1. Go low carb
Research indicates that women who followed a low carb diet had a smaller waist circumference over a five-year period than those who didn’t.
Following a low carb diet also means that you’re likely to consume more protein and studies indicate that a diet rich in high protein foods such as eggs, fish, seafood, legumes, nuts meat and dairy result in overall less belly fat, more satiety and an increased metabolic function.
A protein rich diet also helps maintain muscle mass and will help provide the necessary fuel to power you through your workouts.
2. Add fibre to your diet
Secondly, adding fibre-rich foods to your meals is also key in keeping off the belly fat.
One study showed that eating 10 grams of soluble fibre per day was linked to a 3.7 per cent reduction of fat in the abdominal area as well as a 10 per cent decrease in calorie intake and a 2kg weight loss over a period of four months.
A good source of fibre is to eat foods such as legumes, oats, psyllium husk, chia seeds as well as vegetables and fruit.
3. Eat gut friendly foods
Other studies show that strains of Lactobacillus family can also make you lose belly fat. The research indicated that eating yoghurt with this strain reduced body fat by three to four per cent over a six-week period.
Taking probiotic supplements can also help. During the three-month study, women taking probiotics lost 50 per cent more weight than those taking placebo pills.
4. Eat more fat
Eating healthy fats is another key for reducing belly fat. One study linked eating avocado on a regular basis helped lower waist circumference and BMI.
Another study showed that fatty fish rich in omega 3 fats help reduce visceral fat. If you aim to get two-three serves of salmon, herrings, sardines, mackerel and anchovies per week then research shows you can significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this. And no, we won’t spam you.
Before listing foods to include in your diet, let’s look at those you need to avoid if losing belly fat is your end goal. Instead of listing specific foods to ban (this is simply unrealistic and unhealthy), these are key culprits of weight gain that are wise to minimise:
1. Sweet treats
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that chocolate, ice cream and Coca Cola aren’t the healthiest foods to be eating on the reg. They’re energy-dense and nutrient-poor, which means that a small amount contains a lot of calories but minimal micronutrients. These foods are easy to eat in excess and therefore contribute to belly bulge if eaten regularly.
2. Refined carbs
White bread, croissants and hot chips spike your blood sugar and lack fibre, which leaves you reaching for more. Again these foods are energy-dense and not the best to be eating every day, so it’ll pay to cut back.
Drinking alcohol can easily add inches to your waistline. To get you up to speed, one gram of alcohol contains seven calories, and one standard drink contains ten grams of alcohol. Do the math and you’ll quickly realise why alcohol piles on kilos.
1. Roasted chickpeas
The perfect healthier alternative to savoury snacks like crackers and chips, roasted chickpeas are full of fibre and muscle-building protein to keep you feeling full. You can make your own at home or buy them from the health food section of your local supermarket.
2. Wholegrain bread
Despite all the hoopla surrounding carbs, wholegrain bread is actually super nutritious, providing long-lasting energy, gut-loving fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals. You’re looking for a dark, dense bread with visible grains and seeds (so long, fluffy white rolls!).
A fillet of fish is the perfect choice for lean protein to round out a meal. Not only is it low in calories (and therefore perfect when you’re trying to lose weight), but it’s associated with a raft of health benefits, too. Hook, line and sinker.
4. Tinned legumes
Chickpeas, beans, lentils – they’re the underdog of the superfood world. Cheap, easy to use and economical, legumes are everything that modern hyped up superfoods aren’t. Not only do beans, chickpeas and lentils make for a tasty addition to meals, they’re also rich in fibre and protein to keep you feeling satisfied (and less likely to cave into a chocolate bar later).
Another high protein snack choice, yoghurt is rich in calcium to support strong bones and teeth. My best advice is to opt for a plain, reduced-fat variety and add your own sweetness with fresh fruit.
