10 Foods That Cause Muffin Top

There are countless diets, supplements, and exercise programs out there that all promise the same thing – to help you lose extra weight for good.

Many of these promises sound too good to be true, and that’s because they usually are.

Unfortunately, most quick fixes for getting in shape fast and effortlessly aren’t going to deliver long-term results.

The best way to approach weight loss goals (or to prevent weight gain) is through healthy lifestyle choices.

Certain foods may be especially problematic as far as providing extra calories, which may lead to weight gain in the form of fat. If you carry weight around your belly, you might develop what’s known as a “muffin top”. Some foods and drinks that can promote a muffin top include sugary drinks, sweetened cereal, fried food, flavored yogurt, and refined grains.

DISCLAIMER: While this information was prepared by a certified dietitian, it is NOT a medical advice. Please consult your own medical professional before altering your diet. The information is strictly for educational purposes.

How to Get Rid of a Muffin Top?

There are many factors that influence whether you have a muffin top. Your body type, genetics, health conditions, diet, and activity level will all play a role in where you accumulate fat.

You probably won’t get rid of your muffin top in a matter of weeks, but with consistent healthy lifestyle changes, you can work to make your muffin top shrink.

Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and avoiding certain foods can help you get rid of a muffin top.

A “muffin top detox” may include avoiding high-sugar foods for a couple of weeks, which you’ll soon learn are often culprits when it comes to getting a muffin top.

It can be helpful to cut back on your sugar intake and “detox” to allow your tastebuds to acclimate to less sugar, which can help you stay below the recommended amount of added sugar.

Foods to Avoid for a Muffin Top

You might get a muffin top if you tend to carry extra weight around your belly. You gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn.

In order to prevent or lose a muffin top, you’ll need to either eat fewer calories, exercise more, or a combination of both.

You can develop a muffin top slowly over time by regularly eating more calories than you burn.

You might develop a muffin top over a short period of time due to stress, medical issues, or decreased activity level from an injury.

If you want to avoid getting a muffin top or lose one you already have, you should avoid eating the following foods on a regular basis:

1.Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks like soda, sweetened coffee and tea, and fruit-flavored drinks are all packed with added sugar.

Sugary drinks break down into sugar in your bloodstream very quickly since the sugars are simple and liquids don’t take long to digest. 

Your blood sugar levels rise quickly after drinking sugary drinks, which stimulates your body to make insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that helps keep your blood sugar levels from getting too high.

Insulin is a fat-storage hormone, so having blood sugar and insulin spikes can lead your body to store more fat around your belly, resulting in a muffin top.

A diet high in simple sugars from sugary drinks (along with other factors) may increase your risk of insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance can lead to weight gain, including developing a muffin top.

Sugary drinks

2.Sweetened Cereal

The majority of cereals are sweetened with sugar and are low in fiber. Low-fiber foods don’t take long to digest and are broken down into sugar in your blood more quickly than high-fiber foods.

The sugar in cereal provides “empty calories”, which means you’re getting calories that don’t fill you up or give you beneficial vitamins or nutrients.

Some sweetened cereals can be just as high in sugar as some desserts. If you start your day by eating sugary cereal, it probably won’t make you feel full very long since it’s low in fiber and protein.

On the other hand, high-fiber and high-protein foods help make you feel full longer and may aid in weight loss.

The best way to spot added sugar in your foods and drinks is to look at the ingredients label since added sugar comes in many forms. Some of the aliases for added sugar are:

  1. Agave nectar  
  2. Barbados sugar  
  3. Barley malt 
  4. Beet sugar  
  5. Blackstrap molasses  
  6. Brown rice syrup  
  7. Brown sugar  
  8. Buttered syrup  
  9. Cane juice crystals  
  10. Cane sugar  
  11. Caramel  
  12. Carob syrup  
  13. Castor sugar  
  14. Confectioner’s sugar  
  15. Corn syrup 
  16. Corn syrup solids 
  17. Crystalline fructose  
  18. Date sugar  
  19. Demerara sugar  
  20. Dextran
  21. Dextrose 
  22. Diastatic malt 
  23. Diastase 
  24. Ethyl maltol 
  25. Evaporated cane juice  
  26. Florida crystals  
  27. Fructose  
  28. Fruit juice  
  29. Fruit juice concentrate  
  30. Galactose 
  31. Glucose 
  32. Glucose solids 
  33. Golden sugar  
  34. Golden syrup  
  35. Grape sugar  
  36. High-fructose corn syrup  
  37. Honey  
  38. Icing sugar  
  39. Invert sugar  
  40. Lactose 
  41. Malt syrup 
  42. Maltose
  43. Maple syrup  
  44. Molasses  
  45. Muscovado sugar  
  46. Organic raw sugar  
  47. Panocha  
  48. Raw sugar  
  49. Refiner’s syrup  
  50. Rice syrup 
  51. Sorghum syrup  
  52. Sucrose  
  53. Sugar  
  54. Treacle  
  55. Turbinado sugar  
  56. Yellow sugar 

3.Fried Foods

Fat provides the most calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein. Eating fried food adds extra calories to your diet which may promote a muffin top.

This is especially true with fried foods which are usually prepared in less-healthy oils like corn oil, and also depends on the type of food being fried.

Many fried foods are coated in breading which adds additional calories with little added nutritional benefit.

