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Trying to get flat abs? Here are 11 foods that may help

Don't just focus on the foods you may need to give up!
/ Source: TODAY

Ever wonder what are the best foods to eat to get flat abs? We have the answer! Get back on track with healthy eating and make this the year of finally getting flat abs. To aid in this quest, Ella Magers, author of The Six Weeks to Sexy Abs Meal Plan cookbook and founder of Sexy Fit Vegan, revealed her picks for the best foods for flat abs and how to incorporate them in everyday eating.

TODAY Favorite

"The key is to focus on filling your plate with as many whole plant foods as possible," Magers told TODAY Food. "They'll make you feel really good while you drop off the flab and get those flat abs you've always wanted."

1. Leafy greens

"They're my absolute favorite because they're nutrient-dense and calorie-light," said Magers. "Making huge salads is a great way to get lots of nutrients and helps you with eating slowly so you know when you're full." Don't love raw leafy greens? Try them cooked. "It's good to eat a variety that's raw and cooked," said Magers. Sautée spinach and add lemon to help with nutrient absorption. Massage kale, add a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and bake until crispy for a snack. Don't forget that heartier vegetables like bok choy and beet greens also fall in the leafy greens bucket. "Beet greens are one of my favorites and are delicious sautéed, but most people don't think about them because they just focus on the beets," said Magers.

Garlicky Collard Greens

2. Avocado

"Yes, it has fat, but it's healthy fat and it's a whole food fat instead of a derivative fat," said Magers. "Having a fat as a part of a whole food is the best way to consume it." Filling and satisfying, the fruit is a great addition to salads and sandwiches. "Avocado's creamy texture makes it a great replacement for mayo, and of course when it's turned into guacamole with chopped tomatoes, onion and cilantro, it's a perfect ab-flattening snack."

3. Fresh fruit

Fresh fruit is a great option for people who are trying to get flat abs. It doesn't matter which fruit — the key here is to have a variety. "Every fruit has different nutrients and you should eat a new one every day," said Magers. "Berries may be the most nutritious and grapefruit may have the fewest calories, but that doesn't mean that you should limit yourself to them. Ideally, you should eat fruit by itself in the first half of your day because it is digested quickly, will give you a quick release of energy and won't bog you down — especially before a workout. Eating it alone is best because combining it with protein or dairy makes it harder for your body to break it down." For people who absolutely can't eat fresh fruit by itself, Magers suggested trying it with a dairy-free coconut yogurt.

4. Chickpeas

Garbanzo beans are high in fiber and protein, and a great addition to leafy green salads. Blend them into a creamy hummus and use raw vegetables for dipping. In soups, leave them whole or blend them to make a creamy base.

Siri's Chickpea Burgers

5. Flaxseed meal

"This is better than straight flax seeds because it's ground up and easier for the body to digest," said Magers. "Adding a tablespoon to a smoothie thickens it up and also adds fiber, protein and omega 3s. Flax meal is also a great egg replacement in baked goods: just add some water and whisk together to create a gel-like consistency."

Easy Homemade Granola

6. Fresh vegetable juice, especially green juice

"It's great to give your digestive system a break sometimes and a green juice lets you pack in the nutrients of leafy greens but requires less work to digest," said Magers. To get started, choose a darker vegetable like kale, which is more nutrient-packed than lighter-colored lettuces like romaine. But also consider dandelion greens — they're something that some people probably wouldn't eat alone but they're great in smoothies. Since leafy greens don't produce that much juice on their own, Magers likes to add cucumbers, parsley, carrots and a little celery.

7. Portobello mushrooms

They're a perfect meat substitute with their deep umami flavor and hearty texture. "You can grill, sauté or broil them, plus they're filling and very low-calorie," said Magers. Another bonus: they soak up any flavor and are great alone or in a sandwich. For a healthy and easy marinade without any oil, Magers puts the mushrooms in a combination of Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar and BRAGG Liquid Aminos, a soy sauce substitute that's very low in sodium.

8. Any nut milk

Dairy is the worst for promoting flat abs, according to Magers, but nut milk is a perfect replacement in cereal, coffee, oatmeal and smoothies. "I never thought I'd do this, but I make my own nut milk and it only takes 5 minutes!" said Magers. As a back up, she also buys unsweetened nut milks, which are often fortified and keeps flax milk at home because it has a very neutral flavor.

For her homemade nut milks, Magers soaks raw almonds, hazelnuts or Brazil nuts overnight in water. The next morning, she blends the nuts with water, a couple of dates for sweetness, and some vanilla and cinnamon. "Strain the liquid through a nut milk bag and you've got your nut milk," she said. If you want to skip the last step, use soaked cashews which are soft enough that they don't even have to be strained.

Almond Butter Brownies

9. Tempeh

"A lot of people are unfamiliar with tempeh, but it's a great ab fat blaster that's packed with protein," said Magers. "Tempeh is made with soy beans but unlike tofu, it's fermented so it's easier to digest. Cut it in blocks, then grill it alone, bake it or put it in stir-fries or salads to add that much more protein to your meal." For a quick fix, buy a pre-made low-sodium spice rub or make one (Magers likes a combination of garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme and paprika), massage it into the tempeh and then lightly pan-fry.

Easy Beet and Quinoa Salad

10. Dates

"They can totally be considered a super food," said Magers. "They're a perfect whole food and are full of fiber. Plus, they're such a great sugar substitute and can sweeten up anything." Their sticky texture makes them ideal for the base of raw food desserts and homemade protein bars. Throw them in smoothies or blend them with nut milk for a quick snack. Magers also likes to mash them into a paste which she uses as an unrefined substitute for honey and agave. Or just enjoy them whole. "I put a few in my bag every day and they provide immediate energy when I need them, especially before a workout."

11. Farro

"We all know about quinoa, but farro is an ancient green that has same amount of protein, calories and fiber as quinoa, but has twice the amount of calcium," said Magers. "It's a slow-release energy grain that's very filling and has lots of nutrients. Plus it has a nutty flavor that's so delicious. It takes a while to cook, but putting it in a slow cooker makes it easy. I especially love to make a Slow-Cooker Farro Soup in the winter."

Slow-Cooker Farro Soup

This post was originally published on Jan. 4, 2016.