How to Burn Off Stubborn Belly Fat

How to Burn Off Stubborn Belly Fat

Question:

No matter how much exercising and dieting I do, I can’t get rid of a small “spare tire” I’ve had for years. Is there something I can do nutritionally to help burn off that fat? 

– David H.

Hi, What are the foods you recommend that can reduce belly fat (subcutaneous fat) and give a flat belly? Thanks.

– Karthik K.

What foods are the best to eat to get rid of your belly fat and keep it off?

– Shawn R.

Answer:

We are asked these questions a lot! Scan for previous Living Healthy blog articles on the topic and you’ll find no less than twenty. For those already at a healthy body weight or with only a few pounds to lose, fat around the midsection and abdomen seems to resist all efforts at reduction. 

Though you can’t target belly fat with specific foods or exercises, fine tuning your diet and workout program can help you lose weight and tone all over. Exercise including moderate intensity work at least 30 minutes per day plus strength training helps control weight and fight abdominal fat, both subcutaneous and visceral (around the organs).  

For diet, the goal is to reduce foods that are readily converted to fat and focus on those that require greater work to metabolize. Doing so reduces both actual fat storage and the signals/prompts that cause it to happen, such as insulin. As long as your overall caloric intake is less than your expenditure, of course! 

  • Avoid added sugars, particularly in beverages. 
  • Choose wholesome raw ingredients that you prepare yourself instead of processed foods that generally have less fiber and more salt, sugar and trans fat
  • Get a diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (from olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocados and fish). 
  • Include regular intake of active culture yogurt. 
  • Be sure you fill half your plate or bowl with vegetables at every meal, including a variety of colors.  
  • Reduce saturated fat from meat and cheese by substituting with beans, fish, poultry and egg whites.  
  • Keep alcohol intake below ‘moderate consumption.’

Sources: 

  1. Is There ‘One Trick’ to Losing Belly Fat? Rush University Medical Center https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/losing-belly-fat Accessed 9.23.2019 
  2. 8 Ways to Lose Belly Fat and Live a Healthier Life. Johns Hopkins Medicine https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/8-ways-to-lose-belly-fat-and-live-a-healthier-life Accessed 9.23.2019 
  3. 10 Reasons Your Belly Fat Isn’t Going Away. Health https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20905682,00.html Accessed 9.23.2019 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

8 + 4 =


Recommended Reading - Q+A

Do Vegetarians Need Iron Supplements?

Do Vegetarians Need Iron Supplements?

Question:

If you are vegetarian, do you have to take iron tablets to compensate? 

Do you recommend any other foods or fruits? I drink a lot of milk (1% organic) and take the following pills daily:  

1. Move Free Ultra Triple Action
2. ‘C’ Vitamin 500 mg. 
3. MSM 1000mg 
4. Calcium 600 mg
5. Multivitamin Silver Centrum for men +50  

I am 81 years old and have a slight knee problem. Please let me know if you have any other recommendations. 

– Michael J.

Answer:

Your current nutrient supplements do not provide any iron (also known as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferrous fumarate). If you consume a good amount of non-heme iron from plant sources such as vegetables like spinach, beans, nuts, and fortified grain products, it’s possible to meet your daily iron need without supplementation. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vegetarian adults over 50 years of age is 14.4 milligrams of iron per day, which is 1.8 times higher than for people who eat meat.  

Vitamin C helps absorb iron so you should take it with your richest iron meal. Your calcium supplement, on the other hand, reduces the availability of iron so take it at another time of day. Consult with your doctor if you’re concerned about anemia. 

The Vegetarian Resource Group offers sample high-iron menus and a discussion with sample menu for seniors. Unless you have specific symptoms, complaints or health conditions, there is no need to focus on a particular food. I’d recommend a diet rich in legumes, grains, green vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit with 2-3 dairy servings if you wish. Choose whole foods and limit processed foods, added sugar and alcohol. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

2 + 12 =


Recommended Reading - Q+A

How to Get Your Kids to Eat Right

How to Get Your Kids to Eat Right

We’ve all heard the outburst I’m not hungry!when a healthy meal is placed in front of an obviously low-fueled child. [And why, oh why, does this particularly happen after ordering an expensive dish or preparing a labor-intensive meal followed by said child eating half a loaf of bread?] Children certainly can be poor eaters, no doubt. With patience and creativity, parents can turn that into “Peas please, Mom!”

