Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Flat Belly Diet

Even with my food obsession I've managed to maintain my goal weight for over a year. But over the past few weeks I've just been feeling sluggish and bloated. I knew I needed a little jumpstart to get my system back on track and maybe lose a few pounds in the meantime.

After exploring a Raw Foods cleanse and the Candida Diet (both of which seem helpful but not for me due to a number of reasons, especially "NO cheese"), my very dear friends F & C suggested The Flat Belly Diet.

The Flat Belly Diet, on the most basic level, helps one reduce the intake of salt, excess carbs, raw bulky foods, and "bad fats" and increase the intake of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs or "good fats"), such as olive oil, salmon, walnuts, and dark chocolate. (Yes, I managed to use diet and chocolate in the same sentence.)

A strict 4-day Jumpstart menu commences the Flat Belly Diet. The Jumpstart is intended to alleviate water-retention that often happens at the beginning of a diet. Today is my third day of the Jumpstart, and quite honestly it's been a breeze. A breakfast of cornflakes, skim milk, applesauce and sunflower seeds is are more than filling. My lunch of organic deli turkey, string cheese (YES!), and steamed carrots with herbs, spices, and black pepper in place of butter is quite tasty. My dinner of turkey cutlet, green beans and roasted potatoes is light and healthy, a perfect meal after teaching late or before hot yoga. Plus, each day there's a snack, which I can have any time in the day I want it. And they call this a diet?

After the 4-day Jumpstart, 28 days that each include four 400 calorie meals follows. During this time one can use suggested menus from the diet book or the cookbook. The only objective is to stay within your appropriate calorie range, eat MUFAs, avoid "bad fats," and exercise.

As a skeptic and food-obessed maniac, I bought and cooked from The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook well before I embarked on my Flat Belly Diet journey. If the food wasn't going to be good, I knew I wouldn't have anything to do with it.

I was sold on the recipes after F cooked fantastic-after-fantastic meal for us during our visit to Delaware. But I knew I wanted to actually do the diet after I successfully BAKED (yes, me, the woman who can't bake) the BEST cupcakes of my life. A diet with delicious cupcakes--here's a way I can stay on track & not deprive myself of the foods I love.

Because I lost the majority of my weight with Weight Watchers, I can't say if Flat Belly would be as successful. I imagine it could be. Both diets help a dieter rethink portion size and offer good foods. Through my reading of the Flat Belly Diet, I believe it encourages dieters to buy more fresh, less-processed foods and to buy organic and from farmers markets when they can. With that said, one drawback of the Flat Belly Diet is its expense; the organic products and specialty oils can be expensive, especially if one is not used to buying these products. Also, I wish I would have read more regarding how to dine out on the Flat Belly Diet. Realistically, dieters, at some point, must have a meal out. With Weight Watchers, you can anticipate that meal and plan for it with points. I assume with the Flat Belly Diet you control your portions and try to order foods with MUFAs. That doesn't seem too difficult. I'll be trying it this weekend, and that's my plan, at least.

What's definitely not too difficult was making those tasty Lemon Cupcakes with Citrus Icing from the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook. And I will make them again and again, even when I'm not strictly following the diet, which very well might be after I finish the Jumpstart in which I've already lost 3 lbs and am feeling light, cleansed, and energetic.

Vaccariello, Liz and Cynthia Sass. The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook. New York: Rodale, 2008. Print.

Lemon Cupcakes with Citrus Icing

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 2/3c unbleached all-purpose flour
1c sugar
2t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1/4t salt
3/4c safflower oil
2 eggs
1/3c fat-free milk
1/4c freshly squeezed lemon juice
1t lemon zest
1t lemon extract
1/2t vanilla extract

Icing Ingredients:
1 1/2c confectioners' sugar
2T freshly squeezed orange juice
1t orange zest

1.) Preheat oven to 350. Line 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
2.) To prep cupcake batter: Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Combine oil, eggs, milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Add to the flour mixture and stir until smooth.
3.) Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 17-19 minutes or until cupcakes are lightly golden and spring when gently touched. Place pan on rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan, transfer to rack, and let cool completely.
4.) To prep icing: Combine confectioners' sugar, orange juice, and orange zest in a bowl and stir until smooth. Spread some of the glaze over each cupcake with a small spatula and let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Tips: Use a blood orange for a more colorful icing like the one in my pictures. Also, fill each cup only 3/4 full so the tops are more flat. With the extra batter make a few extra cupcakes; this recipe yielded 16 cupcakes for me.

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