Breakfast: you either eat it every day or regularly forego the wildly debated first meal. For years, you’ve been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because it can lead to better health outcomes. But when it comes to shedding pounds, is there one right answer?
New research is actually conflicting and not concrete when it comes to consuming a healthy breakfast for weight loss. A report published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013 found that skipping breakfast generally has either little or no effect on weight gain. And people who eat breakfast may actually end up eating more daily calories than those who skip it.
Though researchers have struggled to discover a true association between breakfast and weight loss without strong bias or major confounding variables, there are still some definite benefits to eating a balanced breakfast. For one, a balanced breakfast can lead to steadier blood sugar and improved energy levels, which can prevent overeating later in the day. Breakfast may not directly help you lose weight, but it is simply an excellent habit that can improve your mood, attention span and overall quality of life throughout the day.
Follow these key tips to help you build a balanced breakfast:
Combine key nutrients. Choose at least three of these food groups: protein, healthy fat, dairy, grains, fruits or vegetables. Eating the right combination of nutrients at breakfast helps ensure you get close to the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) to support your overall health. That being said, even if you hit all those nutrient notes, be mindful of portion control.
Watch your sugar intake. Too much added sugar can be a sneaky culprit for turning a perfectly healthy breakfast into an energy-zapping meal. When choosing cereals, aim for less than 8 grams of sugar per serving; 4 or 5 grams per serving is even better! Also try to limit your consumption of breakfast treats and “empty calorie” foods, such as doughnuts, scones or other pastries.
Add some fiber. Most Americans do not get the recommend 20-35 grams of fiber per day. Fiber can aid in keeping you fuller longer, can lead to more stable blood sugar levels and can also help with digestion. Look for a cereal that boasts at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Other ways to get fiber in your morning meal could be fresh fruit, 100% whole wheat bread, oatmeal or a whole grain English muffin.
Pump up the protein. Another way to ensure that your morning meal stays with you for a while is to include protein. Like fiber, a serving of protein can help keep you feeling fuller for longer, which helps prevent overindulging at meals or snacks later in the day. Some great sources of protein in the morning include a scrambled egg, low-sugar Greek yogurt or peanut butter.
The bottom line is that starting with a balanced meal can help set you up for nutrition success the rest of the day. For many, a healthy, hearty breakfast may be exactly the edge you need to lose weight. Regardless, a breakfast rich in protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables will provide the right nutrient punch to keep you full and focused for hours to come!