Foods for a Flat Belly

Learn which everyday snack foods can help trim your waistline

flat belly foods

Photo by: CosmoGirl

It may seem healthiest to do without snacks and treats, but deprivation can lead to overindulging, adding pounds that age the body faster. One study found that women who put their favorite noshes on the forbidden list actually ate 1.4 ounces more. How does this manifest in potential diet damage? One ounce of potato chips contains about 160 calories, so eating 1.4 ounces hikes up your calorie intake to 224.

The take-away: Labeling foods as off-limits may backfire on your weight-loss efforts. It's key to find that happy medium: snacks and sweets that help deter excessive eating and even have some nutritious, anti-aging value of their own. Here are guidelines to help you nibble without a quibble:

Make smart switches
Feel like a snack? Reach for something plant-based. Every time you have a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain as a snack or dessert, you’re increasing your antioxidant intake as well as your disease-defending, age-thwarting power.

Shun the sweet stuff
Sugar and other refined carbohydrates increase the creation of AGEs (advanced glycation endproducts), which interfere with repair of collagen and elastin. But the age-accelerating effects of AGEs go even further, exposing cells in the body to more oxidative stress and inflammation. Research from Washington University in St. Louis also suggests that a diet overloaded with fat and sugar may cause cell death, setting the stage for diabetes and even heart failure. Moderation is your ticket to staying young and healthy.

Don't forget popcorn!
Popcorn is a whole grain, rich in fiber and antioxidants (if you make it yourself). But don’t consider this a widespread go-ahead: even a small bag of movie-theater popcorn can set you back 19 grams of saturated fat and 400 calories.

Best Bets: If you microwave your own 94-percent-fat-free butter-flavored popcorn, you’ll get all the whole-grain, high-fiber benefits of the snack—without the fat or extra calories. You can also cook popcorn on the stovetop with a hand-crank pot using surprisingly little oil—just a tablespoon per half-cup of kernels works well (get an additional payoff by using heart-healthy canola oil). For added flavor, try one of these mix-ins:

- 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Reach for the right chocolate
Research shows that due to its antioxidant content, a little dark chocolate (milk chocolate doesn’t have the same properties) keeps arteries functioning better, lowers bad LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, and helps improve blood flow to the skin and the brain. It can also lessen the odds of heart failure by 32%.