Lose Weight: Eat Breakfast
Studies show making breakfast a daily habit can help you lose weight - and keep it off.
The Smart Breakfast
If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it's best to make wise food choices. That's where fruits, vegetables, and whole grains come into the picture. Because these are high-fiber foods, they fill you up - yet they bring less fat to the table, says Barbara J. Rolls, PhD, the Guthrie Chair in Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in Pittsburgh and author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan.
These high-fiber foods allow you to eat more food yet get fewer calories. It's a concept called "energy density" - the number of calories in a specified amount of food, Rolls explains.
"Some foods - especially fats - are very energy dense, which means they have a lot of calories packed into a small size," Rolls tells WebMD. "However, foods that contain lots of water have very low energy density. Water itself has an energy density of zero. High-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains have low energy density."
Translation: If you eat foods with high energy density, such as bagels, you rack up calories quickly. If you eat high-fiber, low-energy-density foods - such as oatmeal, strawberries, walnuts, and low-fat yogurt -- you can eat more and get fewer calories.
A breakfast made up of 1 cup of oatmeal, 1/2lf cup of low-fat milk, 1 cup of sliced strawberries, and 1 tablespoon of walnuts has only 307 calories total. Two multi-grain waffles, with 1 cup of blueberries, 3 tablespoons of light syrup, and 1 cup of plain low-fat yogurt have about 450 calories total. That's almost equal to the standard bagel-and-cream-cheese breakfast - yet it's much more food, and much lower in fat.
Breakfast Fast and Easy
A high-fiber cereal - 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving -- is optimal, Stokes advises. "But don't overdo it if you're not used to it, because too much fiber can cause constipation, diarrhea, or an upset stomach."
As for sugary cereals, "it's better than nothing," he says. "Some breakfast is better than no breakfast. The last thing anyone should do is skip breakfast. Otherwise, you'll be eating something even worse later on - candy bars and potato chips -- because you're starving."
An even better option: "Some moms take sweetened cereal and mix it with unsweetened cereal. Or they take unsweetened cereal and mix it with something a little sugary -- yogurt or low-fat pudding."
Smart Breakfast Made Simple
"Breakfast doesn't need to be elaborate," Stokes tells WebMD. "My philosophy is, the simpler the better." He keeps frozen blueberries or peaches on hand. "They're even more nutritious than fresh anyway because they are picked at peak time, and frozen immediately." Canned peaches (in natural juices, no sugar added) are also a good option.
Peanut butter, eggs, low-fat yogurt/milk are other good choices, he says.