Hannah Ebelthite is a freelance health, fitness and wellbeing writer. With nearly two decades experience in journalism, she has held staff posts on Cosmopolitan, Zest and Healthy magazines, and writes for a wide range of...

Easy food swaps to help you trim your waistline

If you’re worried about your waist circumference, take heart from this: when you cut back on calories to lose weight, your body usually burns visceral fat first. Add exercise to the mix and this also encourages the loss of visceral fat (the type that’s stored within the abdominal cavity around the internal organs), even if the scales don’t register a big weight loss.

Don’t ditch the dairy!

Numerous studies show adults who consume low-fat dairy products as part of a lower-calorie diet tend to lose more weight  (especially from around their waist) than those who skip dairy altogether. It’s calcium that appears to work the magic, and this mineral seems to be far more effective at blasting fat when it’s absorbed from dairy foods than when taken in supplement form.

SWAP semi-skimmed milk
FOR 1% fat or skimmed milk

SWAP full-fat Greek yogurt
FOR fat-free or 2% fat Greek yogurt

SWAP cheddar
FOR reduced-fat cheese, cottage cheese or quark

SWAP ice cream
FOR frozen low-fat yogurt

Eat fat to lose fat

We’re not talking about the fat in cakes, chips and crisps, of course. It’s the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats found in olives and olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, which help to lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol, and research suggests this type of fat may help to banish belly fat. Lean red meat and plain chocolate are also a good source of monounsaturates, although these foods are still high in calories, so enjoy them in small amounts.

SWAP butter
FOR peanut butter

SWAP sunflower oil
FOR rapeseed or olive oil

SWAP crisps
FOR a few unsalted nuts

SWAP mayonnaise
FOR olive-oil-based dressings

SWAP tortilla chips
FOR olives

Go with the wholegrain

Swapping white processed carbs for wholegrains, such as wholewheat pasta, wholegrain cereals and breads, brown rice and oats, may help you lose fat, too. In one large study, women who ate the most wholegrains each day – at least three servings – had waist measurements that were, on average, 3.3cm lower than those who ate none. One serving is equal to one slice of wholemeal bread, three to four crispbreads or 3tbsp wholegrain cereal.

SWAP cornflakes
FOR Shredded Wheat, Shreddies or Weetabix

SWAP white bread
FOR multigrain, rye or wholemeal bread

SWAP croissants
FOR wholemeal scones

SWAP white rice
FOR brown basmati rice

SWAP white risotto rice
FOR pearled spelt

SWAP biscuits
FOR oatcakes

Fish for your supper

Health experts recommend we eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be an oil-rich variety, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and fresh tuna. And, although more studies are needed, some research suggests the omega-3 fats found in oil-rich fish may help us lose weight, particularly from our waist area. In one small Australian study, for example, adults who had the highest levels of omega-3 fat intakes in their blood had smaller waists.

SWAP cheese on toast
FOR sardines on wholegrain toast

SWAP chicken caesar salad
FOR salade niçoise with fresh tuna

SWAP rump steak
FOR salmon steak

SWAP pork chops
FOR trout fillets

*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.