What Is the BBG Diet?

Bikini body guide diet BBG

 Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

Kayla Itsines is a personal trainer and world-renowned fitness star from Australia with a passion for helping women achieve a more active lifestyle. In 2014, Itsines and her former partner, Tobi Pearce, founded the Bikini Body Training Company and launched the 12-week Bikini Body Guide (BBG) workout.

The BBG workout was met with positive reception from Itsines' millions of loyal followers on social media. To maximize the BBG workout plan, Itsines created the BBG diet and published it in an e-book. The "Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Plan (H.E.L.P)" is a 90-page nutrition guide that followers can purchase and download from the official Kayla Itsines website.

Following the success of the BBG program, in 2015, Itsines launched the fitness app Sweat with Kayla, now called SWEAT, which was ranked the top home fitness app for women in over 142 countries within a year of its release, according to Itsines' website. She is also the author of other fitness and nutrition books including, "The Bikini Body 28-Day Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide" and "The Bikini Body Motivation & Habits Guide."

Followers of the BBG diet eat five meals a day that emphasize nutrition to achieve weight loss and improved health. There are very few restrictions on the BBG diet because Itsines believes in balance rather than deprivation. Learn about what you can eat on the BBG diet and how it works with the BBG exercise program to decide if it's a healthy choice for you.

What Experts Say

"The BBG diet is the nutrition component of a popular workout plan. It promotes a variety of nutrient-dense, portion-controlled foods to support weight loss. With no eliminated food groups and an emphasis on overall wellness, experts agree this can be a nutritious eating plan."

Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

What Can You Eat

Itsines helps younger women around the world reach their fitness and health goals. She created the workout program and accompanying nutrition guide specifically for women aged 16–25.

The H.E.L.P. Nutrition Guide e-book contains all the information about the BBG diet in one place. Itsines also offers nutrition advice on social media and has a fitness blog where she shares additional exercises, tips, and recipes. Her SWEAT app contains access to both the workout guide and meal plan.

The guide provides recipes that include all the major food groups, but a vegetarian version was also released to accommodate meatless diets. It also contains information on foods to eat, foods to avoid, nutrition education, cooking tips, and a 14-day meal plan. The BBG diet plan is known for being flexible and non-restrictive, which proponents of this plan have found appealing.

What You Need to Know

Followers of the BBG diet can expect to eat five times throughout the day. There are three main meals—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and two snacks. It’s recommended that you space out your three main meals by 2.5-3 hours and consume plenty of fluids in-between.

Since the BBG diet was designed for women aged 16-25, the serving sizes are specific to that demographic. However, the serving size information is based on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and other Australian Government sources. Itsines recommends that women from other countries refer to their own government’s dietary guidelines for additional advice.

The BBG diet is commonly praised for its flexibility. The original guide isn’t designed with allergies or dietary restrictions (i.e. vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.), but the meals can easily be customized. The vegetarian version of the meal plan is more allergen-friendly than the original.

The H.E.L.P. Nutrition Guide is designed so that no supplements are required. However, a multivitamin is recommended for people who have difficulty meeting all of their food group requirements. Protein powder is also optional but is not required.

The BBG diet incorporates five of the main food groups: grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and meat. Regardless of your dietary restrictions, the BBG diet can be adjusted to meet your needs. Animal products can be swapped out for plant-based alternatives if needed.

What to Eat
  • Vegetables and legumes

  • Fruit

  • Grains

  • Dairy and non-dairy alternatives

  • Meat and meatless alternatives

  • Healthy sources of fat

  • Herbs and spices

  • Lots of fluids

What Not to Eat
  • Alcohol

  • Fast food

  • Animal fat

  • Added sugar

  • Fried and processed food

Vegetables and Legumes

The BBG diet puts vegetables and legumes in the same category. Followers of this diet are expected to have five servings of this food group per day. The guide mentions salads and stir fries as a good way to fill up on non-starchy vegetables, while canned beans and steamed potatoes can meet your requirement for starches.

Fruit

Any and all fruit is allowed on the BBG diet. You can enjoy fruit juice, but make sure it’s fresh. Fresh fruit is also preferred to dried fruit, which usually has added sugar. You can have two servings of fruit per day.

Grains

Out of all the food groups on this diet, you’re expected to eat the most servings of grains—six servings to be exact. However, the serving sizes are smaller than some of the other groups. For example, a quarter-cup of cooked rice is considered one serving of grains, while a half-cup of cooked pasta is another serving. You can also have whole-grain bread, cereal, and quick oats.

