Morgan is a doctoral candidate in the field of clinical nutrition and nutritional neuroscience, having received her bachelors degree from Central Washington University.
The Flat Belly Diet consists of a 1,200-1,600 Calorie diet, with one Monounsaturated Fatty Acid (MUFA) serving at each meal. According to the plan’s creators, consuming MUFA’s will reduce belly fat without exercise (this assertion is not scientifically supported). The plan consists of two phases, the first lasting four days and the second lasting four weeks. The first phase (1,200 Calories) consists of four 300 Calorie meals, while the following four weeks (1,600 Calories) consist of three 400 Calorie meals and one 400 Calorie snack. Dieters focus on vegetables, lean proteins, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Recipes and meal plans are available via the book to help dieters avoid any tedious planning or confusion that may otherwise discourage dieters.
The Flat Belly Diet was created by Liz Vaccariello and Cynthia Sass. Vaccariello, a former editor of Prevention magazine, and Sass, a Registered Dietitian, debuted the plan in 2008’s The Flat Belly Diet, with the aim of promoting fast weight loss and targeting stubborn body fat.
The Flat Belly plan is fairly easy to stick to, especially since the book provides dieters with pre-planned menus and recipes for meals that follow the MUFA plan. However, dieters who eat a diet ripe with processed foods will likely struggle emotionally. Researchers have found that the Flat Belly Diet does not promote weight loss greater than that of a 1,600 Calorie diet without the MUFA approach. Therefore, dieters who may otherwise be emotionally discouraged by the absence of their favorite foods would likely be better off following the plan for 3 meals of the day and then using their 400 Calorie snack as a “free” choice, wherein they consume 400 Calories worth of their preferred snack or food in place of “Flat Belly” fare.
The cost of the Flat Belly Diet may be slightly more expensive than other diets, as the authors provide menu plans that many dieters will prefer to stick to rather than create their own recipes. However, savvy shoppers and meal planners will likely not shell out more than many Americans already do on weekly restaurant fare or grocery trips.
Not much meal planning time is needed for the Flat Belly Diet, as the authors of the plan have provided recipes and shopping lists. However, meal preparation time may be slightly greater that many dieters are used to, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the kitchen.
This diet is a very safe one overall. The typical, healthy individual should have no problem with this diet, as it’s one that is balanced and very similar to one that would be recommended by doctors and nutritionists. However, you should always discuss any dietary changes with your doctor or healthcare team.
Although the Flat Belly Diet is indeed a healthy one, the authors’ assertion that MUFA’s promote the loss of abdominal fat is scientifically unproven. Furthermore, a weight loss of 15 lbs in 32 days (as is promised by the authors) is unlikely at best, except for those who are obese or morbidly obese. As such, this diet is slightly contested by doctors and nutritionists, who agree with many principles of the Flat Belly Diet (Calorie counting, vegetable consumption, healthy fats) but disagree with misleading claims about unusually fast weight loss or the belly-slimming effects of MUFA’s.
Benefits: The diet is very sound nutritionally, and incorporates healthy foods from all food groups. Authors provide meal plans and shopping lists that will be a helpful tool for busy individuals. The plan reduces Caloric intake to appropriate levels for weight loss and long term maintenance, although the rate at which weight is lost is likely slower than the 3.75 lbs per week promised by authors.
Downsides: Dieters may struggle with cravings on the plan, and may dislike the time required in meal preparation. The plan also promotes the unnecessary inclusion of MUFA’s at every meal, which is questionable at best, especially thanks to the author’s false claim of the belly-slimming effects of MUFA’s. While MUFA’s are indeed part of a healthy diet, there’s no proven benefit to including them at every meal.
The Bottom Line: The Flat Belly Plan is a safe and healthy one, but may leave dieters with cravings; the limited flexibility and lacking social support of a MUFA-centered eating approach will ultimately be the downfall of many dieters.