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Flat Belly Diet

happy lady squattingYou’ve probably heard of the flat belly diet on TV, online or even from your friends. The name sounds great – who doesn’t want a flat stomach? – but the real question is, does the plan work? Is it healthy? Read on.

What is the flat belly diet?

The flat belly diet was co-created by Liz Vaccariello, former Prevention magazine editor, and Cynthia Sass, a registered dietician. The plan is one of today’s more popular diets, as it incorporates healthy eating and nutritional variety – and several dieting buzz words, like “Mediterranean” and “whole grains.” The underlying principle is that fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and olive oil and other “MUFAs” help you melt belly fat and lose weight overall.

What are MUFAs?

Monounsaturated fatty acids, also known as MUFAs, are the key to the flat belly diet. According to the diet’s creators, MUFAs actually target and destroy stomach fat – the dreaded “spare tire” – while helping you feel full, so you don’t overeat. Explains co-creator Sass, “Research shows that MUFAs have health benefits and target belly fat. They also help control satiety, so by adding in one MUFA at meals and snacks it is easier to stick with the plan and lose belly fat.” MUFAs are plant-based fatty acids, so you’ll find them in olives and olive oil, chocolate, avocados, nuts, seeds and chocolate. Note that monounsaturated fats do not clog the arteries, so they are known as healthy fats.

Every dieter can customize their flat stomach diet to factor in age, gender and activity level. But the basics don’t change much. The heart of the diet is a 1,600-calorie daily intake combined with a strictly defined serving of MUFAs at every meal.

Phases of the flat belly diet

At the beginning of the plan, you’ll follow a four day jump-start to eliminate bloat and supercharge your weight loss. During this period, your calories are restricted to just 1,200 per day. The jump-start is meant to promote clean eating with foods that discourage fluid retention and gas. To comply, you’ll follow a rigid plan of four daily meals (300 calories each), and must stick to a strict list of approved flat belly foods. You’ll also down two liters every day of “sassy water,” a combination of cucumber, ginger, mint leaves and water; the concoction is meant to “calm” your GI tract. During this phase, you are not permitted to eat or drink acidic fruit juices, alcohol, coffee, tea, or hot cocoa; or broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chewing gum, fatty foods, or salt. Additionally, dieters must avoid anything seasoned with barbecue sauce, black pepper, chili pepper, garlic, horseradish, or other spices.

Next, you’ll transition to the four-week eating plan. During this phase, you’ll consume three 400-calorie meals, plus one 400-calorie snack everyday. You’ll never go more than four hours without eating, and every meal must be accompanied by a serving of MUFAs. Your saturated fat intake will never exceed 4 grams per meal, and you must eliminate trans fats, avoid artificial sweeteners and colorings, and eschew preservatives. 

Flat belly foods

It may sound like a lot of no-no-nos, but there are actually many approved – and delicious – flat belly foods. The diet emphasizes lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and, of course, monounsaturated fatty acids.

You’ll begin your meal planning with your MUFA selection – options include olive tapenade, almond butter, roasted nuts, semisweet chocolate chips, and other tasty goodies – and then determine how many calories remain. For example, a serving of roasted nuts accounts for about 100 calories, so this selection would leave you another 300 calories to play with for your meal or snack. Now, build your meal with the following portions:

  • 3 ounces of lean protein (chicken breast, fish, turkey, etc.)
  • 2 cups of vegetables, raw or steamed
  • 1 cup of fruit OR 1/2 cup whole grains OR 1 serving of whole grain bread

Flat belly diet recipes

There are many sample menus and flat belly diet recipes available online. A typical flat stomach diet sample menu looks like this:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with apples and almonds, or a dollop of almond butter
  • Lunch: Whole grain bread with lean turkey, cheese, olive tapenade, lettuce and tomato; served with 1 cup of raw carrots and broccoli
  • Dinner: Tahini-encrusted salmon steak, green salad, and 1/2 cup brown rice
  • Snack: 1/4 cup hummus blended with olive oil served with 1 cup vegetable crudité

Health benefits of the flat stomach diet

The flat belly plan is touted as the newest, greatest way to shed pounds and zap stomach fat. While some studies suggest that the flat belly diet can help you lose weight, many flat belly diet reviews wonder if the 1,600 daily calories are actually to thank for any short-term weight loss. However, the diet’s emphasis on healthy foods and monounsaturated fats is good for heart health and may help control blood insulin levels (reducing risk of diabetes). Additional health benefits include reduction in sodium consumption and a boost in fiber.

According to medical experts, the best diets for long-term success are often physician-guided, such as those available through The Center for Medical Weight Loss. A huge benefit to this type of plan is that you can incorporate your favorite diet principles – including the flat belly diet – into your weight-loss approach, while being sure to fulfill all your nutritional and exercise requirements. Get started today by entering your zip into the box at top-right, and finding the Center nearest you. Don’t forget to ask about their welcome specials, which are available at certain locations.