A small handful of nuts a day is a good habit to get into with a healthy waistline in mind. Although they’re rich in fat, research has actually shown that eating nuts regularly reduces your risk of being overweight. You’ll be pleased to know that peanut butter counts, too.
7. Rolled oats
The perfect way to start your day, rolled oats are a superstar when it comes to good quality grains. Not only are they rich in hunger-busting fibre, but they’re higher in protein compared to other grains – and both of these qualities keep you feeling satisfied.
Fresh fruit is the perfect low-kilojoule snack to satisfy your sweet tooth while keeping your calorie budget in-tact. And before you ask – no, fruit does not have too much sugar, and all fruits can be on your menu (yep, even bananas, mangoes and watermelon).
Another high protein option to keep hunger pangs at bay, eggs are a nutrient-rich food for any time of day. Poach and serve them with toast at breakfast, boil and slice them for a salad at lunch, or bake them in a frittata for dinner – there’s endless egg recipes that are light on calories for weight loss.
Okay, so not technically a food, but something that’s very important to consider. When your goal is weight loss (and therefore a trim tummy) – minimising your intake of liquid kilojoules is a game changer. Instead of loading up on juices, energy drinks and soft drinks, make the switch to water, and your waistline will thank you.
Pre-bed tea time
An easy way to start improving the quality of your sleep and boosting your weight loss is by drinking a cup of pre-bed tea. We’re not talking about the kinds of dubious diet teas that promise to help you shed a stone in a week. Instead, try these herbal teas to satisfy sweet cravings, calm the mind and prepare the body for rest.
1. Cinnamon tea
Cinnamon has tonnes of health benefits. It’s naturally anti-inflammatory, meaning that it’ll help you de-bloat and reduce your overall physical stress load. It’s also said to increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar – both of which are vital for losing weight. The spice is also thought to boost metabolism because your body uses more energy to process it. “Though it has a slight metabolism/thermogenic effect, it is more about balancing blood sugar and insulin resistance, which in turn aids weight loss and can lessen food cravings,” nutritionist Helen Bond told The Sun.
“Again, this does not replace the need for dietary changes. A far better way of balancing blood sugar and insulin resistance is to follow a sugar-free, low-carbohydrate diet.”
Dr Sally Norton told The Sun that cinnamon can be added to desserts or hot drinks as a healthy alternative to sugar, as it can have a subtle sweetness. So, if you want something sweet after dinner, a cup of cinnamon tea might be the ideal solution.
2. Chamomile tea
Chamomile is probably the best known “sleepy tea”.
The Romans, Greeks and Egyptians all used the herb as a dressing for wounds to help them heal quicker. Nowadays, it’s known to help soothe muscle spasms, which makes it the perfect post-meal drink.
It can help to relieve belly cramps, IBS, indigestion and gas. And it’s also been used for centuries as a sleep aid, thanks to healing ingredients like apigenin and bisabolol.
3. Peppermint tea
Feeling tired and groggy inevitably leads to snacking through the day or reaching for calorific foods. But peppermint tea has been found to awaken the senses in a variety of ways.
It relieves tension headaches, clogged sinuses, improves energy, and may improve sleep. And it might help to aid weight loss.
A small study got 13 people to take a peppermint oil capsule each. Scientists found that this reduced appetite compared to not taking peppermint oil.
But it may just be that it’s a really satisfying tea that leaves you feeling really refreshed and less likely to snack.
4. Rooibos tea
Roobios is a South African tea made from the fermented tea leaves of the Aspalathus linearis shrub. Sweet and earthy, it includes plant chemicals which have been directly linked to combating obesity.
A 2014 study found that the tea may speed up weight loss by increasing levels of leptin – our appetite hormone.
It’s the stuff that tells the body we’ve had enough food.
5. Pu-Er tea
This stuff is traditionally drunk black and has actually been directly linked to weight loss.
