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The Flat Belly Diet and Dinners for One

July 14, 2010

My husband works in a restaurant. For those of you who don’t know what that means, let me put it this way: My husband works very odd hours, so often I find myself cooking dinner for one.

I’m handy enough in the kitchen, but most of the recipes in the cookbooks I own make 4-6 servings, or whatever. We occasionally make something like that for his days off, and eat the leftovers later, but if I made a meal of 4-6 servings every day, our kitchen would be over-run with leftovers and we wouldn’t know what to do with them all. Besides that, I’m not so ambitious to want to make a full-blown meal every night. Most of the time I just want something small, simple, and easy. The only catch: with the exception of Annie’s mac and cheese, I don’t do boxed or canned meals. They’re too full of sodium as well as other industrial food stuffs that I don’t like to put into my body. But what’s one person to do?

Enter the Flat Belly Diet.

You may have heard of it. Or know someone who’s doing it or considered doing it. Or seen it on the shelves of your local store. It’s a bright yellow book, so it’s hard to miss, and I’ve heard it mentioned many times in the last few months. As eye-catching as the book is, the ideas contained within are the really remarkable thing about it.

Here’s the basic premise:

You eat 1600 calories every day in the form of four meals (this is for women; for men the caloric count is slightly higher).

That’s 400 calories a meal, and each meal must contain a full serving of the MUFA (mono-unsaturated fatty acid) of your choice. A MUFA can be anything from a handful of almonds to 1/4 c of avocado to a few Tbsp of olive oil to a couple pieces of dark chocolate.

The MUFA takes up 70 to 244 of your calories for each meal, and then you have to build something around that. If you’re not feeling terribly creative, there are plenty of recipes in the book, and the authors even provide ideas for a few healthy options if you’re eating out. The diet is really effective, and I can say this from personal experience. Almost my entire family is using it (one set of my parents, my aunt and uncle, my cousin and her partner, my sister, and my husband and myself) and it’s provided really great results for all of us.

What does this have to do with making dinner for one? Well, for one thing, when you have to concentrate on the constraint of 400 calories in a meal it makes coming up with food ideas that much more of a challenging, and therefore more interesting. Where I used to be content to stick any old thing in my mouth as a form of sustenance when my husband was at work (from PB&J to ramen with egg to cold cereal), now I actually am creative about my meals, and they’re better for me, which is great.

Take tonight’s dinner, for example.

I had a few leftovers from a dinner gathering we had over the weekend, where we served tacos and burritos. I had brown rice, pulled chicken, and chopped tomatoes and lettuce left over.


1 c steamed brown rice = 110 calories
1 1 oz cube of cheese, grated = 110 calories
1/4 c avocado = 96 calories
1/3 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked in salsa and shredded = 60 calories
1/2 c tomatoes = negligible
1/2 c lettuce = negligible

Total: 376 calories, give or take.


I warmed up the rice on the stove with a bit of water (better than in the microwave, because it doesn’t get hard).
To make the chicken, I originally cooked three boneless, skinless chicken breasts in on 10? oz. bottle of salsa in a Crockpot for four hours on high (six hours on low). I heated up the leftovers on the stove. (We don’t own a microwave.)

I put the rice and cheese in a bowl, and topped it with the chicken so the cheese would melt.

I cut a small avocado in half, cutting half-inch slices into the flesh and spooning it out of the rind. (Fun fact: half of a small avocado is very close to 1/4 of a cup. Makes the Flat Belly math very easy. ^_^)

I placed the tomatoes and lettuce on top of the chicken and topped the whole thing with avocado. If I had known how delicious it was going to be, I would have taken a picture so you could see the final look. And the best part? It was so much more fun to make (and to eat) than a bowl of cereal, and almost as fast.

Besides actually slimming you down (a job that many “diets” aren’t actually very successful at), I think the fact that the Flat Belly Diet makes coming up with meals a creative act is one of its greatest benefits. It makes it fun to prepare food, even if you’re just serving one person. You can mix and measure this that or the other together and experiment to see what you can come up with.

And it makes it easier to cook at home, too. I know that if I have some brown rice, beans or chicken, cheese, and an assortment of vegetables in my fridge at any given time, I can put together a tasty meal. I’ve taken to stocking nuts and other healthy snacks in my pantry, and always having a few avocados on hand, just for fun. And any given week I can change up what basic meal parts I have on hand for a completely different flavor profile. I highly recommend it, especially if you have only yourself to feed, but even if you aren’t cooking for one.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Julia permalink
    July 14, 2010 11:22 pm

    I’ve read variations of this diet and i have the same observation for all: having a base caloric intake is insane. In order to lose weight in a healthy way, you have to start from the number of of calories you eat normally and subtract from that. To begin, you want to start by eating about 500 calories less and gradually increase the amount of calories you subtract. If a person who normally consumes 3500 calories a day goes to 1600, their body is going to take a very big shock and go into starvation mode very quickly. Now, a person who eats 2000 calories a day, 1600 is about right.

    I’m glad it’s working for you though!

  2. July 14, 2010 11:39 pm

    And as mentioned, the Flat Belly Diet is intended for the average US woman. Someone who’s much taller (or fatter) will have to make adjustments, and men will have to make adjustments.

    But one place a lot of diet books go wrong is in getting too complex. “Calculate your basal metabolic rate and add x% depending on average activity level which can be measured by…” Which for most US women is going to come out in the vicinity of 1600 calories, so why not make it easy on everyone?

    • Julia permalink
      July 15, 2010 1:47 am

      I hate having such a cynical view on things but unfortunately the average dieter will not bother to make many, if at all, adjustments to a diet. Going on a diet and making a life change involves a lot of energy as it is, so most people seek clear and simple guidelines and will see a target number and go for that. I also question whether 1600 calories is the average these days since that is typically based on a 2000 calorie diet which I don’ t believe most people adhere to. I can’t back up these claims with facts, so they are just meant to be my own personal point of view.

      I do agree that other programs go overboard in the details and those are the programs most people fail at because they are overtaxing.

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