February 26


Diet and nutrition tips to lose the belly

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I think it's safe to assume most people want a flat stomach. Below I've shared some of the best nutrition strategies and tips to lose the belly. No fads, no gimmicks, no crazy diets. Just good advice.


The energy of a particular food essentially is how much energy a food contains per gram. In nutrition terms, fat, for example, contains 37kJ of energy for each gram. Likewise, carbohydrates and protein contain 17kJ of energy per gram, while alcohol contains 29kJ per gram. The energy density of a food is dependant on several factors; how much fat, water, fibre and/or carbohydrate/protein a food contains. Using these properties, combined with new information on protein and satiety, low-fat dairy calcium and long-chain omega-3 fats, let's see how you can develop a sound understanding of a diet plan to keep that belly flat. Of course, I will assume that you are exercising, or at least 'moving' every day.

Doing hundreds of sit-ups at the gym and still struggling to shrink that waistline?

Nutrition Tip: choose foods that are high in water to help you lose the belly

Nutrition Tip: choose foods that are high in water to help you lose the belly

Fruit and vegetables are a must for your diet plan if you want a flat stomach

There is a very strong relationship with water and energy density and hence water-containing foods and weight loss. This important relationship means that the more water-containing foods that you consume the fewer calories you will consume. This is demonstrated when evaluating 100 grams of broccoli. Like broccoli, almost all fruit and vegetables contain about 90% of their weight as water. Water-containing foods have a greater tendency to fill you up, as opposed to foods that contain little water such as cheese and chocolate.

Water and energy

So what's the relationship between water and energy? In a 1998 study, researchers looked at how consuming a larger volume of water into a day's eating affects the amount of energy a person consumed.

In this remarkable study, men were given one of three choices of a milk-based drink at approximately 30 minutes before lunch. The volume of the milk-based drinks was manipulated to contain either 300mIs of liquid, 450mls of liquid or 600mLs of liquid. The men who drank these drinks were compared to men who didn't.

These studies showed that after a 600mls drink before lunch, the amount of food a person eats can be cut by 17.6%, which may demonstrate the importance of consuming water/liquid/soup based foods before lunch to reduce the energy density of our food. This is turn reduces the total amount of energy consumed, and you only have to consume 50kJ extra each day to gain 2kg in a year.

"Like broccoli almost all fruit and vegetables contain about 90% of their weight as water"

Pressure sensors in the stomach signal that you're full

Pressure sensors in the stomach signal that you're full

One reason for this decreased energy intake has to do with baroreceptors found in our stomach. These pressure sensors are touched, or stimulated by the water that soup may contain, or by the water content from a fruit salad and trigger a signal to the brain to stop eating. Other data show that when the majority of foods consumed during the day contain more water, even if this means water added to actual meals, the amount of energy eaten is significantly reduced, sometimes by as much as 40%.

When it comes to achieving that flat belly, it may be as simple as starting your main meal with a small bowl of healthy soup, some vegetables or a salad. The water-based nature of all three entrees should help with the feeling of satiety, and promote meal satisfaction without the calories.

Top 10 water-containing meals to include in your flat stomach diet plan

  • Vegetable lasagna
  • Vegetable risotto
  • Pasta with legumes such as cannelloni beans
  • Pasta with vegetables such as asparagus, zucchini
  • Couscous with vegetables
  • Vegetable soup or any water-based soup
  • Rice noodles/rice noodle soups
  • Mixed bean salad (red kidney beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, green beans)
  • Fruit platter
  • Salad sandwich (tomato. Lettuce, cucumber, carrot, wholemeal bread)

More on this topic

Easy food swaps to improve your diet

Nutrition Tip: more fibre in your diet can help you lose the belly

The role of fibre is essential to our health and has an interesting role to play in weight loss. Foods that contain fibre are filling.

This means that after a meal that contains large amounts of fibre you are less likely to feel hungry in the two hours after eating. Why is this the case?

Fibre-containing foods add bulk and weight to the diet and have been shown to have significant positive effects on weight loss when replacing fat. These foods release energy slowly into the bloodstream giving the human body longer-lasting, more sustained energy release than non-fibre containing foods.

Foods containing fibre interfere with the mixing of foods and digestive enzymes in the intestine in a positive way.

Fibrous foods slow fat and carbohydrate absorption into the bloodstream.

The longer fat can stay in the intestine; scientific studies show the less likely you are to continually eat. Of course, I'm not saying to eat a 250-gram block of chocolate followed by a bag of extra high fibre prunes, but when fat intake is moderated, the addition of fibre can help with that feeling of satisfaction after a meal without a person having eaten large amounts of food. A great example would be 1/3 of an avocado eaten as part of a healthy salad.

The healthy fibre in the salad delays the fat from entering the bloodstream leaving you a little fuller than if you were to eat the avocado on its own.

High fibre foods to include in your flat stomach diet plan

High fibre foods to include in your flat stomach diet plan

High fibre foods are also generally low in fat (they virtually contain 0 grams of fat), low in energy and also these foods are high in water content. Broccoli contains 4.1 grams of fibre for every 100 grams and this is considered to be a very significant amount of fibre.