A 2016 study found that the fat-burning effect of daily tea drinking helped 59 overweight or obese people to reduce their BMI and shift a significant amount of weight. In just four weeks, they were found to have cut fat from their arms, legs and bellies.
And they also reported having a smaller appetite after drinking the stuff.
1. Fruit juice for fresh fruit
There’s nothing like a glass of freshly squeezed OJ in the morning.
But how often do you have juice that you’ve made yourself, rather than stuff from a bottle?
Fruit comes with heaps of health benefits but by juicing it, you’re stripping out the fibre and just leaving sugar behind. And if you buy juice, you’re almost guaranteed to be drinking added sugar.
In fact, a glass of apple juice can contain as much sugar as a can of soft drink – even if they’re different types of sugar.
Dr Sarah Brewer said some people believe that juices are a good way to consume vitamin C, however juicing strips fruit of its fibre content.
“Eating the whole fruit will ensure you get the nutrients as well as the fibre which has been linked to helping maintain a healthy gut microbiome,” she says.
For a really healthy, filling snack, why not have an apple dipped in protein-rich nut butter?
Or make a fruit salad of orange and grapefruit at home and take it with you as a mid-morning palette cleanser.
2. Ice cream for Greek yoghurt
Nutritionist Lily Soutter told us that you don’t have to ditch sugar completely to reduce your muffin top – you just have to be mindful of free sugars.
“We don’t usually crave bags of white sugar. What we crave is a combination of fat and sugar, which comes with the hyper-palatable qualities we’re searching for,” she says.
“If you’re looking for healthier sugar alternatives, focus on healthy options such as Greek yoghurt with grated apple and a pinch of cinnamon.”
Why not swap your regular tub of Ben & Jerry’s for a bowl of frozen yoghurt mixed with cinnamon and berries?
Yoghurt is also protein-rich, and a 2014 study found that eating high-protein yoghurt can help to keep hunger at bay for longer.
3. Chips for nuts
Chips are obviously heavenly and a little of what you fancy is fine. But if you can’t say no to eating a whole family bag, then it’s probably best to just stop buying them.
They’re often packed with salt – which can increase the risk of bloating – and they contain high levels of saturated fats.
Nuts, on the other hand, are full of protein and good fats and keep you fuller for longer.
One study found that people who included nuts in their diet for 12 weeks improved the quality of their diet without putting on any extra weight.
Another study looked at the diets of 8,865 men and women over 28 months. It found that those who ate two or more portions of nuts a week had a 31 per cent lower risk of weight gain, compared to those who never or rarely ate them.
They are pretty high in calories, however, so just be mindful about how many you eat at one go.
4. Processed meats for oily fish
We all know bacon and burgers are bad for our waistlines and our health, if we eat too many.
But processed meats can also be inflammatory.
Inflammation in the body can cause all kinds of havoc – one of them being that they cause you to layer on fat around the gut.
Trans fats, in particular, can cause inflammation. They’re found in many foods, including fast food and baked goods.
Go instead for oily fish like salmon which contain high levels of heart-healthy omega 3s.
5. Swap granola for eggs
Back in 2017, a study by the New York Times found that nutritionists and the American public couldn’t agree on whether granola and cereal bars were healthy or not.
Around 70 per cent of Americans thought that granola bars were healthy compared to just 30 per cent of experts.
As for granola itself, less than half of the nutritionists surveyed thought it was healthy.
While it can be nutritious, many granolas contain lots of sugars and not much fat or protein – meaning that you could sink a big bowl of the stuff at 8am and be pining for a snack a few hours later thanks to a dip in blood sugar.
“A very high-carb breakfast with little fibre and protein to slow the digestive process can lead to short-term energy as well as hunger, often within a couple of hours,” nutrition consultant Ian Marber says.
He recommended having an egg with avocado and a small piece of toast for the perfect breakfast.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and can help to keep us feeling satisfied – with studies confirming them as great appetite-regulators.
