Breakfast: A Good Start!

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Breakfast: To Eat or Not To Eat?
People trying to lose weight often skip breakfast to cut calories or because they think a morning meal makes them hungry later. "Some people complain that if they eat breakfast, they get hungry during the day," says Rachel Trevethan, MS, RD, LD, of Nutrition Advantage in Dayton, Ohio. But hunger a few hours after eating breakfast, is a natural and healthy sign. "It means your metabolism is working and you are burning up calories and it's time again to nourish your body," says Nancy Kennedy, MS, RD, who counsels patients in her private practice and as a cardiac rehab educator.

Common sense and anecdotal evidence says that eating breakfast makes you less hungry later, which should help with weight control. "I've seen patients eat much less later in the day--especially in the evenings--as they eat more in morning," says Trevethan.

A Vanderbilt University study found no significant difference in weight loss between breakfast-eaters and breakfast-skippers who followed a 1200 calorie meal plan as part of a 12-week weight loss program.1 "Overall, there was no difference between the two groups in terms of weight loss," says David Schlundt, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt.

While breakfast was not linked to more weight loss, subjects in the Vanderbilt study kept detailed food diaries, allowing researchers to see differences in uncontrollable snacking and overeating. "Breakfast skippers had more difficulty with impulsive snacking and overeating than breakfast eaters," reports Dr. Schlundt.

A More Healthful Diet
Eating breakfast increases the quality of your diet, making it more healthful in many ways. Breakfast eaters in the Vanderbilt study reduced their dietary fat intake. A soon-to-be published study (sponsored by Quaker Oats) from Colorado State University2 found that men eating two servings of wheat or oat cereal per day (one at breakfast) had positive dietary changes, including increased fiber intake, decreased dietary fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol intake. "Although both groups [wheat cereal and oat cereal eaters] had these beneficial dietary changes, " says research dietitian Brenda Davy, MS, RD, "only those in the oat group had beneficial changes in blood lipids." Another study conducted in Finland and sponsored by Kelloggs found similar results.3 Subjects who ate cereal reduced their intake of total and saturated fat and showed modest reductions in blood cholesterol levels.

What To Eat
It's clear that breakfast can help ensure a healthful diet. But the meal itself has to be healthy. Bacon and eggs are loaded with fat and cholesterol. A toaster pastry or glass of juice will be digested and used up quickly. High fiber foods that keep you feeling full, like whole grain cereal, seem to help the most. Some people find that adding a little protein (like nonfat yogurt) or fat (like nuts or seeds) may make the meal more filling.

"I think that encouraging people to increase their overall fiber intake by consuming one to two servings of a high fiber (oat) cereal each day is a great strategy to potentially reduce cardiovascular disease risk," says Davy.
"I promote breakfast as an easy way to get almost half of your fiber in for the day," says Kennedy. "A high fiber cereal, sprinkled with a tablespoon of ground flax and some berries or a banana can provide 12-15 grams of fiber."

Still Want to Skip It?
Some people insist they just aren't hungry in the morning. Taking a walk or doing some simple stretching might get you going and increase your appetite. "Your body needs fuel first thing in the morning," says Dr. Schlundt.
Just don't wait too long to eat, or your hunger could get out of control. "I think subconsciously when people don't eat breakfast they give themselves permission to eat more at other meals," says Kennedy. The extra calories add up fast when you are trying to lose weight.

Good Morning Choices
• Oatmeal topped with berries and sunflower seeds
• Bran flakes with bananas and skim milk
• Whole wheat toast spread with peanut butter
• Whole wheat English muffin topped with melted low fat cheese
• Low-fat bran muffin with fresh fruit
• Egg white omelet stuffed with onions, peppers, mushrooms and low-fat cheese
1. Schlundt DG et al. Am J Clin Nutr 1992:55:645-51.
2. Davy B. Presented at American Heart Association meeting, June 2000.
3. Kleemola P et al. Eur J Clin Nutr (1999) 53, 716-721.
By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD

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