just fine. But your average French fry from a fast food restaurant is loaded with saturated fat, sodium, carbohydrates, and preservatives, in addition to being densely caloric. If French fries are a habit you can’t shake, try these 5 Best Fries for a Zero Belly instead.
- Frozen Pizza
It’s no secret that pizza isn’t exactly a “diet food." It’s high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and refined carbohydrates, all of which contribute to increases in belly fat. But frozen pizza really does the worst damage, by combining all of those factors with the processed nature of ready-made food. Studies suggest that this is not only associated with poorer overall dietary choices and higher calorie intake, but that the preservatives in pre-packaged meals can directly contribute to central obesity.
- Canned Soup
Soup can be a great meal choice option when it comes to losing belly fat, because of its potential to deliver lots of protein, fiber, and vitamins all in one highly satiating meal. But canned soups have the opposite effect, flooding your system with outrageous levels of sodium that contribute to belly fat. In fact, each gram of salt you eat in a day above the recommended amount is associated with a 25 percent increase in likelihood of obesity, according to one study from The University of London.
- Frozen Coffee Drinks
While coffee actually has benefits when it comes to losing belly fat, most frozen coffee drinks are your waistline's enemy. Some of these dairy- and sugar-heavy options from your regular coffee chain can run you as much as 600 calories per drink, or more, if you opt for the dollop of whipped cream on top! Find out which are the worst offenders by discovering how Your Favorite Coffee Chain Drink is Making You Fat.
The “beer belly” is a commonly known enemy, and indeed, studies show that drinking beer is associated with higher BMI and a larger waist circumference. But this may not be because of any magical properties that are specific to beer over other types of alcohol, besides its high calorie and carb content. In addition to the hundreds of calories having a beer or two a day can add to your diet, beer drinkers may also simply make less healthy food choices overall, adding to their expanding waistlines.
- Refined Pasta
Whole grain pasta, especially in moderation, can be a healthy component of your pound-dropping scheme, but refined white pasta heads straight for your midsection with a vengeance. There are two main reasons: first, refined pasta has had most of its nutrients and fiber removed, and your body processes it as it would any sugar, sending fat stores to your belly. Second, people tend to eat pasta with store-bought sauces, which are packed with additional sugar and sodium, contributing to your ever-expanding waistline.
- Chinese Takeout
While traditional Chinese food offers a range of healthy options, your standard Chinese takeout here in America is a minefield of belly-busting choices. Most items are heavily laden with sodium, MSG, and fatty cuts of meat, many of which are dipped in cornstarch and deep fried in cheap oils, all of which contribute to abdominal obesity.
- Dried Fruit
Dried fruit may seem like a responsible snack choice, but most dried fruits are sweetened and contain an average of 16 grams of sugar per ounce. This adds up quickly, especially since it flies under the radar as a “healthy” food, making it easier to eat by the handful. Instead, stick to the fresh produce aisle and opt for one of The 25 Best Fruits For a Flatter Belly.
- White Flour
Eating white flour, whether in the form of baked confections, pancakes, or white bread, should be avoided at all cost while you’re working to lose belly fat. Studies show that eating whole grains can lower visceral fat deposits in your abdomen, while eating refined grains leads to more. Try revamping your favorite recipes with whole wheat flour or almond flour for food that won’t sabotage your waistline.
- Bottled Smoothies
Just because bottled smoothies are made of fruit doesn’t make them good for you or your waistline. Many of them contain a staggeringly high sugar content—some with as much as 52 grams of sugar per bottle! Instead, opt to make your own smoothies at home, using ingredients that will jumpstart your metabolism and turn on your fat-fighting genes. Don't know where to start? Try these 25 Best Ever Smoothies for Weight Loss!
Though there are exceptions, it’s best to avoid cheese while working to lose belly fat—or at least to eat it in very conscious moderation. While smothering food in cheese is as American as apple pie, most cheeses are high in saturated fat and sodium, both of which lead to higher levels of visceral fat.
Like bottled smoothies, juice can be deceptive in its marketing, often relying on a healthy, farm-fresh brand image that glazes over its overwhelming sugar content and lack of fiber. Beyond this, many brands add high fructose corn syrup on top of the natural sugars found in fruit, an ingredient that has been directly linked with abdominal obesity, overall weight gain, impaired insulin sensitivity, and the drive to overeat.
