You know how sappy movies go right to your heart? And champagne goes right to your head? And tax day goes right to your wallet? Well, some foods go right to your gut and cause nearly instant fat gain, right where you don’t want it.
They call this type of weight gain “deep fat tissue,” and it leads to deeply felt embarrassment when it comes time to strip down for the neighborhood pool party. It also leads to some more serious issues—heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s among them.
Where your body stores calories depends on your hormones, and some foods trigger just the exact right hormonal reaction—they hit you in the gut like a Dear John letter. Fortunately, new research in Zero Belly Diet, the New York Times bestseller from Abs Diet author David Zinczenko, reveals the six most common “insta-belly” foods, and offers some ingenious alternatives to help you indulge without the bulge.
- POTATO CHIPS
In the contest to find the very worst possible food for your belly, Harvard researchers believe they have a winner. It’s not just that they’re saturated with saturated fat, causing abdominal fat gain. It’s not just that they’re crusted with salt, causing mid-level bloat. It’s not even a pure calorie play—there are plenty of more caloric snacks out there. What makes potato chips so epically bad for your belly is not what they have, but what they lack: the ability to make you feel satisfied. A handful of chips can turn into a big empty bag in no time simply because our bodies expect us to make them happy when we eat food. Daily chip consumption alone was responsible for adding nearly two pounds of flab to study participants’ frame every four years. That means if you cut out chips, you would lose more than half a pound of fat directly from your belly, even if you changed nothing else about your diet.
Eat This Instead: Nip your salty cravings in the bud with Beanitos, a chip made from navy beans, brown rice, oils and spices. This snack time favorite has a texture and flavor reminiscent of traditional nachos, but far less saturated fat.
- DIET SODA
If you want to get your beach body back, you should cut out sugary beverages and replace them with diet versions, right? Wrong.
Recent studies have found an association between the consumption of diet sodas and a wider waist circumference. What’s more, diet soda drinkers have a higher percentage of belly flab than those who don’t sip the beverage, a study in the journal Obesity found. Why? Researchers think diet soda drinkers may overestimate how many calories they’re “saving,” and then overeat.
Drink This Instead: White Tea. This brew blocks the formation of new fat cells and helps the body break down stored fat, according a Nutrition and Metabolism study. That means that even when you overindulge; it’s harder for your body to store the excess calories in your body. And if you want an added weight loss boost, switch to one of the magical 4 Teas That Melt Fat Fast.
A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips? How about this: A night at the Hut, a lifetime in the gut.
In fact, pizza is the second biggest contributor of saturated fat to the American diet (just below cheese itself), and most slices serve up half a day’s worth of the artery clogger. Researchers have found that unlike other fats, the saturated variety is the most likely to be stored in the stomach.
Eat This Instead: Bruschetta. All the crusty, tomatoey flavor, not of the broken zippers. Discover the recipe, and the game-changing “75/25” rule that shows How Maria Menounos dropped 40 pounds—and kept it off!
- FRENCH FRIES
Any fat-laden carb fest will make you gain weight, but there’s something almost magical about the effect of fried spuds on your body’s fat-storage system–and by magical, we mean Voldemort, not Potter. One 20-year Harvard study found that people who ate fries regularly gained more than three pounds of body weight every four years; over the course of the study, the French fry eaters gained 15 pounds of belly flab from fries alone!
Eat This Instead: Homemade sweet potato fries. Slice a sweet potato lengthwise into strips, top with a few spritzes of coconut-oil cooking spray (a fat less apt to be stored as flab than butter or lard), salt, pepper and garlic powder, and pop them into the oven on 350 degrees F until they’re crispy. When dining out, ask for a side salad and a vinegar-based dressing in lieu of the fries that comes with your meal. And for the full list of what to eat for rapid weight loss, check out these essential 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 Days!
- RIB-EYE STEAK
Wait—don’t toss your steak knife at us yet! Studies show that eating the right cuts of steak can actually help whittle your middle. But rib-eye, along with T-bone and New York Strip, is one of the three fattiest cuts known to man or cow; in a study by Chinese researchers, consuming a diet rich in fatty, fresh red meat is positively associated with abdominal obesity and larger waist circumference.
Eat This Instead: Choose the right steak and you’ll reap several health benefits. Find out which to buy in the essential list of ab-defining 12 Foods Personal Trainers Swear By.
- FRUIT JUICE
It’s natural! It’s packed with Vitamin C! It comes from Florida! What could be wrong? Well, while 100 percent fruit juice is a better pick than sugary drinks like Sunny D, even the all-natural stuff still packs up to 36 grams of sugar per cup—or about what you’d get from popping 4 Krispy Kreme glazed donuts into a blender and hitting frappe. What’s more, most of the sweetness in juice comes from fructose, a type of sugar associated with the development of visceral adipose tissue—yep, that’s belly fat.
Drink This Instead: Trick your belly into shrinking itself by filling your glass with some refreshing spa water. Just add fresh sliced fruit like oranges and grapefruit to plain ol’ H20 and chill. The key is to keep the peels on: citrus peels are rich in the antioxidant d-limonene, a powerful compound that helps flush out toxins from the body and allow it to release stored visceral fat.