"Flat Belly Diet" Review - Are MUFA Foods Magic?
Just in time for those weight loss resolutions so many Americans made on New Year's, the editors of Prevention Magazine chose Good Morning America! to announce the launch of their new diet program: The Flat Belly Diet. (See video.)
"A flat belly is about food and attitude. Period. (Not a single crunch required!)" So runs the tag line at the official website of the Flat Belly Diet. Misleading or actually achievable? Since the official website offers more hype than actual answers, I went on a quest to find out exactly what this plan entailed, and evaluate it for myself.
To find out anything substantial about the program itself, one must head over to the main Prevention.com website, of which I am always skeptical, having once (many years ago) made the mistake of entering my email address, which I've paid for in 10+ spam emails a week ever since. (Having tried have a dozen times to cancel, I now simply mark them all spam and let the filter catch as many as it can.)
The premise, once you find it, is in fact very simple: Eat four 400-calorie meals a day, and include a food from one of the five "MUFA" groups with each one. MUFA is shorthand for monounsaturated fat, a so-called good fat, which helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. The Prevention video "What is a MUFA?" touts all these advantages, but doesn't mention the tradeoff: In contrast to polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fats are less prone to rancidity, but they are less beneficial to cardiovascular health.
The Five Flat Belly Foods
On the Flat Belly Diet, each of your four daily meals must include a food from one of the five main MUFA categories:
- Nuts & Seeds
Sound good? Of course! The trick is in keeping your meals to 400 calories each, to maintain a 1600-calorie daily total (a fairly typical intake for a strict weight loss plan). Fats of any kind, even "healthy" ones, contain more calories per gram than protein, carbohydrates, or even alcohol. The good news is that they're more satisfying, allowing you to reach satiety faster and stay full longer. However, take a look at the sample recipes on the Prevention site--they may sound delicious, but check out the number of servings each recipe yields--the fact is, MUFA meals are probably pretty small compared to what you're used to.
Not to mention prep time. Convenience is one of the largest factors in whether or not a dieter sticks to a weight loss plan. The issue here is that creating your own combinations of foods that meet the MUFA requirements and fall under 400 calories is tough, so you're pretty much stuck with the recipes provided to you (a few in the book, others by subscription to the support site), most of which take 20 minutes or more to prepare. The average person on a weight loss regime doesn't have the time (or even the desire) to spend that much time in the kitchen, especially when you're eating only a small portion of what you prepare.
Flat Belly Diet Books
Is positive attitude a key to weight loss? Absolutely. Are good fats an important part of any diet (including those not aimed specifically at weight loss)? Yes, an often underrated one. But is the Flat Belly Diet the best possible plan combining these two factors? No. A better execution of these ideas, in my opinion, is described in the book "French Women Don't Get Fat," which emphasizes enjoying the act and experience of eating, as well as a balanced variety of foods (including healthy fats), and portion control.
As for a flat belly, not everyone's genetics enables her to have a stomach as pictured above. And with those for which it is possible, it certainly doesn't just come from eating avocadoes.