It all starts in infancy when the innate taste preference for sweet flavor (bitter foods were toxic in human history) is met with a bounty of fruity baby food; followed by edible treats from Grandma’s kitchen making their way into toddler hands. No wonder getting little ones to eat decent solid food can be challenging. It’s said that it may take 15 times of introducing a new food item before a child will eat it!  

If your kiddo seems to eat the same thing day in and out, you may not need to worry. Food jags are generally okay lasting anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Continue to offer nutritious choices and a child will eventually eat when they are hungry enough. Remember, feeding your child is about nourishment. If you engage in a battle of the wills, your child’s attitude toward food in general may lean toward the negative and his or her long-term nutrition may lose out. 

Broccoli Battles and Other Vegetable Nightmares 

Let’s talk about the elephant in the kitchen – vegetables. Children are known for eschewing them from their plates and failing to consume the recommended number of servings (see highlight/box below). Only a handful of veggies satisfy children’s preference for sweet, namely: carrot, corn, sweet potato/yam, tomato and acorn squash. We could write an entire blog just addressing ways to get your kid to eat more vegetables, but here we’ll name a few.  

It may be the look. Who said they had to be served in leafy salad or in a naked cooked pile on the plate? Make it fun and appealing! Shred or spiralize vegetables to serve as a topping for sandwiches, burgers, pasta and more. Combine diced vegetables as ‘confetti’ with rice, quinoa or couscous.

Texture aversions present an opportunity to find ways of preparing foods in another manner with an acceptable mouthfeel. Slimy hot okra might be replaced by breaded okra bites. Stringy or leafy vegetables may be pureed into smoothies, soups or sauces. Freeze dried or lightly fried vegetable chips work well in lunch boxes.

Don’t forget about between meal eating. Snacks are necessary for continued energy and offer a valuable time for additional nutrients, especially for small bellies that can only get so much at mealtime. Serve beet-blended pink hummus with crackers or pita bread.

Increasing Interest in Healthy Foods

Involve Kids in Food Prep 

To increase interest in food, try to get kids involved in cooking or at least preparing a few meals here and there. Children are more likely to try the fruits of their labor than if food is just presented to them. A fouryearold can scoop and stir, a six year old can pour and peel, an eight year old can measure and assemble, while a ten year old can cut and become more confident in advanced tasks. Children like to feed themselves, so finger-friendly foods assure independence at mealtime. To help promote a desire to eat, make sure kids aren’t full of empty calorie foods before meals — keep sweets and treats at a minimum. 

Model Smart Food Choices 

Older children often make their own food decisions about what to buy from the school cafeteria or buy from vending machines and drive-through. There’s a reason why teens are stereotyped for their greasy fast food choices, soda and pizza consumption. In a way, adolescents are exerting their freedom from rules and parental control.

On the flip side, too much attention and focus on healthfulness of food can lead to dieting and an unhealthful preoccupation with nutrition among teenagers. Set clear expectations on how spending cash is to be used. It’s best to be a good role model, following habits and behaviors that demonstrate healthy choices, starting early when children are young. 

At any stage of childhood, parents should consult with a healthcare professional if their child’s growth is no longer on trend for them individually. For specific eating behaviors and nutritional concerns, look for a Registered Dietitian who is a boardcertified specialist in pediatric nutrition, designated by the CSP credential. 

