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Skipping breakfast may seem like an easy way to cut calories if you're dieting, but it actually makes it harder for you to lose weight and keep it off. The National Weight Control Registry-one of the largest ongoing studies of successful weight-losers-has found that the majority of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for five years or more eat breakfast every day of the week.
There are three important reasons for eating breakfast:
Breakfast boosts your metabolism. By starting your day with a balance of carbohydrates and lean protein, you actually boost calorie-burning in three ways:
-- Your body burns calories through the digestion, absorption, and processing of food.
-- Eating breakfast can boost your energy level, which helps increase calories burned through activities throughout the day.
-- Providing your body with healthful fuel after nighttime "fasting" keeps your body from using calorie-burning muscle for energy during physical activity.
Breakfast prevents "crescendo eating." Like a symphony, food intake builds over the course of a day. What begins with skipping breakfast often builds to an evening finale involving ice cream. Crescendo-eaters and those who just eat two large meals a day have a higher risk of obesity.
Breakfast stabilizes blood sugar. A breakfast of lean protein and fiber helps your body better process carbohydrates for the entire day. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable helps prevent hunger pangs associated with late-morning dips in blood sugar. Steady blood sugar levels improve energy, which helps burn more calories.
Discover good breakfast choices in the next pages.
Use our four-part formula to put together a lean, fulfilling breakfast.
1) Lean protein: Good choices are low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt (keep sugar content low), egg or egg whites, a vegetarian or low-fat patty, or a scoop of protein powder.
2) Whole grains: Choose whole grain bread with at least 2 g of fiber, whole grain cereal with 5 g of fiber, or oatmeal to get your fiber fix. Women should have one serving of whole grains at breakfast, men should have two.
3) Antioxidants: Add brightly colored fruits or veggies to load up on antioxidants and fill up with fewer calories.
4) Optional healthful fat: Add a fat such as nuts or nut butter for flavor. Watch portions: 1 tablespoon of nuts equals 1 serving.
These breakfast ideas include at least three key elements of the four-part breakfast formula. Women should stick to the lower range of suggested servings. Once you get the formula down, you can experiment and create your own favorites.
Cottage Cheese and Fruit
Lean protein: 1/2-1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
Whole grains: 1-2 slices of whole grain toast
Antioxidants: 1/2-1 cup berries or peaches
Optional healthful fat: 2-3 teaspoons peanut butter
Lean protein: 1 egg, 1/4-1/2 cup egg substitute, or 2 egg whites. 1 vegetarian sausage patty or 1 ounce ham
Whole grains: 1/2-1 whole grain English muffin
Antioxidants: Eat with 1/2-1 cup berries or peaches
Optional healthful fat: 1 slice low-fat cheese
You also can make this with 1-2 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese and 2 ounces smoked salmon.
Tip: If you're trying to lose weight, studies show that starting your day with an egg-based breakfast could help you feel full and eat less for the next 36 hours. The American Heart Association says that even for some people with high cholesterol, an egg a day is OK.
Lean protein: 1 cup low-sugar Greek or Russian yogurt (this yogurt is creamy and rich in protein)
Whole grains: 1/2-1 cup low-fat/high-fiber granola or high-fiber cereal
Antioxidants: 1/2-1 cup berries
Whole grains: 1/2 cup raw or 1 cup plain cooked oatmeal; add cinnamon and sugar substitute for flavor
Antioxidants: Add 1/4 cup berries.
Optional healthful fat: Add 1 tablespoon chopped nuts.
Lean protein: Small nonfat latte
Protein-whole grains: A low-sugar, high-fiber protein bar (try Dr. Melina protein bars or find one that has at least 10 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per bar)
Antioxidants: A medium peach