Pop quiz! What's the worst thing about belly fat? Is it:
A) The top button that popped off your pants at lunch,
B) The well-meaning stranger who asked you if it was a boy or girl, or
C) The beautiful dress at the back of your closet that just. Won't. Zip.
Those three options are unpleasant, but they're nothing compared to D) Higher risk of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes, stroke or heart disease, according to Mayo Clinic.
There are two types of belly fat: subcutaneous — the pinchable top layer that's responsible for options A through C — and visceral, which is the deeper and more dangerous fat that hugs your organs. Although you can't target and burn fat in isolated areas of the body (a myth called spot reduction), you can make some simple diet swaps to boost your body's ability to lose fat in a healthy way.
"If your diet is rich in foods that trigger inflammation, like processed foods and saturated fat, you'll carry more weight around your middle. You may find even if you're cutting calories and the number on the scale goes down, your waistline may not shrink much," says Erin Palinksi-Wade, RD, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies.
Here are four simple food swaps that can help get you on the road to a flatter middle.