Want To Reduce Belly Fat? Load up on These 10 Green Foods
Dietitians share their picks—bring on the kiwis and avocados.
If you have a goal of wanting to lose weight in a healthy way—particularly when it comes to belly fat—your inclination may be to drastically cut down on how much you’re eating. But according to dietitians who specialize in weight loss, this would be a mistake. (Phew, right?) Not only would significantly cutting back on how much you eat lead to feeling pretty miserable, but it’s also simply not effective.
Registered dietitians Kelli Shallal, RD, MPH and Mandy Unanski Enright, MS, RDN, RYT, both say that it’s what you eat that matters, not necessarily how much. Enright advises people who want to lose weight to eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods and prioritize protein and fiber at every meal. “This dynamic duo will make you feel fuller and more satisfied at meals, so you’re less likely to overeat at mealtime. And both fiber and protein take longer to digest, so you’re less likely to eat more between meals or experience frequent snacking,” Enright says.
One easy way to up your intake of foods that are linked to weight loss and not weight gain is to go green. So many green foods are nutrient-packed and full of the fiber that Enright says is so important to prioritize. Need some recommendations? How about 10?
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10 Green Foods That Fight Belly Fat
1. Leafy greens
Whether you opt for kale, spinach, collard greens or romaine, incorporating leafy greens into your diet will help assist your weight loss goal. Both dietitians recommend them because they’re full of fiber and super versatile. “They can be sauteed, eaten as a salad, or used as a wrap in place of bread. This helps to increase the bulk of our meals and decrease calories helping support weight loss,” Shallal says.
Enright says that another reason why leafy greens help support a healthy weight loss goal is that they’re full of antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation. Reducing inflammation in the body can assist with reducing insulin resistance, a common cause of weight gain,” she says.
“I 100 percent believe that avocados are [one of] the healthiest foods that you can consume and that almost everyone should have half an avocado per day,” Shallal says. Enright also says that they’re a great food for weight loss because they’re full of fiber and monounsaturated fats. "A scientific study found a shift in abdominal obesity among women who consumed one fresh avocado per day,” she says. No need to sacrifice guac or avo toast to reach your weight loss goals!
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Shallal says that when a client tells her that they want to lose weight, the first goal she gives them is to eat two fistfuls of non-starchy veggies at least twice a day. “This increases nutrient intake and fiber intake, and lowers calories without you even thinking about it,” she says. Broccoli is one example of a non-starchy veggie that does just this. Roasting it with your favorite herbs to enjoy as a side dish, adding it to soup, and integrating it into a pasta dish are a few ways to up your intake.
4. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are another example of a non-starchy green vegetable that is linked to weight loss. Some delicious ways to cook them include popping them in an air fryer with your favorite herbs, pairing them with a honey dijon dressing, and roasting and combining them with wild brown rice.
Ever spot spiralized zucchini noodles in the produce section? Both dietitians say that using them in place of traditional pasta noodles is an easy way to up your fiber and nutrient intake while reducing calories. They don’t have to replace pasta completely either; both say that making a dish that's half zucchini noodles and half pasta noodles is a great way to go too.
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One cup of chopped celery only has 14 calories and it’s a good source of fiber. Think it tastes bland? Enright recommends pairing it with nut butter, hummus or bean dip for a balanced snack that will actually fill you up.
Fruit can 100 percent be part of a weight loss eating plan. “I usually recommend keeping it to one to two pieces a day when the goal is weight loss,” Shallal says. Kiwi is a great one to prioritize because it supports digestive health, immunity and metabolic health. “Something that makes kiwi unique is the seeds that you consume when you eat a whole kiwi. Those seeds found in kiwi contain an enzyme called actinidin which helps with protein digestion,” Enright says. She explains that both the actinidin from the seeds and fiber found in kiwi flesh and seeds have been found to prevent belly bloat while aiding in digestion.
If you have a sweet tooth, a handful of grapes can be a nutrient-rich way to satisfy your craving while still being low in calories. A half cup of green grapes is only 80 calories. Grapes are also low-glycemic, which means they won’t spike blood sugar levels the way that many other sweet foods can. Unlike a nutrient-void, sugar-filled snack, noshing on grapes won’t negatively impact your energy or mood.
As Enright shared, prioritizing protein and fiber is important when you want to lose weight in a healthy way. Edamame is one food that has both of these nutrients. A half-cup serving has 11 grams of protein, five grams of fiber and just 109 calories.
10. Cilantro, basil and other green herbs
Both dietitians say that people who cook with lots of flavorful herbs tend to use less salt, which is noteworthy because a diet high in sodium can promote weight gain. Shallal also points out that herbs are high in antioxidants, which help lower inflammation, therefore supporting a weight loss goal. Enright says that sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, parsley, cilantro, chives and basil are all great green herbs to incorporate into meals.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of green foods that help fight belly fat. But they shouldn’t be the only foods you eat. “Green is a beautiful color and is found in a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs. But [it’s important] to consume a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. All those colors are different antioxidants that provide a multitude of health benefits beyond just weight management. And I always must remind people that white is a color too when it comes to plants,” Enright says.
Eating a wide variety of foods high in fiber and protein can help support a weight loss goal. That can start with adding just one food on this list to your diet each week. Instead of cutting out foods, think about what you can add in. Besides the health benefits, it’s a way more enjoyable way to live.
Next up, find out what the best workout for weight loss is, according to personal trainers.
Kelli Shallal, RD, MPH, registered dietitian with a Masters of Public Health in Nutrition and personal trainer
Mandy Unanski Enright, MS, RDN, RYT, registered dietitian, nutritionist, fitness trainer and yoga teacher