Local dietitians: Breakfast key to a healthy weight

Marci Gore • Apr 10, 2013 at 8:30 AM

We’ve heard for years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Turns out this old adage is really true and that eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast can provide a host of health benefits, including maintaining a healthy weight.

A number of studies show that people who successfully maintain a significant weight loss are regular breakfast eaters.

But for many of us, finding — or making — the time to eat breakfast can be a challenge. Pressed for time in the mornings, we often run out the door with empty stomachs, knowing our first meal of the day may not be for several more hours when we eat lunch.

According to two local dietitians, this is not the ideal way to start the day. And both experts say there are plenty of breakfast options that don’t require a lot of time or effort in the mornings and that it really is possible to eat a healthy breakfast on the run.

“Breakfast gets your metabolism running in the morning. It’s the fuel that gets your body going,” said Leah Meade, a registered dietitian with Wellmont Health System. “My patients who eat breakfast have much better control over their weight. When you eat breakfast, this is the meal that gets your metabolism running and better able to burn the fat for the rest of the day.”

Monica Cooper, a bariatric/weight loss registered dietitian with Mountain States Health Alliance’s Resolve Weight Loss Management Solutions, says to try to always include three components in your breakfast.

“A well-balanced breakfast is defined as a lean protein — this keeps you full — and a whole grain for your fiber and a fruit for your vitamins and minerals. I think what people often miss at breakfast time is a protein source. It’s that protein that keeps you going all day or to your next snack or meal,” she said.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated.

“You could just do a low-fat yogurt and some fruit or granola. Another good option is a whole-wheat piece of bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter and half of a banana,” Cooper said.

When in a rush, Meade says a cup of oatmeal or a cup of whole-grain cereal with some fruit or berries are good options. And, she recommends, if you’re thirsty, to try to drink some juice or a cup of low-fat or skim milk in the mornings.

“Milk is really good in the mornings because it’s going to add some protein in there if you don’t get it with your food,” Meade said.

If you must grab something on the road, Meade suggests some trail mix with nuts and fruit and a cup of milk. Or, she adds, some fast food restaurants now provide healthier breakfast options, such as lower-in-fat-and-calorie breakfast sandwiches and fruit and yogurt parfaits.

Deciding the night before what you will eat for breakfast the next day can help save time in the mornings, Cooper said.

“Planning ahead goes hand-in-hand with weight management or weight loss. Whether it’s cutting fruit up the night before to put into a smoothie or setting up your plate for the morning, do as much as you can prior to waking up in the morning. Or you might want to pack it to go and eat in the car or if you have a job that allows you to eat it there, eat breakfast when you get to work,” Cooper said.

Eating breakfast every day must become a habit, Cooper adds.

“This first meal of the day is what can influence your appetite the rest of the day. When you skip the morning meal, it can have a huge effect on your metabolism,” she said. “By skipping breakfast, you’re kind of sabotaging yourself the whole day. You’ll have no control over your appetite and you’ll tend to overeat at lunch and at your evening meals and snacks. This can lead to weight gain. It’s best to distribute all your calories throughout the day — over four to five meals or snacks a day. To lose weight, you must really eat.”

People trying to lose weight often mistakenly believe skipping breakfast will lead to quicker weight loss.

“The problem with this is your body is not aware that you chose not to eat. Instead, it thinks you don’t have access to food and your body will use your muscle mass as energy and leave the fat mass behind. That’s not really the most desirable way to lose weight,” Cooper said.

Below is a smoothie recipe from the American Dietetic Association that can be prepared quickly and easily just before you head out the door in the mornings.

Tropical Breeze Smoothie

1 cup non-fat milk 1/2 cup crushed pineapple (in juice) 1 medium-sized banana 1 medium-sized papaya, peeled and cubed 4 to 6 ice cubes

Combine all the ingredients in a blender on high until smooth. Serve at once.

Tip: Slice and freeze the banana to make the smoothie extra thick.

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