Let’s talk about the 5 foods that cause belly fat! You’re human, so you’re prone to belly fat. We all are. But belly fat is something you have a lot more control over than you realize. That being said, we’re quick to resign to the “middle age spread” of life, chalking unhealthy visceral fat up to a body past its prime. Unfortunately, that middle age spread isn’t so middle-aged anymore. People of all ages, many of whom are young children, are growing through the belly area at a phenomenal pace.
Visceral fat, or the fat that’s packed tightly inside our abdominal region, encroaches on our vital organs. An excess of this type of fat is dangerous because it puts unneeded stress on those very important organs. Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer and inflammation are closely linked to visceral fat.
The foods you should eat are as important as the foods you should avoid when it comes to offloading weight, particularly through your midsection. Here are five big food offenders that you should steer clear of to banish belly fat from your body.
1) Egg Whites
Egg whites aren’t inherently bad, but avoiding the healthy fat, vitamins and minerals in egg yolks short changes you on all the benefits this perfect food offers. More importantly, when people go out of their way to avoid whole eggs, they often do it to avoid fat. Avoiding fat is probably one of the biggest mistakes someone with belly fat can make. Eating a little more fat helps or regulate blood sugar levels and therefore insulin…both of which, when unruly, are signs belly fat will be a problem.
Instead, eat the whole egg. In fact, eat a couple. Your body and belly will thank you!
Note: I make one exception when it comes to eating egg whites. If you often eat omelets in restaurants, you’ll want to read this first.
2) Low Fat Flavored Yogurt
Yogurt is another food that in it’s plain, full fat form, is pretty healthy. But through the manipulation of chemicals, sugar and an incredible amount of processing, that once-healthy yogurt has become a hotbed of trouble for our bodies. Whether it’s conventional or organic, fruit-flavored yogurt often contains as much as 9 teaspoons of sugar per serving. If the sugar isn’t there, then artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose, are there to take its place. Just like someone with belly fat needs a little more dietary fat, they usually need to avoid sugar.
A quick fix is to grab a container of plain yogurt and dress it up with walnuts, cinnamon, chia seeds or fresh berries.
3) Energy Bars
Like low fat flavored yogurt, many energy bars have anywhere between 4 and 10 teaspoons of sugar per bar. Keep in mind, quite a few of those bars of aimed at kids! There is nothing healthy about eating that much sugar. When we eat this much sugar, especially if it isn’t buffered by protein or fat, we end up hungry a short time later. This hunger, usually triggered by a quick rise and fall in blood sugar levels, calls on insulin to help balance things out. In this case, think of insulin as your “fat storage hormone.”
Create your own energy trail mix instead. Here is a quick video that will show you how to make it.
4) Single Serving Oats
You might think that you’re better off eating a single serve packet of oats because it will help you control your portions better, but it does you know good if that portion is laden with sugar. Many single serving packets of oats contain 4 to 5 teaspoons of sugar per serving. They’re also pretty low on protein and fat, too!
If you like oats, but want something healthier, try my Overnight Chia Seed Oatmeal instead. It’s an easy meal that takes no time to make. You’ll also get the benefit of more protein, fat and fiber than a refined package of oats.
I have a love/hate relationship with smoothies. I love them when I can make them at home on a warm summer morning, but I hate them when I see people lined up to order a 16 ounce beverage that contains upwards of 15 teaspoons of sugar per serving.
When I make my own smoothies, I make good use of ingredients like avocado, spinach, gelatin or chia seeds. My book, The Belly Burn Plan, has an entire section of recipes devoted to healthy smoothies. If you want to give one a try, here is my Chocolate Avocado Anti-Aging Smoothie.
Above all, when it comes to getting rid of belly fat, focus on the quality of what you’re eating. If you’re eating processed or packaged foods often, be aware of added sugar. Finally, don’t be afraid of fat or protein. They help keep you fuller and keep blood sugar levels on an even keel.
Traci D Mitchell is the author of The Belly Burn Plan: 6 Weeks to a Lean, Fit and Healthy Body. She is a nationally recognized fitness, nutrition and weight loss expert who has been featured on numerous news programs, publications and radio shows, including Dr. Oz, The Steve Harvey Show, and the Today show. A certified personal trainer and metabolic typing adviser, Traci has been changing the lives of others for 15 years. She holds a master’s degree in communication from Marquette University and a master’s degree in health and nutrition education from Hawthorn University. She lives in Chicago.