Is Your Breakfast Sabotaging Your Diet?
For years we’ve heard the refrain that breakfast is the “most important meal of the day.” It’s accepted as fact that a hearty breakfast is the right way to start your morning. But what if that conventional wisdom is wrong? Could your breakfast be the one thing that’s stopping you from losing weight?
In the past, people needed a big breakfast to fuel a long, physically draining work day. If you were up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows or walk two miles to fetch water, you’d need a big, calorie-rich breakfast. Similarly, if breakfast was the only meal you’d eat for 6 or more hours, you’d want to load up on all the food you could fit. A big breakfast made sense in the past. But it doesn’t make sense for most people in the modern world.
Setting Yourself Up to Fail
Now, things are different. Most people start their day with something smaller than the traditional, enormous breakfast of the pioneer days. Instead, you might eat something like cereal, toast, or a pastry. If you’re watching your weight, you might add fruit. All of these are carbohydrates, and they will all lead to a spike in your blood sugar. This spike provides short-term energy but doesn’t last. And when your blood sugar levels return to normal a couple of hours later, you’ll be left feeling hungrier than ever. A breakfast rich in carbohydrates sets you up to fail from the very beginning of your day.
Extra Calories You Don’t Need
You may think you can avoid this sugar spike by choosing breakfast foods that are low in carbohydrates. One popular diet fad suggests eating meat and dairy throughout the day in an attempt to simulate the way “cavemen” ate. A high-protein breakfast is, in fact, much better than a high-carbohydrate one. Unfortunately, this protein can pack an enormous number of calories in a small amount of food, especially when the protein is animal-based. You may stay satisfied for an extra hour or so, but you’ll still be hungry by lunch time. And now, you’ll have consumed a huge chunk of calories before your day has even begun.
Look At Your Lifestyle
The fact is, most modern adults consume the majority of their calories in the evening. That’s thanks to our love of big dinners, as well as desserts, snacks, and alcoholic beverages. While you may feel bad about this, you shouldn’t. Weight loss is determined by the number of calories you take in and the number of calories you expend. It doesn’t matter to your body what time you get them. If eating more at night fits your lifestyle, accept it. You can alter your eating habits at other times and still come up with a calorie deficit at the end of the day. And a calorie deficit is the only way to lose weight, period.
Alternatives to Your Old Breakfast
If you’re convinced that your breakfast is sabotaging your diet, what can you do? First of all, get rid of the simple carbohydrates. Fiber slows down the sugar spike from carbohydrates, so make sure your food is full of it. Oatmeal with high-fiber fruit like raspberries will keep you full longer without adding a huge number calories. If you’re looking for protein in the morning, try a handful of nuts. These are high in calories, so keep your portion small, but they’re also high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber. If you have a little extra time, consider a smoothie that includes flax seeds and fruit. Breakfast doesn’t have to be a large meal to keep you satisfied until lunch, it just needs to contain fiber and a little bit of fat.
Do You Even Need Breakfast?
The short answer is no. Unless you’re planning a morning full of strenuous physical activity, you most likely don’t need to eat anything at all for breakfast. In fact, a 2014 study by scientists at Columbia University challenged the old-fashioned believe that skipping breakfast was bad for dieters. They found that skipping breakfast for four weeks led to weight loss for most overweight individuals. Although it flies in the face of conventional wisdom, it fits with common sense: reduce calorie consumption by eating less food!
Of course, changing or skipping breakfast is not a silver bullet for weight loss. Nothing is, and any diet tips that promise a quick fix should be treated skeptically. But reexamining your breakfast choices makes sense. Don’t be held back by assumptions and old, out-of-date nutritional advice. Look at your calorie intake with a critical eye, and you can clear a path to diet and weight loss success.