Developed by Men's Health editor in chief David Zinczenko, the Abs Diet is based on the premise that eating certain foods every day will help you lose weight and gain lean muscle mass. If you're a vegetarian, you'll be able to eat most of Zinczenko's recommended foods but not all of them. Altering the Abs Diet to fit a vegetarian lifestyle will require some effort, but it can be done. Talk to your doctor before starting any weight-loss program.
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Basic Abs Diet Guidelines
Followers of the Abs Diet -- as well as the New Abs Diet, which is the same as the original but includes more in-depth exercise and meal-planning tips -- are instructed to eat three meals and three snacks daily. Each meal must include two or three of Zinczenko's "Power Foods," while each snack should include one or two. The 12 power foods are almonds and other nuts, beans and legumes, spinach and green vegetables, dairy products, instant oatmeal, eggs, turkey and other lean meats, peanut butter, olive oil, whole grains, whey powder and raspberries and other berries. Vegetarians who omit all dairy and eggs from their diet will need to include plenty of soy and items enriched with calcium and vitamin D in their daily meals.
A typical day for a vegetarian following the Abs Diet might begin with a breakfast of whole-wheat toast spread with peanut butter and paired with a fruit salad containing fresh berries. Your first snack should be timed to fall about two hours before lunch and could consist of dry-roasted, unsalted almonds and sliced fresh fruit such as cantaloupe or an apple. A bowl of lentil and vegetable soup with a whole-grain roll could be lunch, while a bean dip and raw vegetables could serve as your predinner snack. Have a soy burger, brown rice and sauteed leafy green vegetables at dinner and a fruit smoothie made with soy milk before bed.
Because the Abs Diet discourages processed and fast foods, refined grains and added sweeteners, vegetarians following the plan will consume far less saturated fat, trans fats, sugar and sodium than the average American while getting plenty of fiber. One cheat meal per week is allowed, a practice that may help dieters avoid feeling deprived and give them the motivation to continue. Exercise is an essential component of the program, with followers instructed to engage in aerobic exercise, strength training and abdominal exercises five to seven days a week. It's likely that vegetarians who adhere to the Abs Diet's guidelines will lose weight, though more research is needed.
The menu plans offered in the Abs Diet books don't include options completely free of animal products. Although Zinczenko says the plan can be followed by vegetarians, he assumes that you will still consume plenty of eggs and dairy products. Soy products can be substituted, but if you don't prefer these, you'll need to significantly increase your intake of beans, legumes, nuts and seeds to get enough protein. Without careful planning, vegetarians on the diet may also need to take dietary supplements, especially vitamin B-12 supplements, to ensure they're meeting their nutritional needs.