Recommended daily vegetable servings*

Children  2-3 years old 1 cup
Children 4-8 years old   1-1.5 cups 
Girls  9-13 years old 2 cups 
Boys    9-13 years old 2.5 cups
Girls  14-18 years old 2.5 cups 
Boys  14-18 years old 3 cups 

Cup vegetable equivalents (1 cup = 1 baseball or fist of an average adult)

1 cup Tomato and other vegetable juices
1 cup Broccoli, Carrots, Green beans and other cooked chopped vegetables
1 cup Pumpkin and other winter squash
1 cup Peas, Corn and other starchy vegetables
1 cup Celery, Peppers, Cucumber and other raw crunchy vegetables
cups Spinach and other raw leafy greens

*Reference: Daily Vegetable Table. USDA. www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables July 18, 2019.Accessed 9.6.2019 

How to Lose Weight on a Vegetarian Diet

How to Lose Weight on a Vegetarian Diet

Question:

I want to follow a daily routine which will help me reduce weight. Currently, I am 129 lbs. I want to reduce it to 120 lbs; however, I am a vegetarian. I don’t eat eggs or meat. Please help. 

– Swapna A.

Answer:

Vegetarian diet or not, the same rules apply for reducing body fat to lose weight: eat less than you burn. Where vegetarians may have trouble is with concentrated sugars (in foods like smoothies, cereals, fruit bars) and excess fats (hidden oils in boxed/frozen foods). Restricting intake of processed foods while focusing on whole plant foods will ensure you control the amount of sugar and fat consumed. Basically, choose foods you need to chew! 

Consider a healthy vegetarian dish of lentils, mushroom, onion, chopped spinach, olive oil and carrot over sweet potatoes. Despite the correct balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein you still need to deal with volume. Do you fill a 10-inch plate, 20 oz. bowl or only a cup? Portion control is important, no matter the diet you follow. Just cutting back 50 calories a day can promote a 5-pound weight loss over a year.  

I wouldn’t advise a daily menu repeated over and over because you need a variety of produce, legumes, nuts and seeds to meet micronutrient requirements and provide beneficial phytochemicals. But, you can start with a few days mapped out for you! EatingWell® has a decent vegan 7 day 1200 calorie plan. For a week’s worth of lacto-ovo Indian meal suggestions, check out this traditional plan from Healthline. Also read the Living Healthy blog’s Ask Our Dietitian post How to Lose Fat as a Vegan for more meal and snack options. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

1 + 2 =


Recommended Reading - Q+A

Safely Reducing Your Calorie Intake for Weight Loss

Safely Reducing Your Calorie Intake for Weight Loss

Question:

Hi, I wanted to ask a question about dieting. What is the lowest number of daily calories for an adult woman (34 years old, 5’6”, 140 lbs.) that is safe but will also allow for weight loss? I’ve been even eating 1,200 or so per day, but I’m not sure if that’s accurate. Thanks!

– Jess S.

Answer:

First off, 140 pounds for a height of 5’6” makes your BMI 22.6, within a healthy range (18.5-24.9). In general terms, 1,200 calories for women and ,1500 calories for men have long been used as minimum recommended intake levels. Even at these amounts it’s difficult to meet vitamin and mineral requirements unless one’s diet is exceptionally nutrient-rich and balanced. 

Using personalized estimates based on standardized equations is more predictive of actual needs. Using your age, height, weight and gender, your calculated base energy requirement, called basal metabolic rate (BMR), is 1,352-1,376 calories daily*. Your body composition, genetics and physiology, among other factors, determine your true metabolic rate which may be higher or lower than estimated. 

It’s not advised to reduce intake to BMR minimum very long for successful fat loss. Restricting intake to that level creates such an energy deficit that lean mass starts to break down for fuel. The scale may show a weight drop – often significant – from the water released as stored glycogen is used to fill the energy gap. Neither of these conditions foster fat burning or improve body composition.  

My best advice is to increase physical activity which will help retain lean mass and allow you to get sufficient nutrients from a more generous diet. There’s a lot of nutrition you can pack into 150 calories of wholesome foods. A yogurt parfait or bowl of crunchy popcorn is worth a half hour of dancing, recreational biking or swimming in my book! 

*based on MifflinSt. Jeor and WHO equations. 

Suggested further reading: 

Resting Metabolic Rate: Best Ways to Measure It – And Raise It, Too https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/2882/resting-metabolic-rate-best-ways-to-measure-it-and/ 

Calories Burned in 30 Minutes For People of Three Different Weights https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

15 + 15 =


Recommended Reading - Q+A

SUBSCRIBE TO

LIVING HEALTHY

Be the first to know about exclusive

content, deals and promotions

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest