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5 Foods Secretly Causing Abdominal Fat, Say Dietitians

Limiting your consumption of these popular foods might help you meet your weight loss goals.

Abdominal fat can be a pain to get rid of, but it's possible with a few changes in your diet and exercise routines. The problem is, it's oftentimes hard to tell which foods are potentially contributing to the weight gain we experience.

"A study published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that people who over-consume calories and hyper-palatable foods (those that are both highly processed and intensely flavorful) are more likely to have excess abdominal fat," says Noah Quezada RDN. "In fact, the study showed that these foods may be more responsible for abdominal obesity than any other factor."

Be mindful of these common foods that may secretly be leading to more abdominal weight gain, and for more healthy weight loss tips, check out Best Breakfast Recipes to Help Lose Abdominal Fat.



shredded cheddar cheese

Everyone loves a good cheese board paired with their favorite red wine, but consuming too much cheese over time might contribute to abdominal weight gain.

"This one may be obvious to some and less obvious to others. We have a complicated relationship when it comes to cheese, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing, and this is the case with cheese," says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements. "This particular food could be secretly causing your abdominal fat primarily due to the frequency and quantity at which you consume it. Most forms of cheese are high-calorie and high-fat, making them okay for a salad topping, but entire meals should be based around cheese. For instance, cheese pizza, cheese lasagna, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese sticks, to name just a few foods and meals based almost entirely on cheese."


Deli meat

deli meats

Deli meat and other types of processed meats have been found to not only lead to increased risks of heart disease, but also a potential increase in body weight as well.

"This food is a go-to for many wanting to cut back on carbohydrates while still getting in an adequate amount of protein to help keep them full and satisfied," says Best. "Unfortunately, not all deli meat is created equal with the same quality and nutrients. Many forms of deli meat are processed and high in sodium and saturated fat. These extra calories and sodium can quickly encourage abdominal weight gain. When selecting a meat option of this type, look for forms that are as natural and low in fat and sodium as possible."


Salad dressing

salad dressing

If you're eating plenty of salads during the week but still gaining weight, the culprit may be the salad dressing you're choosing.

"Not all salad dressing is healthy and many types can increase the calorie and fat content of your salad without you noticing, and can lead to abdominal weight gain and stall weight loss efforts," says Best. "When choosing a salad dressing, opt for vinegar, oil-free balsamic options, or a squeeze of lemon for flavor."

RELATED: The Worst Salad Dressing on Store Shelves


Meal replacement bars

Woman eating meal replacement bars

They're marketed as being "healthy," but meal-replacement bars are often heavily-processed and can leave you feeling hungrier than before.

"These bars can be a healthy addition to a weight loss diet, but when we don't give weight to the quality of nutrients, they can actually encourage abdominal weight gain," says Best. "Processed meal replacement bars are often high in calories, fats, sodium, added sugar, and refined carbohydrates. Just one of these factors could cause abdominal weight gain, but most often meal replacement bars have nearly all of these weight-promoting characteristics."


Ice cream

Birthday cake ice cream

While we may not want to admit it, consuming ice cream on a regular basis may in fact lead to some unwanted weight gain around the abdominal area.

"Ice cream is another food that can contribute to the accumulation of belly fat because it's loaded with sugar and saturated fat, both of which are high in calories and it's very easy to overeat," says Quezada.

Quezada says that it's not just about the foods you limit or remove from your diet, but it's about the healthy ones you add as well.

"If you're looking to slim down your midsection, it's best to avoid these foods and instead focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods, which include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein," says Quezada. "And when you do indulge in something sweet or salty, try to do so in moderation."

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha