Getting rid of a not-so-trim midsection can seem like an uphill battle. From diet to exercise to all-around healthy lifestyle choices, losing weight and slimming down your belly takes hard work and dedication. There’s no need to deprive your body of the foods you love most or spend countless hours in the weight room, but you do need to come up with a sustainable game plan that works best for you—and stick with it. Making tweaks to your shopping list, and knowing what you should and shouldn’t put on it, is an excellent place to start. Eat This, Not That! spoke with experts who call out the worst high-fat foods to avoid if you want to lose belly fat.
“Remember that while reducing your intake of these high-fat foods is important for weight loss and overall health, it’s also crucial to focus on overall calorie intake and maintain a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports dietetics, and member of our Medical Expert Board. “Additionally, incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, including reducing belly fat.”
It’s time to make some necessary tweaks to your diet. Keep reading to learn all about what the experts have to say about the worst high-fat foods to avoid if you want to lose belly fat. And when you’re finished, be sure to check out the 10 Best Trader Joe’s Frozen Foods for Weight Loss.
Who doesn’t love a refreshing bowl of ice cream on a hot summer’s night (or honestly, any time of the year)? We’re not telling you to quit your ice cream fix cold turkey, but eating too much of it is something experts caution against.
“[Ice cream] is a high-fat, high-calorie, high-sugar food that is often consumed after a meal that adds extra calories to your day,” explains Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder and director of Real Nutrition, a New York City-based private practice dedicated to healthfully and successfully guiding clients to their optimal nutrition, weight, and overall wellness. “I would recommend eating this as a treat and ordering the smallest size available.”
The cheesy, salty goodness of a slice of pizza is hard to resist, but this high-fat, high-carb, greasy food is a no-go if you’re looking to lose belly fat. “[Pizza] is widely available [and] affordable,” Shapiro points out. “The flour is white, and therefore, it is low in fiber, which means most people eat two or three slices for a meal. Also, it is often topped with processed meats that add sodium and saturated fat to the list. This is an equation for weight gain.” Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy pizza at all. Moderation is always the key to any sustainable diet, and there are also some relatively healthy pizza options for those nights when pizza is non-negotiable.
Pastries, donuts, and cookies are common treats found in many households. Typically enjoyed for dessert, they add additional calories to your daily count without providing much nutritional value. So put the cookies back in the cookie jar!
“Made frequently from white flour, sugar, and fat (butter or oil) the calories add up and can stick to your middle if not portion-controlled,” Shapiro tells us. “One donut can come in at 300 to 500 calories, and since it contains no fiber, it’s easy to eat more than one. Limit these to treats once in a while and follow portion control.”
Even though French fries are a staple side dish offered at many restaurants, they’re fried in oil and usually contain a lot of salt. “This means lots of calories, carbs, and fat, which usually, when not portion-controlled, can lead to weight gain,” Shapiro explains. “Foods that contain high amounts of salt and fat often lead to overeating, and that will lead to weight gain.”
In addition, French fries are typically enjoyed alongside other high-fat fried items like chicken fingers and burgers. Fried foods are something Goodson cautions to avoid. “Foods that are deep-fried or pan-fried in oil are typically high in unhealthy trans fats, saturated fats, and calories, while also being low in nutrients. French fries, fried chicken, and fried snacks should be limited in your diet if you are trying to lose belly fat.”
So many pre-packaged snacks such as pretzels, chips, and cookies are filled with unhealthy fats, such as trans fats. Some oftentimes contain an excessive amount of salt and added sugars. Goodson encourages reaching for healthier options to snack on, like whole fruits, seeds, or nuts. You can also consider some of our favorite protein-packed snacks for weight loss, which are 100 calories or less.
So many of the most delicious snack foods—especially during football season—are processed meats. We’re talking about things like hot dogs (or pigs in a blanket), sausage, and bacon. These items are typically high in sodium and saturated fats, which can be a major contributor to belly fat. In addition, research connects processed meats to several health risks, such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer.
Grabbing a latte at your go-to coffee joint may seem like an innocent way to get a quick energy boost and kick afternoon slumps to the curb. But alas, many lattes and coffee drinks come with extra fat and sugar from creams, syrups, and whipped cream. “When we drink calories, our bodies don’t often register them as meals, and we end up eating more on top of those calories,” Shapiro explains. “These add up and can cause weight gain, especially around your midsection.”