You've probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But did you also know that a healthy breakfast can help lead to meaningful weight loss?
DON'T BE FOOLED BY A "QUICK-FIX" TACTIC
We know that it can be hard to keep weight off, and that you’ve worked hard to change your lifestyle and improve your health. It can be a challenge to keep up the good habits you may have built. At times the hard work of staying on track may make you want to try a quick fix. But all too often, a short-term solution can lead to a long- term problem.
One quick fix that has grown too common is skipping breakfast. It can be tempting to cut calories by leaving out a meal, but skipping breakfast may do more harm than good.
Your body responds to the way you eat. If you skip a meal, your body may hold on to more fat to make up for the meal you missed. So when you skip a meal, you train your body to keep your fat. To learn more about planning meals that are healthy and filling, read the Q and Me article about structuring meals.
Breakfast may be the meal people skip the most–but breakfast can be very important.
THE ENERGY YOU NEED TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR DAY
Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day. When you wake up in the morning, you’ve probably gone about 8 to 12 hours without food. This can cause your energy to lag. A healthy breakfast gives your body the energy it needs to start your day, which can help you stay active. People who eat breakfast tend to be more active than those who skip it. A good breakfast also provides the nutrients you need to maintain better health.
Eating breakfast can help you feel full in the morning, making you less tempted to eat too much later in the day. Making smart breakfast choices also helps: you could choose eggs or a high-fiber cereal, and you’ll probably feel full longer; if you pick a Danish and coffee, you may get a boost of energy at first, but this could then be followed by a midmorning energy slump.
What’s more, if you start your day with a healthy breakfast, it can help your mind stay focused. An alert mind can help you make good decisions during the course of your day and be more productive at work.
Still, many people skip breakfast.
It’s easy to believe that doing without a meal will help you lose more weight. Skipping breakfast may not lead to fewer calories in a day, but it can make you less active. Eating breakfast can help you stay on track. People who eat a healthy breakfast are also more likely to maintain a healthy weight; skipping breakfast can raise your risk of obesity and high cholesterol.
You may want to try following these tips to avoid skipping breakfast:
- Breakfast can be quick. Stress or a busy day can make you rush. Some people skip breakfast in their hurry to get out the door. If this sounds like you, you may want to try some ready-to-eat foods that you can take with you, such as yogurt, fresh fruit, and high-fiber breakfast bars; or you might prepare your breakfast the night before.
- A light breakfast for a small appetite. Some people don’t like to eat when they first wake up. This is more likely if you ate a late dinner or a large late-night snack. If you don’t want to eat at the start of your day, try cutting out the late-night eating, or choose something light you can take with you and eat a bit later.
- Interesting choices for breakfast. Some people may get tired of the same food day after day. It’s true that some breakfasts are better for you than others, but there’s more than one way to get what you need from your breakfast. You could try different kinds of fruit or grains. Eggs can be a good source of protein, but so can yogurt, turkey, or smoked salmon. You can think of other interesting options; be creative. Start your day with hummus and sprouts, if it falls in line with your diet and that’s what you feel like eating. A good breakfast doesn’t have to be standard breakfast food. As long as you follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations, what you eat day to day is up to you.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD BREAKFAST?
A healthy breakfast is rich in fiber and nutrients, but low in fat and calories. Importantly, it should be something you enjoy and can prepare quickly. A good breakfast usually contains three or more food groups.
Fiber can give you lasting energy and help you feel full for a longer time. Fruits and whole grains are good sources of fiber, which has important health benefits.
Protein can also help you feel full. Good sources of protein can include eggs, nuts, lean Canadian bacon, milk, and yogurt. Protein also helps your body keep its lean muscle mass that can help you stay active and support your long-term weight loss.
Fruit and cereal. Fruit and whole-grain cereal with skim milk can be a very good choice. This combination includes three vital food groups: fruit, grains, and dairy. The fruit and grains provide fiber and vitamins; milk can give you protein and calcium. These nutrients can help you feel full and give you long-lasting energy.
In a survey of long-term weight losers, fruit and cereal were both popular choices: 3 out of 5 people ate cereal most mornings of the week, and more than half ate fruit. Other studies have shown that people who eat more breakfast cereal tend to be thinner than those who eat less.
Of course, you might not like cereal; or you might like it but not want to eat it every day. There are other good choices.
Eggs. There’s a reason eggs are a popular choice for breakfast: eating eggs can be a great way to get protein. As we’ve said, the protein in eggs can satisfy your hunger and make you feel full until lunch.
In one study, 2 groups of overweight women ate almost identical low-fat, reduced-calorie meal plans for 8 weeks. The one difference was that 5 mornings a week women in one group ate 2 eggs for breakfast while women in the other group ate a bagel. Both meals were the same size and had the same number of calories. The women who ate 2 eggs lost almost two-thirds more weight than the ones who ate bagels. They also had more energy and a much greater change in the size of their waistline.
You might be worried that eggs may have too much cholesterol, but adding eggs to a low-fat diet is not likely to raise your risk of heart disease. Blood tests at the end of the study found that the women who ate eggs had about the same cholesterol and triglyceride levels as the women who ate bagels. If you are actively trying to manage your cholesterol levels, you may want to skip on the yolk and just eat the egg whites. Please discuss this subject further with your healthcare provider.
Another study investigated whether a little more protein would help people trying to lose weight. One group of women ate an egg sandwich with lean Canadian bacon, the other group ate a breakfast without as much protein. In this study, both groups lost the same amount of weight, but the women who had the extra protein felt less hungry in the 4 hours after breakfast. They also kept more of their lean muscle at the end of the study.
Other choices. Of course, there are many ways to eat a healthy breakfast. Some other choices can include:
- A fruit smoothie made with low-fat yogurt.
- Smoked salmon and light cream cheese on half a whole-grain bagel.
- Toasted whole-grain bread spread with fruit and a cup of low-fat milk or yogurt.
- Get more ideas for eating smart.
See what your healthcare provider thinks!
- Choose a healthy breakfast you can fix in a typical morning.
- Try to make it rich in fiber and nutrients, without too much fat or calories.
- Try to make it something you enjoy and can prepare easily and quickly.