One of the greatest ways people set themselves up to fail in their diets is by skipping or skimping on breakfast and lunch. I’ve covered the importance of a healthy, protein-rich lunch before. As for breakfast: why does a proper breakfast make a difference? Can’t you just eat your calories later in the day? Can’t you just eat smaller, snack-sized items like S instead of sitting down to an actual meal?
Yesterday I met with a new client, S, who is 6 months pregnant. Before you even think it: she is not trying to lose weight! But our conversation did touch on the rate of weight gain she has been experiencing in her pregnancy thus far and how it might be slowed, as her doctor is concerned it is a bit excessive.
Sidebar: I had a midwife for 2 pregnancies and not once did any of my midwives comment on my rate of weight gain (nor have I heard of this from any clients who had midwifery care). In contrast, I have encountered several women who have been shamed and reprimanded by their male obstetricians for gaining weight too rapidly, or too much in general, during pregnancy. As far as I’m concerned, yet another reason to opt for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage of midwifery care! If you are considering a midwife, get all the info you’ll need from your local midwives association.
Let’s just use this conversation as a jumping-off point! S told me she wakes up, has some yogurt before walking to work, then proceeds to eat some sort of carbohydrate (oatmeal first, then a bowl of berries, then a banana, typically) every hour, approximately, until lunch. She is constantly “snacky” and hungry, gaining weight rapidly and feels panicky about not having a snack on her at all times in case the snack monster attacks.
I told S that being hungry every hour is not a normal situation. A proper meal, whether pregnant or not, should sustain one for at least a couple of hours. If your meals are properly composed to include fat, protein and slow carbohydrate (think a sprouted grain bread over a bowl of rice krispies, or an apple over a toaster waffle if you’re wondering what I mean by “slow” carbs), you should be full for 3-4 hours or even longer, in my experience. Some of us need to eat more frequently, but the average person is usually experiencing snackiness and frequent hunger, often accompanied by a gut-wrenching panicky need to eat, due to improper fueling.
Do you know this feeling? Would you believe me if I told you that it’s not normal to feel panic-hungry on a regular basis? That hunger should creep up slowly, providing you ample time to use your willpower and cooking skills to prepare (or purchase wisely) a meal that will satiate you again for several hours?
In 2007, researchers from Louisiana State University divided a group of overweight & obese women into two groups; the women were asked to eat either two eggs a day for breakfast, or have a bagel. After 8 weeks, the egg eaters had lost the most weight – 65% more weight than the bagel eaters. On top of that, they lost almost 2x the inches from their waistlines that the bagel eaters did, indicating not just weight loss but a change in body composition and degree of body fatness.
The same research team did a previous study indicating the egg breakfasters felt full much longer than the bagel crowd and, as a result, they ate less during the rest of the day. The protein content of eggs is believed to be mostly responsible for the weight loss and satiety effects, and I believe the great fat content also helps slow down the eggs’ digestion and contribute to the long-lasting feeling of fullness.
Concerned about eggs, cholesterol, and heart disease risk? So was S. But study after study has shown that daily consumption of eggs does not raise blood cholesterol. In fact, a protein-rich diet including eggs will help induce weight-loss and usually actually lower cholesterol!
I’ve been working on my post-baby body for a couple of years now and it’s still a work in progress. I’ve been using the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Healthy Weight Action Plan to guide me with goal setting tools, diet tracking tools and even a recipe database to give me inspiration.
I understand that weight loss involves changing habits – helping to change habits is what I do for a living! I also apply my guidelines to my own diet and lifestyle, and a protein-rich breakfast is important to my diet. It fuels me properly, keeps away that gnawing hunger and makes me feel healthy and successful from the get-go so I’m less likely to “cheat” later on in the day.
Here are a few of my go-to breakfasts:
- 1/2 – 1 cup 2% cottage cheese (believe me, the caloric & fat difference is not worth the watery taste – stick with yummy 2%) and a sliced banana, sprinkled with cinnamon
- 2 hard boiled eggs with cayenne and coarse salt, plus 1/2 an avocado
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, blended with 1 small banana, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries and a splash of almond milk or milk for blending, plus cinnamon & nutmeg
- 2-3 eggs sauteed with 3-4 cups (dry measure) baby spinach and topped with 1/4 cup salsa
- 1/2 whole wheat english muffin topped with sliced tomato and 2 eggs scrambled with feta cheese and oregano (usually splashed with ridiculous amounts of hot sauce)
- 3-4 small turkey breakfast sausages (or lean pork or lamb sausages) sauteed with onion, garlic, kale or spinach and crushed chili pepper flakes
Got a favourite healthy breakfast? Share!
Get more great recipes – breakfast, lunch and dinner – plus sample meal plans for different body types and activity levels on the Healthy Weight Action Plan! Join me – it’s free, customized to your goals and super simple to use!