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The Worst Foods That Cause Belly Fat

If you want to tone your tummy, you're going to want to start by ditching these foods.
baked potato chips

Whether you want it to admit it or not, there are some foods that no matter what, go right to your gut and cause what feels like nearly instant weight gain. And it goes right where you don't want it. Yes, we're talking about the dreaded fat that sticks right to your belly. And it's no secret that shedding that dreaded belly fat isn't necessarily the easiest.

This type of weight gain is referred to as "deep fat tissue," and it can even lead to some more serious issues—heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's among them.

Where your body stores calories depends on your hormones, and some unhealthy foods trigger just the exact right hormonal reaction—they hit you in the gut. Literally. So which foods are some of the "insta-belly" culprits? Here is a breakdown of the foods and drinks you might not even realize are causing you to gain unwanted belly fat, but they're the biggest offenders out there. And while you're eliminating these foods, be sure you're trying out these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.

1

White Bread

White bread
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If you're thinking not all bread is bad, you're right. It's highly-refined, white bread that should be avoided when you're working to lose belly fat. Studies have shown that eating whole grains can actually lower visceral fat deposits in your belly, but eating refined grains leads to more. Looking for more helpful tips? Sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox!

2

Diet Soda

Brown soda in a clear glass against a white background
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If you want to get your beach body back, you should cut out sugary beverages and replace them with diet versions, right? Sorry, but that's just wrong. Many studies have found an association between the consumption of diet sodas and wider waist circumference. What's more, diet soda drinkers have a higher percentage of belly flab than those who don't sip the beverage, a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found. Why? Researchers think diet soda drinkers may overestimate how many calories they're "saving," and then overeat.

Instead, sip on some white tea. This brew blocks the formation of new fat cells and helps the body break down stored fat, according to a Nutrition & Metabolism study. That means that even when you overindulge, it's harder for your body to store the excess calories in your body.

3

Fruit Juice

Unhealthy orange juice bottle held in front of fridge
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It's natural, it's packed with Vitamin C—what could be wrong? Well, while 100% fruit juice is a better pick than sugary drinks like Sunny D, even the all-natural stuff still packs up to 36 grams of sugar per cup—about the same amount of sugar you would get if you ate four Krispy Kreme glazed donuts. What's more, most of the sweetness in juice comes from fructose, a type of sugar associated with the development of visceral adipose tissue—yep, that's belly fat.

Instead, your best bet is to stick with plain ol' H2O. But there is a way to add some flavor to those cups of water. You can add fresh sliced fruit like oranges and grapefruit. The key, though, is to keep the peels on: citrus peels are rich in the antioxidant d-limonene, a powerful compound that helps flush out toxins from the body and allows it to release stored visceral fat.

4

Rib-Eye Steak

Ribeye steak
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Wait—don't toss your steak knife at us just yet! Studies show that eating the right cuts of steak can actually help whittle your middle. But rib-eye, along with T-bone and New York Strip, is one of the three fattiest cuts. Researchers of one study found that consuming a diet rich in fatty, fresh red meat is positively associated with abdominal obesity and larger waist circumference.

5

Chocolate

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Let's start by making it clear that not all chocolate is bad. In fact, dark chocolate is swimming in health benefits, and according to a study published in Hearteating up to 3.5 ounces of chocolate a day can help lower your risk of heart disease. Plus, it can help reduce belly fat! But it's milk chocolate that is the problem. Milk chocolate bars are loaded up with sugar and are typically packing a ton of calories. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that the food that was associated with the most with weight gain was chocolate bars. Just be sure to stay away from those milk chocolate bars!

6

Canned Soup

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Again, when it comes to canned soups you're going to want to want to make sure you're choosing the right ones. See, there are plenty of soup options that sneak in a ton of sodium, which not only causes belly bloat but actually can increase your appetite and hinder your ability to know when you're full.

7

Potato Chips

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In the contest to find the very worst possible food for your belly, Harvard researchers believe they have a winner. It's not just that potato chips are saturated with saturated fat, causing abdominal fat gain. It's not just that they're crusted with salt, causing mid-level bloat. It's not even a pure calorie play—there are plenty of more caloric snacks out there. What makes potato chips so epically bad for your belly is not what they have, but what they lack: the ability to make you feel satisfied. A handful of chips can turn into a big empty bag in no time.

8

Frozen Coffee Drinks

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Coffee by itself isn't bad for your waistline, but if you're frequently sipping on frozen coffee drinks, then you've just met your problem. Most of the time, these high-calorie drinks are packed with sugar and dairy. Plus, a 2017 study published in Public Health found that nearly 70% of coffee drinkers had their cup of Joe with caloric add-ins including sugar and creamers.

9

Pizza

Veggie pizza
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Even if there some veggies sprinkled on top, it's important to keep in mind that pizza is still in fact, well, pizza. It's the second biggest contributor of saturated fat to the American diet (just below cheese itself), and most slices serve up half a day's worth of the artery clogger. Researchers have found that unlike other fats, the saturated variety is the most likely to be stored in the stomach. You'll really want to avoid any of the unhealthiest pizzas in America, that's for sure.

10

Low-Fat Pastries

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Some people see the label "low fat" and think it's the healthier option. But don't let the tricky terminology fool you. These muffins and treats are typically loaded up with processed flour, tend to be high in sugar, and can be high in sodium, too. These are all components that add up to packing on the belly fat. No thanks!

11

Yogurt

Flavored yogurt
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Don't panic just yet! Yogurt is a great weight-loss food as it's packed with protein, which will help keep you full, and belly-beneficial probiotics. It's the flavored yogurt that is filled with way too much sugar that is the big offender here. All of that sugar you're consuming can actually promote unhealthy gut bacteria and by now, you're well-versed in the fact that eating too much sugar has been linked to weight gain. Be careful of the fruit-at-the-bottom options and be sure to choose any of these best low-sugar yogurts that are approved by nutritionists when your snack craving hits for a much healthier option.

12

Pretzels

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Pretzels seem like they're a better option than potato chips, and we already know chips are a no-go. Sorry to disappoint, but pretzels are just as bad, as they are loaded up with salt. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition even uncovered how salt confuses the biological processes that tell you when you're full. Essentially, you just end up eating more, which leads to weight gain, and it'll go straight to your belly.

13

Cereal

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Not all cereal is bad, but the sugary, colorful kind you most likely ate a kid? That's the stuff that will lead to the excess belly fat. Plenty of cereals are high in sugar, yet low in fiber and protein, so soon enough, you'll feel hungry again. Plus, eating a healthy breakfast every day can help you lose weight quicker. One study found that 78% of participants who lose 30 pounds or more kept the weight off by eating breakfast daily. As long as you're eating the right kind of breakfast!

14

French Fries

french fries
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Any fat-laden bad carb-fest will make you gain weight, but there's something almost magical about the effects of fried spuds on your body's fat-storage system. And by magical, we don't mean in a good way. See, one longitudinal Harvard study found that people who ate fries regularly gained more than three pounds of body weight every four years; over the course of the study, the french fry eaters gained 13 pounds of belly flab from fries alone!

So what can you have instead? Homemade sweet potato fries that are baked, not fried. A simple swap that will keep that belly fat away.

15

Ice Cream

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This one is sad to see, but ice loading up on ice cream every night isn't going to help you shed that weight—it's going to caught you to pack more on. And why is that? Well, besides all that sugar you would be consuming, ice cream is a carb-heavy food, and if you happen to eating a lot of refined carbohydrates, this can result in belly fat deposition, Edwina Clark, RD, APD, explained to us in another article. So perhaps it's best not to eat a pint every night…