Dairy and Non-Dairy Alternatives

Some of the criticism Itsines’ received on her BBG meal plan is the abundance of recipes that use dairy products. While you can swap out dairy products for non-dairy alternatives, Itsines recommends 2.5 servings of yogurt, low-fat cheese, and low-fat milk per day.

Meat and Meatless Alternatives

Like dairy, the nutrition guide recommends 2.5 servings of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and alternatives. Followers can swap out animal products for tofu or legumes. The vegetarian version of the meal plan provides more suggestions and alternatives.

Healthy Sources of Fat

Itsines places a special emphasis on healthy fats. The guide differentiates between sources of fat that have health benefits from those that have health risks. Some healthy fats include avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. 

Herbs and Spices

To make food more enjoyable, Itsines recommends adding herbs and spices. She also includes a recipe on how to season rice and quinoa.

Lots of Fluids

An important aspect of the BBG diet is staying hydrated. Itsines urges followers of this diet to consume at least eight cups of water per day. Other fluids, including herbal tea and coffee, are also allowed. Coffee should be consumed in moderation and without heavy cream, however.

Alcohol

There’s an extensive education section in the nutrition guide, and one section explains why Itsines believes that alcohol consumption should be limited or avoided altogether. According to Itsines, alcohol is high in calories and has side effects that can hinder the progress of your health goals. While Itsines never recommends any quantity of alcohol to her clients or followers, many health experts argue that alcohol can still be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Fast Food

Fast food should be avoided entirely on this plan. If possible, Itsines recommends avoiding restaurant food as well. Take-out is usually higher in calories and it can be difficult to know what’s actually in your meal. The nutrition guide recommends against ordering food but offers some suggestions on what to order in case you can’t avoid it.

Animal Fat

In the guide, animal fat is explicitly listed as an unhealthy source of fat. Instead, lean animal products are recommended.

Added Sugar

When buying packaged food, check the ingredients list for added sugar. The BBG diet doesn’t include foods that contain white sugar, though some of the recipes call for brown sugar. Refined sugar is associated with many health risks, so Itsines recommends satisfying your sweet tooth with fruit and natural sweeteners.

Fried and Processed Food

Deep-fried foods are non-compliant with the BBG diet. Similarly, processed foods like pastries, muffins, candy, and so on should be avoided. These foods are usually low in vitamins and minerals, so they likely won’t help you get closer to achieving your health and fitness goals.

Sample Shopping List

Itsines advocates consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods, which means there are many foods you can consume on the BBG diet. The following shopping list offers suggestions for getting started on the program. Note that this is not a definitive shopping list and you may find other foods that work better for you.

  • Dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, collard greens)
  • Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots)
  • Fresh and frozen fruits (grapefruit, oranges, berries, bananas, apples, pineapple, avocados)
  • Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley, amaranth, couscous)
  • Bread (whole-grain, sourdough, pumpernickel)
  • Legumes (black beans, pinto beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Lean animal protein (bison, lean ground beef, chicken breast, turkey breast)
  • Fresh or frozen fish (halibut, salmon, cod, snapper, shrimp, sardines)
  • Low-fat dairy products (yogurt, feta, cottage cheese, milk)
  • Eggs
  • Olive oil

Sample Meal Plan

While Itsines’ e-book provides two weeks' worth of recipes and meal ideas, you can get creative with your meals as long as you consume the recommended servings of the five main food groups and adhere to the portion sizes, especially for whole grains. (Again, be sure to check the USDA's recommendations).

Although you don't have to avoid any healthy food groups, it's a good idea to incorporate more plant-based meals into regular rotation. The following five-day meal plan should give you a general sense of what a few days on the BBG diet could look like. Note that this meal plan is not all-inclusive, and if you do choose to follow this program there may be other meals that you prefer.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Balanced macronutrients

  • Vegetarian- and allergen-friendly

  • Large variety of compliant foods

Cons
  • Designed for women aged 16-25

  • Relies on recommended serving sizes

  • Not reviewed by a health professional

As with all diets, the BBG diet has its benefits and drawbacks. Review the pros and cons to help inform your decision about trying this plan.

Pros

Balanced Macronutrients

Many diets promote focusing on one core macronutrient. The keto diet, for example, is well-known for its emphasis on high-fat, low-carb meals. The BBG diet offers a balanced intake of all three macronutrients. It also includes the major food groups. Having a healthy relationship with food is important to Itsines, so she encourages her followers to eat a well-rounded diet.

Vegetarian- and Allergen-friendly

By default, the BBG diet isn’t plant-based or allergen-free. However, the nutrition guide offers many substitutions and alternatives to foods that some people may not consume. For example, meat can be swapped for tofu or beans. Another example is swapping cow’s milk for almond milk. There are also alternatives for people who are gluten-intolerant.

