If you're trying to lose belly fat, you're probably paying more attention to your diet, working to get more exercise, and cutting down on sugar. But one of the things that can hinder your progress most is skipping breakfast. "They don't call it break-fast for nothing; you are really breaking a fast," Libby Mills, MS, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told POPSUGAR. "When we go too long without food, our bodies perceive the prolonged lack of food stressfully. This can stimulate the release of cortisol, causing an elevation in blood sugar and the release of insulin. With sugar getting into the cells quickly, the result is fat specifically around the belly."
Of course, you can't eat just anything for breakfast and expect to lose belly fat. "Avoid processed grains and sugar," Libby said. "Simple carbs like cereal only have a gram or two of fiber," which will undoubtedly leave you feeling unsatisfied, while also supplying your body with sugars it will then store as fat. Instead, try adding one of her top picks to your plate.
"Beans are the perfect package of fiber and protein with carbohydrate, and their versatility make them a great choice," Libby explained. Mix them into a hash or omelette, or blend them into a smoothie or hummus spread, served on whole-grain toast. "One half cup of beans delivers seven grams of protein and five grams of fiber," she said.
Libby is also a fan of nuts because they're great sources of protein and fiber. In a recent study, people who ate an extra half serving of nuts each day gained less weight over four years.
"Greens, specifically spinach, have 28 grams of vitamin C, which can reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure and cortisol. Spinach is a good source of magnesium, which can also help regulate cortisol," Libby said. "The fiber in greens are prebiotics, meaning they support the good bacteria in our guts. Too much bad bacteria can lead to health issues that can include weight gain."
You may not consider greens a breakfast food, but Libby suggests adding some lettuce or arugula to a breakfast wrap, kale to an egg muffin, or spinach and garlic pesto to a savory grain bowl.