Fried foods

4.Flavored Yogurt

While plain, unsweetened yogurt can be healthy, sweetened yogurt is high in added sugar.

For example, one serving of standard vanilla yogurt contains 10 grams of added sugar, which is the equivalent of over three sugar cubes’ worth of sugar and almost a quarter of the recommended daily amount.

Short-term studies suggest that replacing sugars with low-calorie sweeteners (like Splenda, Stevia, etc.) or with complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc.) can aid in weight loss, which may help with fat loss around your belly.

Flavored yogurt

5.Refined Grains

Refined carbohydrates, or refined carbs, are those which have been stripped of some of their nutrients during processing and aren’t in their natural form. 

Refined grains are a type of refined carb. Grains naturally have three parts: the hard outer layer called the bran, which includes fiber and some minerals; the core called the germ which includes healthy fats as well as vitamins and minerals; and the endosperm, which is the middle layer containing mostly carbs and a small amount of protein.

When grains are refined, they are stripped of the bran and germ, leaving a low-fiber, lower-nutrient grain.

These grains are often enriched with the vitamins and minerals lost during the refining process, which is why many refined grains have the ingredient “enriched flour” as the main ingredient. 

Refined grains are low in fiber since the part of the grain highest in fiber is removed during processing. As a result, refined grains are higher in simple, low-fiber carbohydrates.

If you eat a lot of refined grains you might gain weight or a muffin top as your insulin levels increase and store more fat.

Refined grains

Examples of refined carbohydrates include:

  • White bread
  • Products made with white/enriched flour like white pasta
  • White rice
  • Pastries, muffins, etc.
Foods that Cause Muffin Top
Sugary drinks
Fried food
Sweetened cereal
Flavored yogurt
Refined grains

Exercises to Help You Prevent Getting or Lose a Muffin Top

Contrary to previous belief, doing crunches or other abdominal exercises won’t magically shrink your muffin top by burning the fat in that area.

Burning more calories than you eat can help with weight loss and losing your muffin top.

To prevent a muffin top, try to find a type of activity that you enjoy and is sustainable. If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, then don’t join a gym since you probably won’t go often enough for it to be beneficial.


Walking is a low-impact exercise that you can do almost anywhere and doesn’t require any special subscriptions or memberships.

Brisk walking helps break up hours of sitting while driving or working and helps you burn calories.

Try going for a walk during your lunch break, after dinner, or any time you can fit it into your schedule. 


2.High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training (HIIT training) is popular for maximizing efficiency during workouts.

HIIT training is a type of cardio exercise alternating higher intensity movements with periods of lower intensity movements to help you recover.

High-intensity exercise causes your heart rate to go up more than moderate-intensity exercise, which can mean more calorie and fat burning.

One of the benefits of HIIT training is that you can get a short but efficient workout while building your aerobic fitness.

An example of HIIT training is sprinting for 30 seconds and then jogging for a minute and repeating that cycle for 15 minutes.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

3.Strength Training

Weight lifting and resistance training increases your metabolism, which means your body burns more calories at rest. Burning more calories = fat loss = losing your muffin top.

You don’t have to have access to a gym to build muscle. Bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, pushups, and tricep dips can all help to build muscle.

Resistance bands are another tool you can utilize at home to help with strength training, as well as a set of lighter dumbbells (five to ten pounds each).

Strength training

Other Natural Ways to Lose Your Muffin Top

1.Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation can make you more resistant to insulin, which means your body will pump out even more insulin.

Remember, insulin is a fat-storage hormone, so more insulin can mean more energy being stored as fat.

2.Manage Your Stress

High stress levels can make it difficult to stick with your healthy lifestyle goals. Stress can also make you crave comfort foods that are high in sugar and fat, which may lead to weight gain.

3.Get Screened for Underlying Health Issues

Undiagnosed insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can lead to unwanted weight gain.

If you’re concerned that you might have a health issue, a simple blood test is all it takes to get a diagnosis.

Hormonal imbalances can lead to weight gain (including menopause and PCOS). If you’re noticing weight gain in addition to irregular menstrual cycles, it’s a good idea to have some hormone tests run.

Certain hormone imbalances can make you more insulin resistant, while imbalances of estrogen cause your body to store more fat.

What is a “Muffin Top”?

The term “muffin top” is used to describe fat around your abdomen that comes up over the waistband of your undergarments or pants, similar to how the top of a muffin protrudes over the edges of the bottom.

While you might be concerned about a muffin top for aesthetic reasons, there may be some health concerns with a muffin top.

The fat around your belly may be indicative of having visceral fat. Visceral fat can’t be seen since it’s internal, but it’s more harmful to your health since it surrounds vital organs like your heart and lungs. 

If you carry weight around your belly, you may be more likely to have visceral fat as well.

One estimation of the risk of having visceral fat is having a waist circumference of greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men.

It’s still possible to have visceral fat even if you don’t have a lot of subcutaneous (under the skin) fat around your belly.

Having visceral fat increases your risk of certain health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.

One way to determine if you’re at a higher risk of having visceral fat is to determine your body type, especially for women.

An “apple” shape means you carry your weight around your belly and might have a muffin top and be at a greater risk of having visceral fat.

If you have a “pear” shape you carry more of your weight in your bottom half and may not be as high risk for having visceral fat.

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