We all know how uncomfortable it can be to have a bloated belly, and even worse, those annoying little rolls of fat coming out from the top of our jeans. But accumulated belly fat is not only uncomfortable; it can also be dangerous for your health. According to Mayo Clinic (and many other similar sources), regardless of your overall weight, having a large amount of belly fat increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
After much research and personal struggle, I realized that the key lies in first understanding what's causing your body to accumulate belly fat and get bloated. You want to identify and cut back on the "belly fat" and "belly bloat" trigger foods.
I always believe in starting by finding the ROOT CAUSE behind your health issues. And in the case of excess belly fat and bloat, it’s usually centered around inflammation as well as sub-optimal digestion.
Here are the 5 key things to AVOID (that will address the likely root cause of your belly fat) and what to eat instead:
1. SUGAR and FAKE SUGAR. You want to be careful with all packaged goods, especially "low fat" stuff that is injected with sugar and chemicals to make up for the loss of fat. Look at the grams of sugar in everything that is packaged. Be extra careful with things like granola and cereal, and even condiments and sauces that have tons of hidden sugar. For ex. teriyaki sauce, barbeque sauce and salad dressings, which tend to have a ton of inflammatory sugar and sodium. Likewise, be careful of all sugar substitutes. I suggest AVOIDING SPLENDA and other artificial sweeteners. They cause just as much belly-fat inducing inflammation as pure sugar.
BETTER OPTION: Aim to eat a bit less sweet if you want a flat belly! Gradually add less sugar to your coffee (or preferably, nix it completely. Just TRY and your taste buds will adjust). A sugar detox can help with those cravings, too! If needed, you can sweeten most things naturally with bananas, dates, or small amounts of pure, raw honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar. Or use small amounts pure stevia extract. Read more about the Best & Worst Sweeteners HERE.
2. All WHITE/REFINED STARCHES - including white rice, pasta, bread, and anything containing dough like pastries/pies/dumplings/empanadas, etc.
BETTER OPTION: Check out my blog for easy, low-carb substitutions for things like bread and pasta. And if you want something with dough, make it at home using a less-refined flour coming from naturally gluten-free grains or nuts/seeds, like chickpea flour, almond flour, buckwheat or even coconut flour. There are so many easy recipes online, or just ask me and i'll share my tried and proven-delicious gluten-free recipes!
3. PROCESSED, HIGH-FAT MEATS. All red meat is slightly inflammatory and should be eaten in only small amounts (if at all), but in particular, limit/avoid animal products that have been smoked, cured, salted or chemically preserved, like sausages, cold-cuts like salami and ham., as these are the worst for your belly!
BETTER OPTION: Generally, it's best to cut back on red meat (I usually suggest max once a week), and when you do eat red meat, remember to choose lean cuts that come from grass-fed animals. If you need a cold-cut for your sandwich, opt for low-sodium turkey fresh from the deli (preferably organic) instead of ham or salami. Or go vegetarian and use hummus!
4. INFLAMMATORY OILS – like soybean oil, corn oil, vegetable oils, and even canola oil which tends to be genetically modified.
BETTER OPTION: Get involved in your home/kitchen. Choose cold-pressed and/or expeller pressed oils that are rich in Omega-3's and other beneficial properties, such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil and flaxseed oil. Check out my Guide to Cooking Oils HERE.
5. ARTIFICIAL &/OR BUBBLY DRINKS. AVOID artificial drinks like sodas, commercial fruit juices and energy drinks (both sugary or diet versions). All the sugar and chemicals in that stuff will definitely add to your belly fat. But generally, all bubbly mixers can make you bloated. So skip the tonic, sodas and mimosas when you’re planning to be in a bathing suit!
BETTER OPTION: If you need a boozy drink during your summer vacation, opt for a glass of wine, or my favorite, fresh coconut water (with or without a splash of your preferred alcohol). Regardless, when it comes to alcohol, YOU KNOW it packs on the calories and pounds, so LIMITING your alcohol intake overall is KEY. Set a goal of only 2-3 drinks per week, and start looking for more activities that don't involve alcohol.
(p.s. Read more about foods that help you achieve a flat belly HERE)
If you avoid all of these elements and your belly fat is still there, it's important to consider FOOD SENSITIVITIES. Your bloated belly can be due to foods that you're sensitive to, often unknowingly! So it's key to IDENTIFY and then AVOID these foods for a period of time. Plus, long-term exposure to these foods that irritate your gut can cause inflammation and yup, cause extra belly fat (not to mention more serious things down the road including chronic disease).
If you have some bloating/exhaustion/headaches or skin issues that you can't seem to control, it's possible that you have hidden food sensitivities. Try avoiding the common allergens- include gluten, milk/dairy, nuts, eggs and nightshade vegetables (plus any food that you suspect is causing you issues) for at least 10 days, and monitor how you feel. At the end of this "abstinence period", reintroduce the foods back into your diet one by one, paying close attention to your reactions and journaling. If you're incompatible with any of these foods, you will notice the difference in how you feel. You have the option of doing this with my 10 Day Detox where i'll guide you every step of the way!
Remember, identifying and avoiding the root cause of your belly fat and bloating is #1. After that, there are additional belly-fat-blasting tips/habits that you can add to your daily routine, which you can learn more about when you tune into my Flat Belly Webinar (next one TBD; message me if interested!).
Love and Flat Bellies,