What Foods to Avoid for Belly Fat and Love Handles

A flat, toned tummy is an enviable physical characteristic. If you're currently cultivating a muffin top but you'd rather have a midsection that more closely resembles a pancake, you shouldn't let certain foods pass your lips. These include foods high in sugar, fat and calories. Ditch these in your diet, and you're on your way to a enviable physique of your own.

Stay away from bagged and boxed foods if you want a toned tummy. (Image: dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images)

Fatty Foods

Comfort foods like fried chicken, pizza, buttery mashed potatoes and ribs may be delicious, but they're not going to help you trim your belly and love handles. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, whereas each gram of protein and carbohydrate provide less than half of that amount -- 4 calories. This means you can eat twice as much of a protein- or carb-rich food than you can a fatty food. Although fat is a satiating nutrient, eating too much of it will cause you to gain, not lose, belly fat.

Packaged Foods

Anything sold in a bag or box should be categorically avoided when you're trying to beat the belly bulge. Most of these foods have been heavily processed and stripped of important nutrients like fiber, which helps fill you up and is an important part of weight maintenance. Refined grain products, like many sugary cereals, so-called healthy snack bars, cookies, crackers and baked goods are high in calories but low in nutrients. When you eat them, you'll experience a surge in blood sugar, but then your blood sugar levels will drop quickly. When this happens, you'll feel tired and sluggish, and you even may find yourself craving more high-calorie foods.

Sugary Sweets and Sweetened Beverages

Cakes, ice cream, candy, soda and other sweetened beverages should be eliminated from your diet if you hope to lose your muffin top. Added sugars provide few or no nutrients and don't even help fill you up. They simply supply calories and lead to weight gain when consumed in excess. Think about it: If you drink one soda and eat a slice of chocolate cake with a scoop of ice cream on the side -- which isn't hard to do when you work in an office with vending machines and birthday celebrations for co-workers -- you'll consume almost 670 calories. That's more than a third of your daily calories if you follow a typical 2,000-calorie diet, and you have received hardly any nutrients for it.

What You Should Eat

To banish belly fat, focus on eating fresh, whole foods including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins such as chicken breast, fish or tofu and, in moderation, nuts and seeds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the best foods for weight loss are those low in energy density, or calories per gram. These foods are usually high in fiber, water or both, and the best sources are fruits and vegetables. Include moderate amounts of healthy fats from nuts and seeds, olive oil and avocado, and allow yourself a little treat every once in while to help you stick with your diet.

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