- Store-Bought Granola
Granola had its time in the sun as a “health food," and many people still think of it this way. But many types of granola that you find in the store are packed with refined carbs, added sugars, and fats. Instead, try making your own at home using oats, fruit, heart-healthy nuts, and a light drizzle of manuka honey, a superfood beloved for its antimicrobial properties.
- Milk Chocolate
You can’t eat chocolate and expect to lose belly fat, right? Wrong! Dark chocolate has a whole host of benefits that actually aid in weight loss. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, is a common culprit for our expanding waistlines, with sky-high calorie counts and heaps of sugar contributing to visceral fat growth. Considering that the average American eats an average of 11 pounds of chocolate per year, we need to be making better choices. Start slimming down your desserts today by discovering these 42 Reasons To Enjoy Dark Chocolate.
- Fat-Free Foods
While fat-free foods have largely lost their advertising power since dominating the health food scene in the ‘90s and early 2000s, some have hung on for one simple reason: we can’t seem to shake the notion that eating fat makes us fat. These supposedly diet-friendly options usually replace natural fat content with sugar and preservatives that wreak havoc on our waistlines, contributing to increased belly fat. In the long run, it's better to stick to foods that are rich in monounsaturated fats, which promote satiety and stoke your metabolism—in fact, research published in Circulation reveals that a low-carb, relatively high-fat diet helped reduce total body fat even among study subjects who didn't lose significant amounts of weight.
- Protein Bars
While eating adequate protein can help keep you satisfied for longer than carbohydrate-rich meals, helping you shed excess fat along the way, many protein bars come with some unwelcome additions: preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners, just to name a few. Before you make these part of your fat loss meal plan, check out The 40 Best And Worst Protein Bars to find out if your favorite brand is sabotaging your waistline.
- Partially-Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
With so many beneficial options for cooking oil out there, it’s a shame that so often we make the mistake of choosing the worst ones for our waistlines and health. Partially-hydrogenated oils contain high levels of natural and artificial trans fats, which our bodies promptly turn into visceral fat padding our organs. As of 2015, the FDA has begun taking measures to limit trans fat content, but ultimately it’s up to you to make the switch.
- Refined Sugar
Refined sugar in its many forms is a major contributor to belly fat, and unfortunately, we as Americans treat it as a diet staple. While the World Health Organization recommends that we limit our sugar consumption to no more than ten percent of our total calories, researchers at UCSF point out that the average American eats three times more added sugar than the recommended daily limit. Fortunately, with increased labeling for added sugars on products, it's easy to spot the sugar sneaking into everything from oatmeal to pasta sauce.
Cereal is a surprising source of hidden sugar content. Though we may consider it to be a healthy breakfast staple, some cereals—especially those marketed to kids—can contain more than 40 grams of sugar per serving! However, while some sugary cereals may be obvious offenders, others are sneakier. Case in point: a 1.25-ounce portion of seemingly-healthy Raisin Bran packs a shocking 10 grams of sugar. Instead, switch to these 25 Healthy Breakfast Ideas for options that won’t weigh you down.
- Microwave Popcorn
Besides the fact that microwave popcorn bags have been found to leak toxic chemicals most commonly found in Teflon pans, the fake butter on the popcorn itself is loaded with harmful trans fats and artificial ingredients that head straight for your waistline, contributing to significant visceral fat.
- Sweetened Yogurt
Sweetened yogurts are some of the worst dairy options out there, and unfortunately, many people still mistake them for health food. Any benefit that yogurt would have to healthy gut bacteria is completely undermined by the sugar content in sweetened varieties, which promotes the growth of bad belly bacteria and contributes to overall belly fat. Luckily, you can still eat yogurt and slim down: research published in the International Journal of Obesity reveals that study participants who ate yogurt as part of a reduced-calorie plan lost significant belly fat. Try switching to Greek yogurt, which has far less sugar than fruit-flavored varieties, and packs up to twice the protein per serving.
- Store-bought Salad Dressings
Just because you’re eating a salad doesn’t mean you’re doing right by your abs. They can go awry easily, with unhealthy toppings like bacon, cheese, croutons, and—perhaps more commonly—salad dressings that are packed with sugar, sodium, and saturated fats. Find out how to make your salad work for you by discovering The 25 Best And Worst Salad Toppings!