While the physiological benefits of fibre have been mentioned, the psychological need also to be looked at.

Eating fibrous foods such as an abundance of fruit, vegetables, moderate amounts of rice, oats, legumes and small amounts of nuts and seeds gives us a feeling of health and well-being.

Once again if we were to look for a consistent pattern in helping us achieve a flatter belly, it would be to choose foods that contain large amounts of water as well as large amounts of fibre.



Fibre (g)



Fibre (g)

White bread1 slice1.0Banana1 medium3.0
Wholemeal bread1  slice2.0Paw Paw1 cup3.5
Rolled oats1 cup3.5Dates43.0
Muesli1/2 cup3.5Almonds1/4 cup3.8
White rice1/2 cup0.5Peanuts1/2 cup6.5
Brown rice1/2 cup1.5Meat 0
Pasta1/2 cup1.5Chicken 0
Pasta Wholemeal1/2 cup6.0Fish 0
Green peas1/2 cup5.5Lentils1 cup6.1
Sweet cornSmall cob4Cheese 0
Broccoli1 medium stalk3.0Lollies 0
Spinach1/2 cup3.0Cream cakes 0
Pear1 medium4.5   

How to control hunger signals to help you lose belly fat and structure your flat stomach diet plan

Feeling full with fat?

Satiation is the process that takes place between the brain and intestine to signal the end of a meal. It's a word used to describe the term "I've had sufficient food". The actual feeling of fullness is called satiety. These two words satiation and satiety are important because the signalling to the brain for us to stop eating is triggered by certain foods, and delayed by other foods. We need to fully appreciate what these foods are as these foods could be considered 'Flat Belly foods".

Many pharmaceutical drugs are being developed focusing on this part of our appetite. These drugs try to get the brain to trigger the process of "fullness" or satiation after consuming very little food. Let's see how we can achieve this with food.

Foods containing water promote satiation by the stimulation of the baroreceptors in the stomach communicating with the brain as we have mentioned. The fat that we eat in our diet, affects the process of satiation also but in a very different way to water, and recent research suggests that it delays it.

Fat's effect on satiety signals to the brain

When consuming a fatty meal, the signal that goes to the brain to say "I'm full" is put on hold. This is clearly shown by comparing the fat in cheese to a cooked potato (with no added oil, butter, or sour cream). The potato (the high water and fibre content, low in fat) would be much more filling than say cheese (low in water, low in fibre, and high ion fat). The potato sets off a trigger to the brain to stop us from eating more food, but not so after the same amount of cheese. This causes a huge practical problem in our quest for short and long term weight loss.

Firstly after the potato (100grams) you would finish eating and have eaten 350 kJ of energy, and 0 grams of fat. After the 100 grams of cheese, the brain still has not recognized that you've eaten enough so you are more inclined to have another 100 grams for example, before feeling you've had enough. This comparatively results in 200 grams of cheese, 65 grams of fat and a whopping 3100 kJ of energy.

Keep in mind that an average man eats 11500kJ and woman 8000kJ daily. In a single sitting, it is possible to consume 10-times as much energy eating foods contain fat, compared to carbohydrate or protein. Ask yourself why it is that you can eat large amounts of fast food, restaurant food, ice-cream, chocolate, cheese, bacon, and fatty foods?

You need to eat more before the body says enough is enough. Anyone searching for a solution for a flatter belly is certainly not going to lose weight-consuming foods in this category.

To lose belly fat, a nutrition tip is to avoid junk foods and energy-dense snacks

High Energy-dense/ Fatty Foods to eat in strict moderation

  • Sausages
  • Full fat dips
  • Salami
  • Fatty chops/meat
  • Chicken with skin on
  • Fast food (all kinds)
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Pastries
  • More than a handful of nuts at any one time
  • Alcohol
  • Peanut butter
  • Chocolate
  • Chips
  • Fries

Nutrition Tip: eat more protein-based foods to help lose the belly

Nutrition Tip: eat more protein-based foods to help lose the belly

There has been an enormous interest in protein and perhaps with some justification. Dietary protein can help us feel fuller as protein is highly satiating. Some research also shows that a diet containing 25% energy from protein can help to preserve lean muscle, and hence help burn more fat.

In Western society we already consume considerable amounts of protein, so you should be careful in eating more of anything.

While much of the attention has been shone on meat, a nice way of obtaining adequate protein, to help with our flat belly challenge, and help protect our heart is to eat fish, especially fish with long-chain omega-3 fats. The chart below evaluates the energy content of 100 grams of different types of fish. Most fish contain approximately 500kJ per 100 grams and 20-25 grams of protein.

The chart also shows the differences between grilled flounder (452kJ), and battered deep-fried flounder (88610, which clearly show an energy difference of 434kJ: enough to contribute to your waistline.

