The midsection is where many gain weight first, and a well-balanced diet, regular exercise, ample hydration and a consistent sleep schedule is the way to prevent adding additional fat to this area. With that said, we reached out to health and nutrition experts for 3 common pantry food suggestions to avoid if the belly is a spot of weight gain concern. Read on for tips and insight from Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior dietitian at UCLA medical center, Sara Chatfield, RDN, registered dietitian , nutritionist and nutrition specialist at Healthcanal, and Michael Garrico, certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and co-founder and marketing director at TotalShape.
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1. Potato Chips
While eating potato chips once in a while isn’t going to cause instant weight gain, Garrico warns that snacking on oily, high-calorie and fatty chips “is your worst enemy, especially if you are trying to reduce belly fat.” Garrico acknowledges that it might feel like potato chips are the “best thing in the world when you are hungry but not hungry,” or that “they are not bad because they have some fat content or have 19.8% sugar,” but the reality is because they are “burnt or fried.” It’s the process of making potato chips that makes them harmful to your belly fat, he stresses. “Further, potato chips are mostly salt. Salt makes your body retain water, making it seem bloated,” he adds , which leads to weight gain.
While processed, powdered and/or packaged donuts are a tasty treat, they’re best consumed occasionally and not as a regular breakfast or dessert, Chatfield says. “Donuts are high in sugar and eating too much sugar can lead your body to produce too much insulin, causing inflammation,” she explains, “Excess sugar can also contribute to premature aging through a process called glycation, in which sugars link to proteins to form advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which have been linked to chronic disease development and skin aging.” Donuts are also high in calories. “As people age, their metabolism declines, so consuming ‘extras’ high in calories can easily lead to weight gain,” she adds. Additionally, Chatfield notes that donuts contain saturated fats that can lead to inflammation and increase your risk of heart disease. “Donuts are highly processed, and eating highly processed foods regularly can cause weight gain and has been linked to multiple chronic diseases.”
3. Processed Energy Bars
The least healthy type of carbohydrate to eat over the age of 40 (or any age really) is ultra-processed carbohydrates that are frequently found in packaged foods such as fried foods, pastries like donuts, and “processed energy bars,” Hunnes says. The reason these types of carbs are not great at any age, let alone over 40, is because “they provide no nutritional benefit, they are often devoid of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds,” she adds. This, she says, is terrible for the metabolism because it leads to “insulin spikes, increases in IGF-1, an inflammatory marker, and increases risk for chronic diseases and deposition (fat storage) of calories in the body.” Instead, Hunnes concludes that for our overall health (and not just in preventing belly fat), we are “best off to eat the least processed carbohydrates possible, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, in their natural form— unprocessed. “These, she stresses, are “not Harmful for our metabolism and are anti-inflammatory, high in fiber, and help regulate weight” in this area and elsewhere.
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