Eating habits that secretly increase your belly fat, nutritionists say — eat this, not that

As warm weather approaches, many people seem keen to set new healthy goals. If you’re trying to shed a few pounds, especially around your stomach area, you might benefit from learning about some “secret” eating habits that often contribute to more belly fat — the sneaky kind you wouldn’t even notice.

Losing belly fat is a goal that can potentially save you from further health complications. That’s because belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is the kind that grows around your abdominal organs and can lead to things like diabetes and heart disease if too much of it is carried over a long period of time.

Read on to learn more about healthy changes you can make to your daily routine to lose belly fat and for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out 20 Food Combinations To Triple Your Weight Loss.

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Eating processed foods can quickly add to belly fat, but nutritionists say it’s portion sizes that make a difference, too.

“Processed foods high in sugar, salt, and fat can contribute to excess belly fat,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDNauthor of Finally full, finally slim and member with us medical expert panel. “According to recent research, portion sizes of fast food and packaged foods like chocolate and soda are still up to five times larger than in the past, which may also contribute to an increase in belly fat.”

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Making yourself a fresh, hearty salad can be a great choice for the warmer weather. But dietitians say certain salad dressings can sneak in extra fat, sugar and calories without us noticing.

“Many of us are turning to salads for a healthier meal, especially when looking to shed belly fat,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements. “However, using high-fat salad dressings may add to your belly fat instead of getting rid of it. This applies to homemade salads as well as fast food or store-bought salads. Standard ranch salad dressings contain about 130 calories for just 2 tablespoons, which is generally less than what’s actually used. Along with 13 grams of fat, this salad dressing can ruin the decision to make a healthy salad. Your best bet is to either skip the high-fat dressing or opt for lemon juice or vinegar to help reduce the fat you’re consuming.”

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Nut butters can offer you many health benefits, but it’s still important to watch your portion sizes when trying to lose belly fat.

“Peanut butter is a food that’s certainly rich in nutrients, but not all varieties are made with the same nutritional profile,” says Best improve texture. This results in a rapid increase in calories and fat in a single serving of peanut butter.”

“Second, even natural peanut butter should be consumed in moderation,” Best continues. “Often we see the term ‘natural’ and assume that the food can be eaten regardless of portion size or quantity. When it comes to peanut butter, these two properties can make it a food that could stall your belly fat loss and even contribute to weight gain in that area.”

TIED TOGETHER: Your favorite peanut butter brand may have this sneaky secret

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Yogurt can offer you a ton of health benefits, but not all yogurts are created equal.

“The quality of the yogurt is an important factor in whether it contributes to or decreases from your weight loss efforts,” says Best. “Yogurts that are high in fat or have added sugar and other sweeteners can contribute to your belly fat. It’s important to look at the nutritional profile of your yogurt before you buy it and decide on one that’s either plain or made with natural sweeteners. You should also find one that is higher in protein as this will help keep you fuller for longer and prevent overeating.

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While not technically an “eating habit,” poor sleep and high levels of stress can affect your eating habits and how you eat throughout the day.

“Stress can increase belly fat, in part due to increases in the stress hormone cortisol,” says Young. “Overeating with the wrong foods is also common when you’re stressed, and a lack of sleep can also affect your mood, which may encourage many people to overeat on processed foods high in sugar and fat.”

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