Magazine cover image Subscribe Now to the magazine

30 Worst Summer Foods For Your Belly

Avoid these instant belly bloaters to keep your body beach ready.
30 Worst Summer Foods For Your Belly

“Oh no!” our friend said the other day. “It’s almost summer!”

“Um, what’s wrong with that?” we asked.

“My belly,” she answered. “It thinks it’s winter!”

Poor thing. She ate healthy all Spring to get ready for beach season, but still felt puffy and insecure. And we know why. According to new research in Zero Belly Breakfasts, there are surprising, “healthy” foods that can lead to instant bloating, making you feel fat and uncomfortable immediately after eating. Our researchers rounded up the 30 worst. Discover them here, and then click to uncover The Absolute Worst Food to Eat Before Bed.


Cruciferous Veggies

Think about how you feel after eating broccoli, kale, cabbage, or cauliflower. If the first word that comes to mind is “bloated,” then you’re like the most of us. “Humans don't possess the enzyme to break down raffinose, a complex sugar commonly found in cruciferous vegetables,” clinical nutritionist Jennifer Cassetta, CN, MS explains. “So when these vegetables get to the lower intestine, they’re fermented by bacteria and produce methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen, which leads to gas.”


Salty Snacks

Get 5 Free Gifts When You Subscribe!

Look, feel and live great while getting on the path to better health with the new Eat This, Not That! Magazine.

Before you stuff that big bag of chips into your beach bag, reconsider. Many salty snacks contain MSG, a harmful additive that's been linked to an increased appetite and weight gain. Doritos just may be the worst because the delectable recipe was specially formulated so that each flavor comes through equally. And researchers believe that when foods lack a leading or single overpowering flavor, snackers are less likely to feel satiated and therefore are apt to eat more. In some cases, surprisingly, eating more can actually lead to weight loss. See how in our report, 30 Ways to Eat More and Lose Weight.



We’re big fans of coffee on the reg (hey, it’s a low-cal pick-me-up that can even help curb a distracting appetite), but it’s better off to skip your cup o’ Joe before the beach. According to a study in Gut journal, "Coffee has been shown to promote the release of gastrin, which can increase colonic spike and motor activity," which basically means that the java will result in you having to hit the bathroom way more often. And we all know how hard it is to find a clean public bathroom at the beach.


Sweet Tea

Just like coffee, tea acts as a diuretic, which will make your body expel salt and water, resulting in dehydration. Dehydration + sun’s rays = definitely not a good mix! If you just can’t go without your caffeine fix, make sure to drink lots of water along with it.


Raw Spinach

Spinach is a wonderfully nutritious addition to your go-to summer salad, but not if you’re planning to hit the beach with your buds. The raw leafy green packs in a solid dose of soluble fiber and oligosaccharides, which both lead to serious bloat. Alternatively, blend a handful of spinach into your AM smoothie or sauté it with some garlic and olive oil for a delish side dish.


Trail Mix

It’s sweet, salty, and portable, which makes this snack a great craving buster; but your typical dried fruit and nut trail mix is actually filled with bloat-inducing sugar and salt! Researchers at the University of Kansas discovered that about 50 percent of people report experiencing gas from fructose, the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits. Instead, make your own mix with being skimpy on the dehydrated fruit and choosing unsalted nuts for an unadulterated punch of protein and fiber.


Sparkling Drinks

It can be very tempting to swap regular old H2O for soda or even sparkling water, but that’s definitely not your best bet. While the carbonation makes your drink a little more exciting, it’ll cause you to bloat like a puffer fish. Make sure to fill up on plain water instead, especially because the more hydrated you are, the less fluid you’ll retain (AKA, you won’t bloat!).


Mixed Drinks

Floating your way towards the swim up bar seems like a good idea when you’re on vaca, but you’re better off skipping the umbrella-clad alcoholic treats. Alcohol causes you to retain water. And since many drinks like frozen margaritas and piña coladas are sugar and calorie bombs, they’re obviously a no-go.


