The best eating habit to aid having and maintaining a flat belly is eating between five and six smaller meals throughout the day.
There’s a lot of debate over which meal is actually the most important—in the United States it’s typically thought of as breakfast, but in different countries throughout the world, emphasis is placed on lunch and dinner as well.
But according to Meghan Stoops, RD at Naked Nutrition, none of that should matter. Instead of eating the traditional three large meals, the best eating habit to aid having and maintaining a flat belly is eating between five and six smaller meals throughout the day.
“It helps to keep your metabolism running optimally and avoid over-eating throughout the day,” Stoops says. “In other words, it’s a simple way to cut down on your overall intake while still feeling satisfied.”
This may be a difficult change to make for people who are more accustomed to eating three larger meals throughout the day. To help ease the transition, Stoops recommends continuing to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, but have them be smaller meals, and include two snacks between the meals during the day.
She also says that it’s important to include good protein sources, as well as sources of fiber, in each of the meals to help maintain a feeling of fullness. In addition to the benefits of eating more frequent, smaller meals, including regular sources of high-protein foods in your diet will also help contribute to a flat belly, according to a 2018 study from the U.K. The study says that a high-protein diet can be an “effective weight loss strategy” because it reduces hunger and increases energy expenditure.
One of the things that can keep a belly from appearing flatter is bloating, and Stoops adds that eating smaller meals at a more frequent rate can help to avoid bloating because it avoids the heavy digestion that bodies undergo after consuming a large meal.
“If you are prone to bloating, choosing small, frequent meals can help to avoid the heavy load of digestion often caused by a large meal, thus eliminating the discomfort of bloating and gas,” Stoops says. “It’s a lot gentler on the stomach.”
In addition to helping to alleviate bloating, being gentler on the stomach according to Stoops, and aiding in the effort to have and maintain a flat belly, eating several smaller meals throughout the day has also been associated with improving heart health, says a 2019 study.
The study concludes that eating more than four meals a day can result in improved cholesterol levels, which ultimately leads to improved heart health and a lower chance at developing cardiovascular diseases.
So, if you’re interested in trying this method of eating, grab some of your favorite snacks to have on hand in between meals and give it a try!
Ginger is best veggie for a flat belly, says Dietitian
One of the best food groups you can add to your diet if you’re dealing with a bloated belly is vegetables.
“Veggies are the lowest calorie food out there, and one of the most nutrient-dense foods too!” says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. They are jam-packed with nutrients and health benefits.”
However, it’s one food group that Americans rarely get enough of.
“Specifically over 90% of Americans are not eating the recommended amounts each day,” says Ehsani. “Veggies are also high in water content, so they can help hydrate you and hit your daily fluid goals each day as well.”
So thanks to their high water content and dietary fiber, consuming certain veggies can help your gut health, as fiber helps move things through your digestive tract, aiding you in having regular bowel movements and preventing constipation—and bloat that’s making your belly a bit rounder than normal.
If you’re looking to decrease your bloat for a flatter belly, the #1 veggie you should add to your diet is ginger.
“Ginger is one root veggie people may not think too much about, but it’s definitely the #1 veggie to include in your diet when you are looking to debloat,” says Ehsani.
She notes that ginger has many medicinal properties than can both flatten your belly as well as soothe your gut from the inside out. Specifically, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that ease inflammation that can cause a larger belly. It also has enzymes that can help the body digest food more easily, helping to prevent that post-meal bloat.
“If you’re suffering from an upset stomach or nausea, ginger can help calm down your nausea as well,” says Ehsani. “It also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help reduce muscle pain or other types of inflammation in the body like arthritis. Ginger contains digestive enzymes that help your body break down proteins, so can help you better digest protein-rich foods.”
So next time you’re looking for a flatter belly, reach for some ginger.
Ehsani suggests that you can make a cup of ginger tea or add grated ginger to your next stir-fry.
Looking for more ideas? There are so many ways you can get more ginger into your diet for a flat belly.
“It’s so versatile! You can grate it and add it to soups, or add it as a spice when marinating chicken or fish,” says Ehsani. “You could add fresh or dried ginger to smoothies, smoothie bowls, or even your bowl of morning oats. You could add it to pretty much any sauce or marinade or dressing even.”
Read more: Ginger is best veggie for a flat belly, says Dietitian
What is the best food to reduce belly fat?
Body fat is not all bad. In fact, you need it to survive. According to the American Heart Association, body fat not only helps keep your body warm, it’s also essential for absorbing nutrients and producing important hormones. However, there is one type that is bad for your health: visceral fat.
“Visceral fat is a type of body fat stored within your abdominal cavity that wraps around your internal organs; your liver, stomach, and intestines,” says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It’s not the same as the stomach fat that you may see.”
Although visceral fat isn’t visible from the outside, it can impact your health by raising your blood pressure and increasing your risk for developing certain conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance, and even some cancers, says Ehsani.
One way to reduce visceral fat is to make some dietary adjustments, and you can start by adding one of the best, belly-fat-busting foods out there: plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. Read on to see why this food is so good at reducing harmful fat.
Why Greek yogurt can help reduce visceral fat?
“Research has suggested that foods rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin D may be linked to less visceral fat,” says Ehsani. “Therefore, plain, non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt is the number one food that people should be adding to their diet if they are looking to reduce visceral fat.”
One of the biggest benefits is its protein punch
“Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt typically contains 20-23 grams of protein per 1 cup serving,” says Ehsani. “Eating protein-rich foods can help reduce hunger as it promotes feelings of satiety. It also makes you less likely to overeat when you have protein present at meal and snack times.”
Protein takes a long time to digest and metabolize, thus helping you feel more full for longer. Research also finds that high protein intake is linked to a lower BMI, smaller waist circumference, and better HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Plus, yogurt contains live and active cultures known as probiotics which help support a healthy gut microbiome.
Choosing plain Greek yogurt is key since it won’t be loaded with sugar
“The flavored varieties tend to pack added sugar, which will not help reduce visceral fat,” says Ehsani. In fact, it may do the opposite. People who eat more added sugar tend to have more visceral fat, research suggests.
Ehsani says to choose non-fat or low-fat yogurt, as full-fat varieties contain saturated fat, and overeating saturated fat has been linked to promoting visceral fat; however, reducing your overall saturated fat intake (that includes foods like processed meats, cheese, and baked goods) is more important than making one choice to eat fat-free yogurt.
Read more: What is the best food to reduce belly fat?