Breakfast…I wake up everyday looking forward to this morning ritual. This morning when I looked out the window and saw 8 inches of snow, I decided to welcome it with pumpkin pancakes and an egg. As I ate and watched the numerous school closings, the news anchors briefly mentioned a study which found people who eat more calories for breakfast go on to consume more calories the rest of the day compared to those who eat smaller breakfasts. The study’s take home note for weight loss? Shrink the size of your breakfast…if you choose to eat it at all. Before you swap your oatmeal and eggs for a nutri-grain bar (or for nothing), keep in mind that the subjects in this study were NOT trying to lose weight. When we consider the majority of previous studies looking at breakfast AND weight loss, they show that those who eat a *hearty* and healthy breakfast eat less calories over the course of the day, are able to better manage their weight , and experience less night-time cravings . **As a reference point to “hearty”, I would like to mention that when I plan a client’s diet, in most cases, I dedicate at least 20% of their calories to breakfast. For example, a 1,600 calorie plan would include a ~320 calorie breakfast…some people would get more, some people would get less depending on their goals and physical activity. Before I totally dismiss this study and the media’s attempt to get our attention with another “shocking” nutrition piece ( ignoring all past research ), I do think it offers three take home points for those wishing to stay on the weight-loss track. 1) Introduce Your Cereal to a Smaller Bowl : In this month’s Cooking Light Magazine, their “portion police” article mentioned that 90/100 people poured more than the recommended amount of cereal. Recommended amount being 1 serving size on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Here is an example of how that practice could de-rail your diet: Cereal : Fiber One Raisin Bran Clusters Recommended Size : 1 cup = 170 calories Actual Average Pour: 1 1/3 cup = 226 calories Add 1 cup of skim milk and a banana…= 430 calories (whoops, 110 calories over) TAKE HOME: Perform a “portion check” on commonly eaten foods every once in awhile. Use a smaller cereal bowl to visually please your appetite before you take your first bite. 2) Make satiety swaps . If 1 cup of cooked oatmeal and hardboiled egg fills up your breakfast tank for 225 calories, choose that breakfast more often than the bagel with cream cheese for the same 225 calories that leaves you hungry 30 minutes later. In support of eggs, a recent study compared two different breakfasts that contained the same amount of calories as given in my example above. Those who ate the egg breakfast lost more weight, and in particular more weight around their waist than those who ate the bagel breakfast. TAKE HOME: Pay attention to your hunger level after you eat breakfast. If your stomach talks just one hour after eating, re-forumualte your breakfast plate. 3) Shrink by 20%. Perhaps, slightly shrinking your morning breakfast is an easy way to decrease your overall calorie intake, but shrink minimally. If you shrink beyond 20%, your stomach will notice, and it might lead to over eating at the next meal or later that evening. As with all late-breaking studies, we have to remember just like anything else, there are two sides to every study. I will continue to challenge my clients to shift their eating patterns and consume more in the first 1/2 of the day than the second 1/2. Although mom’s nutritional advice might not always be science-based, her daily reminder to “eat the most important meal of the day” is one I will deliver as a mom out of care, and also as a dietitian based out on evidence.
Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.