6. Lattes for green tea
Not everyone is lactose intolerant but many people do have a hard time digesting dairy.
Undigested lactose isn’t great for the gut and that can lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria which in turn, results in belly fat.
Green tea, on the other hand, is packed with antioxidants.
And some claim that green tea can help with weight loss.
A 2012 paper review found that supping the stuff could lead to small but consistent weight loss in overweight adults.
7. Booze for kombucha
If you want to shed belly fat, then it’s time to stop reaching for that post-work glass of vino.
Just two glasses of wine an evening can clock up an extra 72,000 calories over the course of a year – which translates as 9kg of fat.
Empty calories like the ones in booze are really easy to store because our bodies have no nutrition to use.
So what you drink goes straight onto your belly if you’re a guy, or hips, thighs and arms if you’re a woman. While you don’t have to go totally teetotal, why not try to swap out your weekly drinks for something healthier?
Kombucha is a gut-loving fermented tea, which is both sparkling and refreshing. Full of lots of good bacteria, it’ll be a lot better for your belly.
1. Portion distortion
Even if you’re eating healthy foods, it’s possible to go overboard and therefore struggle to lose weight and belly fat. That’s because all foods, regardless of how ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ they are, contain calories – so you can still rack up too many.
To give you a helping hand, here’s some of the most common traps people face when it comes to portion size:
- Having a whole avocado smashed on toast, rather than the recommended quarter
- Drizzling oil over everything like they’re a celebrity chef on a cooking show, rather than using just a teaspoon per person
- Diving into a mountain of pasta or rice, instead of a more sensible cup of cooked grains per person
- Digging into a whole bag of nuts for a snack, instead of sticking to 30 grams (a small handful)
- Serving up huge slabs of steak and chicken, instead of the recommended 65 and 80 grams (respectively)
2. Liquid calories
A lot of people are surprised to hear just how many calories they’re consuming from fluids like soft drink, juice and of course, alcohol. So, even if you’re eating super healthily, your fluid intake could be sabotaging all of your effort and good intentions.
A glass of white wine, for example, contains about 100 calories per glass (150mL), and a schooner of full strength beer contains 160 calories. Cocktails pack a lot of calories, too, with a mojito having 170 calories and a daiquiri having 110 calories. Other calorie-rich drinks include fruit juice (with 55 calories per 200mL glass) and soft drink, which has roughly 125 calories per 375mL can thanks to all the sugar.
So, what’s the solution? Stick to water most of the time, and you’ll save yourself a heap of unnecessary kilojoules.
3. Excessive sitting
Weight management isn’t just about what you put in your mouth, but how you move your body, too. You see, your metabolism is made up of three components: your basal metabolic rate (that’s the energy your body uses just to keep you alive), the thermic effect of food (i.e. energy used for digestion) and energy used from physical activity.
It’s pretty simple. The more exercise you do, the greater the number of calories you expend. Hello, weight loss!
But that’s not all. By doing more exercise – and therefore building more muscle – your basal metabolic rate increases, too, because lean muscle takes more energy to maintain than fat. So, it’s easy to see why exercise is such a key component of any weight loss attempt.
4. Lack of sleep = stress
A 2011 study found that people who slept between six and eight hours a night had a greater chance of achieving their weight-loss goal than those who slept less or more.
It also found that lower stress levels were associated with greater success at weight loss, particularly when combined with between six and eight hours of sleep.
Sleep has all kinds of miraculous effects on our bodies. It can help us fight cravings and stabilise our insulin levels.
Excess insulin makes you hungrier and tells the body to store more calories as fat – so you want to make sure that you’re as insulin sensitive as possible.
One study forced 11 men to have only four hours of sleep for six nights. After this, their bodies’ ability to lower blood sugar levels decreased by 40 per cent.
Poor sleep also slows down your metabolism, increases your calorie intake and increases your appetite.
So anything we can do to promote a night of much better sleep is going to result in greater fat burning ability.