5 Eating Strategies for a Flat Belly
With the Summer in its final weeks, our offices are busy with clients desperate for strategies to slim down and get their tummies looking beach body flat and toned. This is such a popular request that I decided to offer up my top five strategies for a flat belly year round.
Keep in mind this list is just a general starting point for healthy eating and should not be used in place of seeing your doctor or consulting a registered dietitian. Here’s to an amazing year of feeling and looking your best!
Strategy #1: Eat on Time!
Bloating is the number one complaint and often accompanied by gas, abdominal pain and acid indigestion. Being busy and on the run causes many people to skip meals – so does :”dieting” and intentionally skipping meals. Your body is a 24/7 machine in need of fuel to run smoothly throughout the day. When we skip meals, air builds up in the system.
Talking, drinking and eating fast contribute to gas build up. Going longer than four hours without eating is the top cause. All leading to the build-up of gases in the upper digestive system. Pain under the rib cage or chest and side stiches are often associated with gas too -it’s got to go somewhere.
Ever feel like your stomach is bloated up and you have only eaten a few bites of food? It’s likely that you have gone too long without eating. This is a common complaint by many clients and easily resolved by eating moderate sized meals each 3 ½ hours. Many learn through experience that this gas pain resolves within ten minutes after eating.
Clients often express emotional dissatisfaction with this sensation as they would like to eat and enjoy more but are stifled with physical discomfort. Try to keep calm as more stress will not help the situation. Indeed, within a few minutes, the fullness in your midsection resolves as the gas moves up or down and you can eat normally. All of these sensations are unpleasant, stressful and tiring physically and mentally.
Try these quick meals suggestions if you need a quick option:
- Slice of grain bread with almond or peanut butter and small banana
- Hard boiled egg, slice of grain bread and an orange
- Turkey sandwich, lettuce, tomato, avocado and small apple
- Hummus with grain crackers and baby carrots
Strategy #2: Do not substitute drinks for food.
Diet sodas, coffee, teas, energy drinks and calorie free beverages and waters are not suitable replacements for food. In fact they can increase acidity, gas and abdominal comfort. Coffee and energy drinks are some of the worst offenders as they can stimulate heart rate and irregular breathing. Alcohol is a direct irritant to the esophagus and stomach lining. Beer is a major bloater. Surprised?
Digestive juices are responsible for breaking down food so it may be absorbed by the body. The digestive system is a hard wired part of the body which goes into action to meet your need to keep a steady supply of energy available. You will have double trouble by replacing meals with these beverages.
If you prefer to drink your meals consider these options:
- Almond, soy, goat or plain yogurts blended with berries.
- Freshly made juices with 75% vegetables and 25 % fruits.
- Nut milk beverages such as hemp milk
- Pureed vegetables and/or bean made into a soup
Strategy #3: Avoid lactose containing “diet” candies and beverages and reduce cheese and dairy intake.
The sugar in milk is called lactose. Many people complain about sensitivity to milk products. Indeed, for most of us digestion of milk and cheese creates some gas and bloating. If you have trouble digesting lactose, the sugar in milk you will have problems. . Eliminating them from your diet will make digestion smoother and thus your belly flatter.
It is important to keep in mind that should you do this it is important to balance your food choices to insure meeting nutrient requirements. Choose less processed yogurts such as the greek style ones which provide natural probiotics to support gut function. Avoid products which add lots of probiotics as they should be found naturally in the food and not processed into foods which inherently cause problems.
Diet candies and beverages which contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol and malitol can cause similar effect. I often hear stories of clients eating a roll of diet candy or consuming diet iced tea all day and having digestive pains and bowel irregularity.
Strategy 4: Drink water throughout the day as a beverage and by eating fresh produce.
Water is imperative for flat a flat belly. Keeping the digestive system clear is best supported by drinking water and taking fruits and vegetables which naturally hydrate the body. As well, proper hydration allows the body to process out waste in urine, thus supporting natural cleansing. Summer months often bring on urinary tract infections – tight fitting pants less the underpants and fabrics which do not breathe can foster these problems. Dehydration makes this worse. Choose room temperature water if you generally have a tender tummy.
Make you water more interesting:
- Add a slice of lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit
- Add a slice of cucumber
- Make herbal iced-tea such as ginger, mint or chamomile
- Add iced cubes made from 100% juice to water
Strategy 5: Cut the fried foods, fatty meats and sauces.
Meats and fatty foods are just not great belly choices. Harder to digest and heavy on the liver to process, these items are all around bad news. Late hour eating, having meals on the run and poor planning are common reason for making poor food choices. Fried options, hot dogs, cheesy pizza – all bad news as the slow digestion and create more stool. If you choose meat, go with leaner options such as turkey, chicken cutlets, lamb chop or filet mignon. Choose foods which are steamed or baked with natural juices. Consider fish, shrimp or seafoods.
Try these on the go options:
- Poached eggs on toast with melon
- Steamed clams or mussels in white wine or red sauce with sliced tomato and cucumber
- Vegetables soup with grain crackers
- Poached salmon with steamed asparagus
- Steamed chicken with string beans and zucchini
Now you have the basics to go for that flat belly!
Authors Note: As a dietitian in practice for many years, I can tell you that you are not the only one asking for a flat belly and not finding it. Behind the doors of the dietitians office there is a lot of talk about tummies. I recommend bringing your questions to your doctor as well as to a dietitian. If you suffer from any sudden changes in your digestion, have pain or persistent concern about your lack of well being make an appointment with your physician as this could be concern for a more serious medical condition.