6 Foods to Avoid Before a Beach Trip & 4 You Shouldn’t

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
Image of woman body against oceanic background

Even if you’re not aiming to squeeze into a bikini this summer, you at least don’t want to look like you’re five months pregnant in your new one-piece. Believe it or not, what you eat before hitting the beach can have a huge impact on your belly, both temporarily and permanently.

Check out our list of top foods to avoid before a beach trip, and then read on for some that will help you look slimmer this summer.

1. Refined bread or pasta

If you’re eating refined grains—those with the fibrous outer hull removed—you might as well just apply them directly to your belly fat. Because, say researchers at Tufts University, that’s there they go. Tufts nutrition scientists have been following the eating habits of a group of healthy middle-aged people for years. They found that people who ate a lot of white bread experienced a half-inch increase in belt size every year for three years. Another study, this one at Children’s Hospital in Boston, found that people who eat less fiber tend to be more “round.” Bottom line: Stick to whole grains that won’t “go to waist.”

Your “roundness” may also be temporary bloat, which can also be caused by refined grains. Some people are sensitive to gluten or other difficult-to-digest carbohydrates in wheat products which can produce bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue and emotional symptoms, much like celiac disease but without the intestinal damage, says the Celiac Disease Foundation.

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2. Diet soda

So, you’re asking yourself, how does something with zero calories make me fat? First, all those little gas bubbles turn into bloat and gas inside you so your belly swells up as though you were pregnant.

That’s temporary, but there’s also an established link between drinking diet soda and waistline size. Research at the University of Texas found that even people who drank diet sodas only occasionally experienced an eighth-inch expansion of waist size every year over the nine years of the study. It was three inches a year for those who had diet soda every day.

One reason for this, according to animal studies, is that artificial sweeteners don’t quite fool the body into thinking it got a hit of sweetness, so it boosts the appetite for something that’s really sweet. They may also mess with your metabolism, so instead of shifting into fat-burning mode, it flicks the switch for fat-storing, most of it in the abdominal area.

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3. Bean burrito

Or anything in the legume (bean) or fibrous veggie families. Beans contain resistant starch, a non-digestible fiber, that can lead to gas buildup in your abdomen. While beans are actually good for you under normal circumstances, you may want to avoid them before heading to the beach. Likewise, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts contain an indigestible carb that passes through your lower intestine in the undigested state where it creates gas and bloating. Don’t give them up entirely. Eating cruciferous veggies contribute a number of cancer-fighting phytochemicals to your diet and they’re high in vitamin A and antioxidants.

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4. Salted popcorn, nuts or anything

Sodium-laden foods will help you take on more water than the Titanic. It’s just temporary, but it doesn’t look good in a bathing suit. Cut salt to cut fat.

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5. Artificially sweetened gum or candy

Check the nutrition label on your favorites for sorbitol, maltitol and other fake sugars. They’re not digested fully in the gut so they can lead to bloating, gas pains and even diarrhea, says the Mayo Clinic.

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6. Dairy

This only applies if you’re lactose-intolerant, meaning your body isn’t able to digest the milk sugar known as lactose. People with this condition, which is common among Asians and African-Americans, can develop digestive problems including gas and bloating after drinking milk or eating some milk products.

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So what can you eat before a beach trip? Here are four healthy foods and beverages you may want to pack in your cooler for your trip:

First, water. Plain old water. It helps flush other fluid from your system.

Potassium-rich foods such as bananas, citrus fruits, melons and asparagus, can help you balance out any sodium in your diet that’s causing water retention so it’s swept away faster.

A cup of coffee—not the sugar-based coffee house concoctions that are bigger than your head—can help stimulate your colon to release pretty much whatever’s in there.

And yogurt or any fermented dairy product that contains active bacterial cultures known as probiotics. A British study, done at the University Hospital of South Manchester, found that eating probiotic yogurt reduced belly bloat by 78 percent in people with irritable bowel syndrome, a condition that causes other digestive symptoms. It may also be helpful for people with lactose intolerance because the lactic acid in yogurt helps break down bloat-producing lactose, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.