Weight Loss Planning - A Good Start
Carolyn Classick-Kohn,MS,RD

Diets are a dime a dozen- some very well-founded, many just plain ridiculous (how many of your neighbors and co-workers have found the secret to a perfect body without exercising with the latest diet craze?). But I challenge anyone to argue two basic golden rules to eating well: Eat your vegetables and eat a good breakfast. For those of you who want a "quick fix" to their weight control issues, this is it! Accomplish these two things and you are well on your way to your personal goal.

Break Fast
Importance of Breakfast for Weight Loss
Break down the word "breakfast" and it will reveal its importance. When most people eat in the morning, they are breaking the fast that occurred through the night while sleeping (unless you work graveyard shifts). This is your first chance to re-fuel your body and start the day off right - don't blow it with a high fat, creamy mocha caramel coffee drink and a gooey pastry. While you were sleeping, your body was preparing to wake up and start the new day. Hormones are busy producing chemicals to get you going, raise your blood sugar, and kick off the day. For most people, the changes in blood sugar are within a normal, variable range and it's a natural process that occurs. Others, who have diabetes, may have very high blood sugar levels when they wake up, mostly due to these hormonal responses that don't go unchecked. Either way, it's important to start the day off with a good tank of fuel - not junk!

Timing is Everything
There are several important reasons for spreading out your foods throughout the day rather than eating a few large meals. The importance of breakfast has been shown in several feeding studies, and the relevance to most of you is:

  • people who only eat one to two meals a day tend to have more body fat (as measured by skinfold thickness - the "gold standard" for body fat measurement)

  • people who eat large meals versus spreading out the same amount of food throughout the day tend to have higher blood cholesterol levels than those who eat frequent, small meals.

  • skipping breakfast, eating a very small breakfast, and not varying breakfast foods is associated with greater body fat. 

Mix it up
Now that we're all convinced to get up a little earlier to sit down and enjoy a good breakfast, what is a good breakfast anyway? The classic cereal and milk is o.k. (high fiber, low sugar, low fat cereal and skim milk!), and eating something is better than skipping breakfast altogether, but a little variety might be nice. Ideally, breakfast should supply about 25% of your calories, if you consider eating 3 meals plus 2-3 smaller snacks so that you're spreading out your calories. Here are some thoughts on planning a good breakfast:

  • Eat a piece of fruit rather than drinking juice. Whole fruit contains more fiber and is more filling. Many fruit juices have sugar added and they are high in "empty" calories.

  • Eat a combination of fat, protein, and carbohydrate at breakfast so that your meal can help provide energy throughout the morning.

  • Smoothies & Weight GainFruit smoothies (made with non-fat yogurt, berries, bananas, skim milk) are quick. If you're trying to gain weight, it's a pretty concentrated source of energy and you can some powdered protein to it. If you're trying to lose weight, just watch the total amount that you drink and stay within your calorie level. Do not add raw egg to these drinks - it's a high risk for salmonella.

Outside the Box
Don't Skip Breakfast - Reduce Carbs
For those of you who tend to overeat on their carbohydrates (this is very easy to do on a weight loss plan), it's tempting to skip breakfast to save on carbs. Don't skip, but do reduce your carbohydrates and add other foods at breakfast. Think outside the box (in this case the cereal box) at breakfast, and try other foods. If you have a nutritious, low fat meal the night before for dinner, there's nothing wrong with having the same thing at breakfast the next day. Soup, salads, a mix of cold brown rice, fruit, and nuts, muesli, some cold salmon or tuna on toast, a vegetable omelet (one egg w/mostly vegetables) with one piece of toast are all good energy boosters. The key is to get a good start on the day by having a good breakfast.
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