As warm weather approaches, it seems many people are interested in setting new healthy goals. If you’re someone who is trying to lose a few pounds, especially around the stomach area, you may benefit from learning about some “secret” eating habits that commonly contribute to more abdominal fat—the sneaky kind you wouldn’t even notice.
Losing belly fat is a goal that can possibly save you from further health complications. That’s because belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is the type that grows around your abdominal organs and can lead to things like diabetes and heart disease if too much of it is carried over a long period of time.
Continue reading to learn more about healthy changes to make to your daily routine in order to lose abdominal fat, and for more healthy eating tips, make sure to check out 20 Food Combos to Triple Your Weight Loss.
Eating processed food can be a quick contributor to abdominal fat, but dietitians say it’s also the portion sizes that make a difference.
“Processed foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat can contribute to excess abdominal fat,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and a member of our medical expert board. “According to recent research, portion sizes of fast food and packaged foods like chocolate and soda are still up to 5 times larger than in the past, which can also contribute to increased abdominal fat.”
Making yourself a fresh, hearty salad can be a great choice for the warmer weather. But dietitians say that certain salad dressings can sneak in added fat, sugar, and calories without us noticing.
“Many of us turn to salads for a healthier meal, especially when wanting to get rid of abdominal fat,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements. “However, using high-fat salad dressings may be adding to your abdominal fat rather than getting rid of it. This is true for both homemade salads and fast food or store-bought salads. Standard ranch salad dressings contain about 130 calories for just 2 tablespoons, which is generally less than what is actually used. Along with 13 grams of fat, this salad dressing choice can negate the healthy salad decision. It is best to either forego the high-fat dressing or opt for lemon juice or vinegar to reduce the fat you’re taking in.”
Nut butter can provide you with plenty of health benefits, but it’s still important to watch your portion sizes when trying to lose abdominal fat.
“Peanut butter is a food that is certainly rich in nutrients, but not all varieties are created with the same nutritional profile,” says Best. “Some manufacturers choose to use added ingredients like sugar, honey, or even chocolate to enhance flavor and texture. These lead to a quick rise in calories and fat in a single serving of peanut butter.”
“Second, even natural peanut butter should be consumed in moderation,” Best continues. “Often we will see the term ‘natural’ and assume the food item can be eaten without concern for serving sizes or amounts. When it comes to peanut butter, both of these characteristics can make it a food that could be causing your stalled abdominal fat loss and even contributing to weight gain in this area.”
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Yogurt can provide you with a ton of health benefits, but not all types of yogurt are created equally.
“The quality of yogurt is an important factor in whether or not it will add to or take away from your weight loss efforts,” says Best. “Yogurts made with high fat or added sugar and other sweeteners can be contributing to your abdominal fat. It is important to look at the nutrient profile of your yogurt prior to purchase and opt for one that is either plain or made with natural sweeteners. You’ll also want to find one that is higher in protein, as this will help to keep you full for longer and prevent overeating.”
While technically not an “eating habit,” getting poor quality sleep and staying in a state of high stress can affect your eating patterns and food choices throughout the day.
“Stress can increase abdominal fat, in part, due to increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” says Young. “Overeating on the wrong foods is also quite common when stressed out, and a lack of sleep can also impact your mood as well, which may encourage many people to overeat on high-sugar, high-fat processed food.”