Large Variety of Compliant Foods

If you were to make a list of every single food allowed on the BBG diet, it would be extremely long. Because there are so many foods to choose from, the diet is fairly easy to adhere to.

Cons

Designed for Women Aged 16-25

The BBG diet isn’t for everyone. Itsines’ followers are usually younger women aged 16–25. Therefore, it made sense to her to design the nutrition guide with that demographic in mind. However, this excludes the majority of the population, including men, women, and non-binary individuals over 25. 

Relies on Australian Serving Sizes

The meal plan specifically relies on serving sizes recommended by the Australian government. It can be difficult to know how many servings you’re consuming without diligent planning and tracking. Some of the serving sizes may also be too much or too little depending on your dietary needs.

Not Reviewed by a Health Professional

The BBG materials were co-created by Itsines and Pearce. Both studied personal training, but neither are registered dietitians. All advice given in the BBG diet comes from Itsines' personal experience. However, her recommendations seem aligned with Australian government dietary guidelines.

Is the BBG Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The BBG diet is based on Itsines’ personal diet and experience as well as what she recommends for people following her BBG workout plan. The BBG diet is balanced and varied and aims to improve overall health and encourage followers to reach their fitness goals. Similar health-oriented diets include:

  • Flexitarian diet: Like the BBG diet, a flexitarian diet is versatile and advises against excessive added sugar and refined carbs. Followers have the flexibility of getting protein from plant-based or animal sources.
  • Engine 2 diet: The Engine 2 is more restrictive than the BBG plan. Animal products are strictly forbidden as well as vegetable oils, but some plant-based recipes are compliant.
  • Tom Brady diet: Like Itsines, the Tom Brady diet is based on the athlete’s personal regimen. There are more non-compliant foods than compliant foods on this diet, however. The Tom Brady diet is about 80% vegetables, whole grains, and beans, all of which are consumed on the BBG diet. However, dairy is not permitted.

While many diets focus on macronutrient ratios, the BBG plan also prioritizes micronutrients. The BBG diet caters to women aged 16–25, and the recommendations in the meal plan are intended to only apply to all women within that age range. But because the diet originated in Australia, Itsines recommends that her international followers refer to their government’s dietary guidelines. In the U.S., that means comparing the BBG diet to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

For instance, USDA guidelines divide the nutritional goals for women around this age range into separate categories: females aged 14-18 and females aged 19-30. Per USDA recommendations, the younger group requires less protein and fiber. However, they require more fat, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Since the BBG meal plan is tailored for weight loss, Itsines recommends subtracting 500 calories from your daily maintenance calories. She says the average woman in her age range requires approximately 2,100 calories to maintain. To lose weight, this would put her followers at 1,600 daily calories.

The USDA also recommends a reduction of 500 calories per day for weight loss. However, federal guidelines indicate that this number can vary based on an individual's age, sex, weight, height, and level of physical activity. Use this calculator to determine your own calorie needs.

The USDA guidelines have different recommendations based on age and sex. They recommend about 1,800 calories for females aged 14-18 and 2,000 calories for females aged 19-30. These calorie recommendations are lower than the BBG diet.

Health Benefits

The BBG diet is well-balanced and should meet the nutritional needs of most people. Followers of this plan will likely lose weight since healthy, whole foods combined with regular exercise are encouraged. Since the plan is aimed at a younger demographic, it may also help to promote healthy habits that prevent weight gain, obesity, and other health conditions later in life.

Health Risks

While there are no common health risks associated with the BBG diet, some people may be susceptible to nutritional deficiencies if they're not getting enough calories. While the BBG diet's calorie requirements are similar to the USDA's recommendations, remember there is no one-size-fits-all calorie recommendation.

In addition, the BBG diet may not be a suitable plan for those who have had or are at risk for developing an eating disorder. The name of the diet implies that a "bikini body" is something to strive for. Given that Itsines' target audience is younger, some followers may develop body image issues and an unhealthy relationship with food. Itsines may be a world-famous personal trainer, but just because the BBG diet worked well for her does not mean it will always be the best choice for everyone.

A Word From Verywell

The BBG diet has been well-received by Itsines’ followers due to its non-restrictive nature and the strong sense of community she's fostered on social media. If you’re looking for a sustainable diet with a support system, the BBG diet may be a good option.

Overall, the BBG plan encourages healthy habits like balanced eating, regular exercise, getting plenty of sleep, and drinking enough water. These are all factors that align with a healthy lifestyle. However, not everyone needs to achieve a "bikini body" in order to be active and healthy.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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