Grilled portions of fish are an ideal contribution to a healthy diet and maintain a flatter belly. The fat from fish is very healthy and should be eaten. This fat is used wisely by the body firstly to reduce the sticky plaques sticking to the blood vessels, and reduce blood pressure.

Including vegetable proteins in your diet plan can help you achieve a flat stomach


The second important aspect of protein and one that rarely gets a mention is vegetable protein. Obtaining vegetable protein as part of your diet can help you obtain protein, fibre, minerals, and antioxidants.

The final point about protein is that we need protein because of the essential amino acids protein contains. Animal muscle is very similar to our amino acid needs and hence a small piece of meat would contain all the essential amino acids we need.

Plant material, however, has only a few of the essential amino acids that we need. This means then that to get all the essential amino acids that our diets require, we need to combine plant proteins. This is one of the only times food combining will work. It seems like a challenge for the vegetarian but let's try and make it easy. Cereals, for example, are deficient in the amino acid lysine, yet lysine is abundant in legumes. Combining cereals and legumes provides a complete protein. Legumes are deficient in tryptophan and methionine, so combining them with grains, (for example beans and corn), also yields a complete protein.


Milk or milk products or egg with any plant protein, that is with cereals, seeds, legumes, and nuts.

Examples would be

  • a cheese sandwich, (Kraft free)
  • macaroni & cheese,
  • fried rice with egg,
  • breakfast cereal with milk or yoghurt,
  • bean and cheese tortilla, (very low fat cheese)
  • rice pudding,
  • pasta with ricotta cheese sauce,
  • pancakes with yoghurt.

Cereals with seeds

Examples would be

  • Rice with pumpkin seeds
  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds with corn or oats or rice or wheat,
  • Rice and bean casserole,
  • Com tortilla with refried beans,
  • Vegetable burgers,
  • Baked beans on toast,
  • Mixed bean salad with corn kernels
  • Split pea soup with rye bread,
  • Pasta with vegetable and kidney bean sauce,
  • Hummus

List of flat stomach foods to include in your diet plan

Flat Stomach Foods for your diet plan:

  • Fruit (high in fibre and water)
  • Vegetables (baked, no doused in sour cream, butter, or cheese) (high in fibre and water)
  • Legumes (all kinds-high in fibre and water)
  • Vegetable soup (high in fibre and water)
  • Fruit salad (high in fibre and water)
  • Lean meats (promote the feeling of fullness
  • Fish (the fattier the fish the better)
  • Vegetables or salad (large) & lean meat or fish

Flat stomach foods are designed to give you a nutrient-rich, energy sufficient diet that contains the same weight of food that you would usually eat. This means you eat the same mass of food, yet the energy is reduced by as much as 40%. For someone usually overeating at 12,500kJ/day (2990 calories/day) a 40% reduction can now result in 7500kJ/day (1786 calories/day). This saving of 5000kJ (1190 calories) equivalent of 29,761 walking steps.

A bowl of soup or a large salad before your meal can reduce a king's dinner 7600 kJ (1809kJ) to a more reasonable 4560kJ - a saving of 3000 extra kJ (714 calories) or, said another way, a saving of 18,000 steps. Keep these tips in mind, remember it's the subtle changes that you make each d that can flatten your belly.

FOOD (100 g)






TUNA (CANNED, BRINE)722.224.6518
PINK SALMON70.36.521.9615
SMOKED SALMON68.14.632561
RED SALMON66.51222815


  • Oats/honey/milk with coffee
  • Banana smoothie with two bananas/honey/low-fat yoghurt/bran
  • 2 high fibre muffins with strawb jam & a light scraping of margarine
  • high fibre cereals/milk/soy with
  • 2 chopped bananas with a gentle helping of bran and low-fat yoghurt
  • Weet-Bix & low-fat milk with one chopped banana
  • Always have a glass or two of orange juice


  • Tuna & salad roll with plenty of spinach leaves, & two pieces of & a fruit juice
  • Mountain bread with salad & filling & two pieces of fruit
  • Tuna salad or salmon salad with oranges and some bread
  • Tabouli salad & two pieces of fruit
  • Small wholemeal rice/pasta with a large side salad


  • Grilled fish with potatoes, pump broccoli and tomatoes
  • Lean beef/lamb with the same assortment of vegetables
  • Wholemeal pasta/rice with green salad/vegetables
  • Rice dish with curried vegetables
  • Spicy Indian legumes with rice
  • Important to eat legumes 2-3 times per week


  • Muesli bars
  • Bananas
  • Cereals
  • Rice puddings
  • Sorbets
  • Low-fat frozen yoghurt
  • High fibre cakes
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Mangoes
  • Fruit salads.

About the author

Paul Stokes

Paul Stokes BSc (Hons) is a Certified Personal Trainer, Accredited Sports Nutritionist, qualified Exercise to Music Instructor, Precision Nutrition coach, Massage Therapist and teaches 8 of the Les Mills Group Exercise programs.

He currently works in the Oil & Gas industry as a Wellness Coach, imparting his vast knowledge and experience to improve the quality of life of several hundred offshore workers.

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