Eat breakfast. Lose weight.
You probably remember occasions when you simply did not have time to eat breakfast. By 10:30, you were ravenously hungry and grabbed a pastry out of the snack machine at work.
For some people, skipping breakfast is routine. Some think it saves them calories. Studies show, however, that people who sit down and eat a healthy breakfast tend to weigh less than those who skip the first meal of the day.
One reason is that breakfast eaters set and maintain a stable metabolism, avoiding the tendency to overeat later in the day. Breakfast eaters may also tend to follow a healthy lifestyle, making healthier choices about diet and exercise.
About 80 percent of persons in the National Weight Loss Registry–those who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for a year or longer–report that they eat breakfast regularly. They are also more likely than others to monitor the calories, sugar and fat they consume.
So what is a healthy breakfast?
Most nutritionists recommend a breakfast that contains protein, whole grain and fiber, along with at least a little fat to get your fat metabolism started for the day.
Protein blunts your hunger and whole grains have the staying power to keep you going through the morning. Too many refined carbohydrates or sugar will cause a rebound effect that will leave you hungry for a snack by mid-morning.
BACON AND EGGS?
One traditional American breakfast, whether at home or on a restaurant menu, includes eggs, bacon or sausage and toast.
Actually, that’s not a bad choice since it contains high quality protein from the eggs, whole grains and fiber from the toast (if you chose a whole grain option)...and a little bit of fat.
Bacon and sausage are high in saturated fat and sodium, though. And most cured meats are high in nitrates, preservatives that, if eaten regularly can increase the risk of cancer. There are nitrate-free versions of both available on the market. And Canadian bacon is a lower fat option.
A University of Alabama study published in the International Journal of Obesity [March 30, 2010] suggested that it might not be a bad idea to go full tilt in the morning. Mice fed higher quantities of fat in the morning had better metabolic profiles than those fed more carbohydrate-rich diets just after waking.
There is a catch, though: the high-fat breakfast eaters who maintained their weight were given a low-fat evening meal. Have your rich breakfast of steak, eggs, potatoes and toast, if you wish. But then compensate by eating oatmeal and fruit for dinner.
PORRIDGE, MUESLI, GRANOLA, CORN FLAKES:
If you remember your fairy tales, you know that porridge (also known as hot cereal) has been a traditional breakfast for hundreds of years. Porridge can be made from any grain, most commonly barley in olden times and oatmeal today.
Old fashioned oatmeal still provides 100 percent whole grain. And other whole grain cereals are readily available. Pre-packaged oatmeal, though, usually contains more sugar than you need in the morning...or any other time.
Oatmeal is particularly high in the type of fiber that lowers cholesterol, and it has other healthy nutrients such as potassium, folate and omega-3 fatty acids. Top a bowl with some berries, banana or other fruit and milk, and you have an excellent breakfast, rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Muesli, developed around 1900 by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner, uses uncooked rolled oats plus dried fruit and nuts. You can buy it in most health-oriented stores; or you can easily make your own.
You can make your own granola as well by toasting some rolled oats in the oven along with a little oil, honey or maple syrup plus dried fruits, raisins, nuts and any other ingredient you’d like.
It was not until the introduction of puffed cereals in the 1930s that manufacturers started targeting children–removing the fiber (which at the time was considered bad for digestion) and adding sugar to appeal to children. Some cereals today are more than 50 percent sugar by weight, but that should not relegate all cereal breakfasts to the junk heap.
There are many healthy ready-to-eat cereals, but you’re unlikely to find them through advertising or the “all natural” printed on the box. Read the label. What you’re looking for
- has less than 5 grams of sugar per serving;
- more than five grams of fiber; and
- whole grain–oats, wheat, barley, corn–at the very top of the ingredient list.
Cheerios contains whole grain oats with three grams of fiber and only one gram of sugar per serving. Corn flakes (without the sugar frosting) is a tasty, low calorie, non-fat option. Shredded wheat has six grams of fiber and one gram of fat.
A Harvard study of 17,000 men who regularly ate either refined grain or whole grain cereal for breakfast found that they weighed less than similar men who did not eat cereal.
ORANGE JUICE, COFFEE, TEA:
A small glass of orange juice in the morning is a great way to start the day. You can almost taste the sunshine. But for the rest of the day, it’s better to focus on eating whole fruit, which has less calories and sugar and more fiber.
Both coffee and tea–with and without the caffeine–have numerous antioxidants and health benefits. One 2005 study concluded that coffee is the greatest source of antioxidants in the American diet. Another study found that drinking tea might boost metabolism and contribute to weight loss.
A quick cup of coffee or tea is not good enough, though. Choose a healthy breakfast that appeals to you, and take a few minutes to sit down and eat it.