What you put on your plate can help determine how easily you lose belly fat.

If your quest for washboard abs has you crunching like crazy, listen up: "There's no single exercise move-or magic pill, for that matter-that instantly zaps belly fat," says Sari Greaves, R.D., a New York City nutritionist. "You have to lose overall body fat to trim your midsection."

And, guess what? Scientists at Boston University found that women who followed a low fat diet rich in fiber and other nutrients were three times less likely to pack on weight around the middle than those who ate less-healthy fare but 400 fewer calories. Here, we show you which flab-fighting foods to add to your shopping list and your healthy eating plan -and which to blacklist to help you lose belly fat.

Eating a low fat diet with more healthy fruit, healthy whole grains -- and including wine with food – can help shed pounds and belly fat.

  • Healthy eating tip # 1: Melons: At fewer than 50 calories a slice, this healthy fruit is one sweet treat you can feel free to indulge in. "Both honeydew and cantaloupe are healthy fruit choices high in potassium," says Greaves. "This mineral keeps sodium levels in check and beats belly bloat."
  • Healthy eating tip # 2: Wine: A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that people who averaged a serving of alcohol a day had slimmer waistlines than their tee-totaling counterparts. "Drinking a small amount of alcohol with a meal may speed up calorie burn," says Jerry Greenfield, M.D., Ph.D., the study's author.
  • Healthy eating tip # 3: Whole-grain bread: Researchers at Penn State found that dieters who ate at least five servings of healthy whole grains while following a low calorie diet shed 24 percent more abdominal fat than those who averaged the same number of calories but ate refined grains. To up your intake of healthy whole grains, swap your cornflakes for oatmeal.

[header = Healthy eating: find even more low fat diet strategies to lose belly fat.]

From healthy fruit and nuts to tips on sugar substitutes, salty soups and more, these low fat diet tips will help you lose belly fat – fast.

  • Healthy eating tip # 1: Grapefruit: Add zing to your low fat diet with this vitamin C–rich healthy fruit. Research in Public Health Nutrition found that people who consumed the least amount of this nutrient were 131 percent more likely to have larger waists than those who got the most. Other studies suggest that grapefruit can curb the insulin spikes that lead to fat storage.
  • Healthy eating tip # 2: Walnuts: Increase omega 3 benefits with walnuts. Research shows that their omega 3 fatty acids lower levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, that can contribute to fat storage. To get more omega 3 benefits, sprinkle some ground flaxseed on your yogurt.

Sometimes tips on how to lose belly fat are straight and to the point: eat less of the following:

  • Healthy eating tip # 3: Sugar substitutes: Although they curb calories, those pink, blue, and yellow packets can make your stomach swell. "Some people have difficulty digesting artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol and xylitol," says Greaves. "That can cause bloating and diarrhea." Try weaning yourself off them by using a small amount of real sugar. (One teaspoon has 16 calories.)
  • Healthy eating tip # 4: Canned soup: Many boxed, canned, and frozen processed foods are stealthy sources of sodium. A cup of chicken noodle, for instance, can pack in more than a third of your 2,400-milligram daily limit. "Even a small amount of excess sodium can cause your body to retain water," says Greaves, who recommends carefully reviewing canned soup ingredients and choosing soups with lower sodium.
  • Healthy eating tip # 5: Partially hydrogenated oil: Researchers from Wake Forest University found that eating a diet high in trans fats may actually cause fat in the body to redistribute itself to the belly. Because "trans fat–free" foods can contain up to 0.5 grams of the stuff per serving, scan ingredient lists on packages.