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Eating Habits to Avoid if You Don't Want Belly Fat, Say Dietitians

Certain foods aren't the only things causing belly fat—so, too, are these common eating habits.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Slimming down isn't easy to do. We hear that. But also, reaching for the pint of ice cream isn't doing anybody any favors. But of all the bad eating habits out there in the universe, some are certainly worse than others. That's why we reached out to dietitian nutritionists to shed insight on the absolute worst habits for your waistline. Read on to discover the eating habits to say goodbye to pronto if you want to slim down, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss Simple Ways to Start Losing Weight Immediately, According to Science.

Eating traditional burgers and red meat.


Skip the traditional burger and beat belly fat with a black bean burger. Such is the advice of Nicole Stefanow, MS, RD, a registered dietitian in the greater NYC area. "Research suggests that beans and other pulses help prevent fat that accumulates around your abdomen," she says, noting beans are also a great plant-based protein, loaded with nutrients that help support your metabolism.

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Noshing after dinner.


We know, that episode of The Crown isn't going to finish itself. Trista K. Best, MPH, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian with Balance One, says this is more than simply not going to the pantry or refrigerator in the evenings after dinner. "I have found with a few clients that having them eat only when the sun is out has allowed them to experience weight loss, specifically the kind that hangs around the belly," she says. "This is because eating based on daylight cuts your eating window down from about 15 hours to just 12 hours. Also, the foods that you typically consume after dark when you're just feeling snacky are calorie-dense and usually loaded with sugar or refined carbs which tend to lead to belly fat specifically."

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Snacking on dried fruit.

dried fruit

You may think it's a healthier swap for candy, cookies, or other sugary treats, but it's time to quit this if you want to be svelte. "Avoid snacking on dried fruit if you are trying to lose belly fat. Although it seems like a good alternative to candy, dried fruits are high in fructose sugar which is linked to weight gain and obesity," comments Stefanow. "A serving size of dried fruit is 1 ounce, which is around one tablespoon. Since dried fruit is sweet, compact, and easy to snack on, my clients report back that it's very easy to overindulge."

You're all about those carbs.

pasta and pizza

Pasta, and pizza, and pies, oh sigh. Alicia Galvin, RD, a resident dietitian for Sovereign Laboratories stressed the importance of steering clear of high-carb and highly-refined meals if you're hoping to shed inches around your belly. "Instead of meals with breads, pastas, refined grains, or drinking sugary drinks, aim for meals higher in healthy fats like avocados, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, and eggs," she says, pointing to this study and this research, too.

Eating dairy.


"Dairy is highly inflammatory and is usually high in fat and calories, which leads to weight gain," offers Best. "Studies have found that abdominal obesity, in particular, is associated with full-fat dairy intake. It is best to opt for plant-based dairy alternatives that are low in calories and sugar if you want to lose belly fat." In addition to shedding pounds, you may beat belly bloat, have better digestion, and experience more good-for-you benefits from ditching dairy.

Not reading food labels for sneaky sources of added sugars.

cookie aisle grocery store
Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock

"Foods like ice cream and cookies are obviously high in sugar, but added sugar can be hiding in many of your other go-to food staples, even those that seem healthy," says Diana Gariglio-Clelland, RD, staff dietitian with Next Luxury. "Foods like cereals, protein bars, and yogurts can be chock-full of sugar, which can cause unwanted belly fat if consumed in high amounts on a regular basis," she continues, highlighting the importance of checking the added sugar line on the nutrition facts label as well as looking for sugar, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, molasses, and the like on the ingredients list.

Drinking booze.


Time to say no to that brewski. "Forgo the beach beer to avoid a beer belly. The best option would be to skip alcohol all together since it wreaks havoc on our healthy gut bacteria which can result in belly fat. But, if you want to join in on the summer libations limit your intake and look for healthier alternatives," advises Stefanow. "Although the verdict is still out on the health benefits of hard kombucha, it is a lower calorie and lower sugar alternative which may also provide some nutrients and probiotics." Better yet, opt for alcohol-free, low-sugar kombucha.

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Perri O. Blumberg
Perri O. Blumberg is a freelance food, health, and lifestyle writer. Read more about Perri O.
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