Last updated: Oct 15, 2009
Change your eating and thinking patterns and adopt a wholesome, reduced-calorie diet featuring “the secret to a flatter belly”—healthy, satisfying monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). Add the optional exercise component to trim that waistline even faster.

Basic principles:
This four-week diet is based on three rules that eventually become the guidelines for a healthy lifestyle: 1) Consume approximately 400 calories per meal. 2) Never go more than four hours between meals. 3) Include one serving of a MUFA at every meal.

How it works:
You start with a four-day, 1,200-calorie-per-day “Anti-Bloat Jumpstart” to boost your confidence and get your body used to eating healthy foods. Then, you transition to the four-week, 1,600 calorie-per-day Flat Belly Diet. A MUFA is included at every meal to keep you satisfied, and exercise is optional but recommended for better overall health and faster results. Over the course of the diet, you keep a food journal and develop healthy eating habits that will help you maintain weight loss.

What you eat:
Each days calories are divided into four meals of around 300 to 400 calories each. You will be limited to a laundry list of specific non-bloat-inducing foods for the “jumpstart” phase, including cold cereals, lean meats, and specific produce, while the bulk of the diet consists of Mediterranean-style fare such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean protein, olive oil, seeds, and nuts. For the time-crunched, the diet also includes recommended meal supplements, frozen entrees, and even fast food items that fit within the diet guidelines.

How much can you lose?
The cover boasts “up to 15 pounds in 32 days,” but the average tester lost about half that amount. Essentially, you can lose as much as you like—the amount is not as important as reaching your ideal weight and establishing a healthy lifestyle to maintain it.

Is it healthy?
For the most part. The diet is well-balanced and full of nutrient- and fiber-rich foods, with an emphasis on heart-healthy MUFAs. American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Constance Brown-Riggs warns that giving up caffeine cold turkey during the jumpstart phase can cause headaches and other withdrawal symptoms.

Expert opinion:
Brown-Riggs says, “Based on the Mediterranean style of eating, the diet portion of this book is healthy. For individuals who require a 1,600-calorie plan, this book is great. Those requiring other calorie levels will need to work with their registered dietitian to individualize the meal plan.”

Try this diet if you:

• Want to develop healthier eating habits
• Like journaling
• Are looking for a gradual approach to weight loss
• Do not have a nut or seed allergy
• Do not like to exercise

1-day sample menus:
Anti-bloat Jumpstart:
Breakfast: 1 cup unsweetened cornflakes, 1 cup skim milk, 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

Lunch: 4 ounces organic deli turkey, 1 low-fat string cheese, 1 pint fresh grape tomatoes

Snack: Blueberry Smoothie: Blend 1 cup skim milk plus 1 cup frozen unsweetened blueberries, stir in 1 tablespoon cold-pressed organic flaxseed oil or 1 tablespoon sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Dinner: 1 cup cooked green beans, 4 ounces grilled tilapia, 1/2 cup roasted red potatoes drizzled with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 2 liters Sassy Water

4-week plan:
Breakfast: 1 100% whole-wheat English muffin, toasted and topped with 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 1/2 cup banana slices

Lunch: 1 serving Turkey Avocado Cobb Salad, 1 medium apple

Snack: Chocolate-Raspberry Smoothie (1/2 cup skim or soy milk, 6 ounces vanilla yogurt, 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, and 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries)

Dinner: Thai Sweet-Hot Shrimp with 1/2 cup steamed wild rice