Ice Cream

Coming from someone who’s guilty of chasing down the ice cream truck, it’s safe to say that this creamy treat is usually not worth the cals. Plus, the lactose in dairy ice cream can cause gas, bloating, and an overall uncomfortable stomach situation—even if you aren’t lactose intolerant!


Charred Meats And Fish

Charring your animal protein at super high temperatures creates chemicals called heterocyclic amines that can increase your chances of developing colon and rectal cancers. Is a scorched burger really worth that risk? We definitely don’t think so. Make sure your dinner avoids a high open flame or just grill your veggies, which won’t develop these toxins. But if you really can’t forgo burgers on the Barbie, opt for lean cuts of meat that won’t excrete fat and cause flame flare-ups and go for thin cuts of meat to shorten cooking time. Another thing to note, marinating your meats in beer hours before grilling decreased the carcinogenic compounds by as much as 68 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Red wine works too!


Hot Dogs

Packed with bloat-inducing sodium and nitrates that link these dogs to colorectal cancer is what makes hot dogs land our our list of worst summer foods. Find out what’s really in your hotdog before you chow down on one.


Deli Meats

Forget sticking the deli meat sandwiches into your beach cooler. "High sodium foods like deli meats, bacon, and cheeses cause water retention. And that bloating and extra water weight can make cellulite more visible," explains Kristen Carlucci Haase, RD. Not to mention, a 2015 World Health Organization study linked excess intake of processed meats (about four slices of bacon a day) to colorectal cancers. Instead of turkey and cheese wraps, opt for a grilled chicken sandwich with roasted veggies.


Corn on the Cob

"Not all types of carbs are easy to digest," registered dietician Lisa Moskovitz explains. "And corn contains a type of carbohydrate that is difficult for the body to break down. This can lead to GI bacteria fermentation and trapped air and gas, which causes bloating." Beach day and bloated belly are two things that should never be in the same sentence.



Whether you’re opting for a giant soft pretzel at the county fair or a handful of crunchy minis, either pick isn’t ideal. While pretzels often seem like a better choice than oily potato chips, they’re usually not! The twisted treat is made up of sodium and carbs — two ingredients that won’t help your abs peek out anytime soon.


Dried Fruit

Because dried fruits, like Craisins, have been stripped of their hydrating and filling water, they have way more sugar per ounce than their fresh counterparts. To keep your tummy tight, grab your cooler and pack in the non-dehydrated variety for a refreshing afternoon snack. If you want to get specific, we’re talking about these 17 Hydrating Foods.


White Wine

Skip the Pinot Grigio this summer because recent studies show that certain alcohols, such as white wines, increase your chances of getting Melanoma! Why’s that? White wine eliminates vitamins and antioxidants that help your body fend off the sun's cancer-causing rays. And if you drink seven or more glasses a week, your chances of becoming the sun’s victim increases. Stick to antioxidant-rich [red wine]( instead.


BBQ Sauce

Before you light up the grill, stick to seasoning your meats with a spice rub rather than sugar-filled BBQ sauce. For reference: a small, two-tablespoon serving of Sweet Baby Ray’s contains a whopping 16 grams of sugar! If you must slather your wings in the tangy stuff, make sure your BBQ sauce doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup, an additive proven to widen your waistline.


White Bread

If you like heading to the beach in the summer, you know that PB&J is a shore staple. That being said, choose your loaf wisely. Loaves like Wonder Bread and country white varieties are just slices of empty carbs that are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and devoid of fiber. Ezekiel bread, on the other hand, is a delicious fiber- and protein-packed alternative that will also keep you fuller for much longer!


Corn Dogs

The classic state fair treat. Obviously what's beneath the batter is pretty bad, but corn dogs make our list specifically due to their deep fried component: "When we deep fry foods, we expose the oil and fat to extremely high temperatures. When this happens, free radicals, the primary culprit in aging, are formed," offers Lisa Hayim, MS, RD, and founder of The WellNecessities. "These foods not only cause damage to our waistlines but to our organs and insides as well."



