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

Get back on track with healthy eating and make this the year that you finally get the flat abs you've always wanted. To aid you in this quest, here, Ella Magers, author of The Six Weeks to Sexy Abs Meal Plan cookbook and founder of Sexy Fit Vegan, reveals her picks for the best foods for flat abs and how to incorporate them in everyday eating.

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Best foods for flat abs

Play Video - 1:25

Best foods for flat abs

Play Video - 1:25

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

1. Leafy greens

"They're my absolute favorite because they're nutrient-dense and calorie-light," says Magers. "Making huge salads is a great way to get lots of nutrients and helps you eating slowly so 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," says 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," says Magers.

Garlicky Collard Greens
Feed a hungry crowd with easy orange pork roast and garlicky collard greens
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
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( rated)
Servings:
8-10
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2. Avocado

"Yes, it has fat, but it's healthy fat and it's a whole food fat instead of a derivative fat," says 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."

Avocado Ranch Dip
Martha Stewart makes delicious avocado ranch dip.
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
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( rated)
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Servings:
8
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3. Fresh fruit

It doesn't matter what fruit you choose—the key here is to have a variety. "Every fruit has different nutrients and you should eat a new one every day," says 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 and will give you quick release 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." If you absolutely can't eat fresh fruit by itself, try 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.

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Servings:
4
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5. Flaxseed meal

"This is better than straight flax seeds because it's ground up and easier for the body to digest," says 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
Homemade Granola
Grace Parisi / TODAY
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About 8 cups
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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," says Magers. To get started, choose a darker vegetables like kale, which is more nutrient-packed than lighter colored lettuces like romaine. But also consider dandelion greens — they're something you probably wouldn't eat alone but they're great in a smoothies. Since leafy greens don't produce that much juice on their own, Magers likes to add cucumbers, parsley, carrots and a little celery.

Rating:
( rated)
Servings:
3-4
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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," says 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.

Baby Kale, Mushroom and Feta Frittata
Baby kale, mushroom and feta frittata
Cook Smarts
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( rated)
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Servings:
4
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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!" says 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 says. If you want to skip the last step, use soaked cashews which are soft enough that you don't even have to strain them.

Almond Butter Brownies
Tia Mowry cooks with Ellie Kemper, Jane Krakowski
Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
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Servings:
12
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9. Tempeh

"A lot of people are unfamiliar with tempeh, but it's a great ab fat blaster that's packed with protein," says 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 your own (Magers likes a combination of garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme and paprika), massage it into the tempeh and then put it in a frying pan.

10. Dates

"They can totally be considered a super food," says 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 everyday and they provide immediate energy when I need them, especially before a workout."

Crock-Pot Coconut Cinnamon Oatmeal with Dates
Melissa Clark cooks up slow cooker coconut cinnamon oatmeal with dates and chicken and white bean chili with lemon and baby kale
Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
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8
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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," says 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."

Here, Manger's recipes for Slow-Cooker Farro Soup and Easy Beet and Quinoa Salad:

Slow-Cooker Farro Soup
Slow-Cooker Farro Soup
Courtesy of Page Street Publishing Co.
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4
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Easy Beet and Quinoa Salad
Beet and Quinoa Salad
Courtesy of Page Street Publishing Co.
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Servings:
1
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This post was originally published on Jan. 4, 2016.

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