Unless you’re choosing a light beer, pass on this super carbonated and caloric beverage. It won’t just leave you bloated, but it will also load you up with empty calories and dehydrate you, leaving you more apt to suffer from heat stroke. If you do want to grab one or two cold ones, throw back any of these 15 Best Light Beers In America rather than compromising in the name of weight loss.


Pork Sausage

Throwing some sausage on the grill? You may want to think twice. We already know that processed meats are packed with potentially carcinogen-forming sodium nitrites, and pork sausage is definitely not an exception. You’ll want to choose uncured cuts of meat (you can even stick with pork, if you’d like) to steer clear of those toxin-forming nitrites.


Pasta Salad

What’s a summer cookout without a delicious pasta salad? While this side dish is essential for some, it’s better to swap regular old noodles for protein- and fiber-packed Modern Table Lentil Penne. It’s so yummy, no one will be able to tell the difference!



If you took one look at their ingredient list, you may think twice about picking up a package of Popsicles for your pool party. Popsicle brand ices have high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes high up on the ingredient list, which means that these treats aren’t flat belly-friendly. An equally refreshing alternative, Outshine Fruit and Veggie Bars, keep you looking and feeling your best. These natural ices are only 35 calories a pop and are made with juices and purees from pumpkins, carrots, beets, rhubarb, cranberries, apples, and strawberries. Yum!


Processed Cheese

They may be a staple at any summer barbeque, but sandwich toppers like Kraft American Singles aren’t real cheese (shocker!), so skip adding them to your burgers pronto. These fake products are federally mandated to be labeled as "processed cheese" or a "cheese product" because of their manufacturing process: they begin with a mere 51 percent real cheese, throw in some artificial fillers, flavors, colors, preservatives, emulsifiers, acidifiers, heat it all up, and then bundle it into the nostalgic packages we all know and, unfortunately, love. If your cheese craving needs an antidote, opt for 100% real cheese and scale back your portion to an ounce.



This one’s a given: starchy potatoes fried in fat-forming oil and doused salt is just an all around bad idea if you’re looking to uncover your abs and, let alone, live long! While a good burger is usually incomplete without a side of crispy potato strings, you’re better off fulfilling your fry fix by whipping up a batch of grilled or baked veggies topped with basil oil.


Watermelon Seeds


While watermelon seeds are an excellent source of protein and healthy fats, swallowing the kernels whole can block your bowels, which leads to unnecessary pain and discomfort.




During the summer, we know we all have way more time to cook up some bacon in the mornings. The only issue is that this popular breakfast meat gets a bad rap due to its high fat and sodium content and its harmful additives—all bad news factors for your weight loss goals and overall health.


Diet Drinks

Diet Drinks

According to a recent, consuming artificial sweeteners can desensitize your taste buds and in turn, increase your sugar tolerance. Even worse, this leads to weight gain. Just because that diet Snapple is luring you in with its super low calorie count, skip it! You’re better off hydrating with naturally sweetened detox waters or choosing a lightly sweetened iced tea.


Granola Bars

granola Bars

Think about it: most granola bars, filled with sugar, carbs, and vegetable oils, are basically just another fast food option. While they’re seemingly a healthy grab-and-go snack, these glorified candy bars usually won’t satisfy your hunger or help you finally fit into that pair of skinny jeans. Plus, because they’re high in carbs, they’ll leave you searching through your beach bag for another snack soon after finishing it.


Fruit Juices

naked fruit juice

Processed fruit juices are sugar bombs masquerading under a deceiving health halo. Most of the bottled imposters barely contain natural fruit juice and are loaded with tons of the saccharine carb. Not to mention, sugar actually decreases your body’s ability to produce collagen, the compound responsible for keeping your skin taut and cellulite-free in a swimsuit.

Get 5 Free Gifts When You Subscribe!

Look, feel and live great while getting on the path to better health with the new Eat This, Not That! Magazine.