Bigger breakfast, smaller waistline?
You don’t normally think of breakfast as the time for a three-course meal, but some researchers are claiming that making breakfast your biggest meal of the day can make a “dramatic” positive difference to your overall health.
Researchers studied two groups of obese women over a 12-week period—one group consumed a 1,400 calorie daily diet in which 700 calories were consumed at breakfast, 500 at lunch and 200 at dinner; and another group in which the larger calorie meal was consumed at dinner. By the end of the study, the “big breakfast” group had lost an average of 17.8 pounds each and three inches off of their waistline, while the other (“big dinner”) group lost an average of 7.3 pounds and 1.4 inches. In addition, the big breakfast group showed a significant decrease in insulin, glucose and triglyceride levels. Further, the group didn’t show high spikes in glucose levels that typically occur after a meal, which can lead to high blood pressure and greater strain on the heart.
While these results may be impressive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should begin each day with steak and mashed potatoes.
“I caution patients about what this kind of recommendation does and does not mean,” says Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group, who is also board-certified in obesity. “The message isn’t that people should and can consume all they want at breakfast, as long as they eat less for the other meals of the day. The key is to be mindful of what you’re consuming all day long, and making healthier choices. I would say a ‘good’ breakfast is better than a ‘big’ one.”
The study goes on to suggest that people should adopt a “well thought-out meal schedule, in addition to proper nutrition and exercise” to maximize health and weight loss goals. It also recommends against late-night snacking, “making that midnight sugar rush more costly than it appears.”
What exactly does a “well thought-out meal schedule” really look like, though?
According to Mary Carroll, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., “A healthy eating plan is all about giving your body the nutrients it needs, while also cutting down on your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.”
Carroll suggests to start with:
- Incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Consuming lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
- Choosing foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
- Controlling portion sizes
“Taking these steps can help you gain control of your diet in a reasonable way,” says Carroll, “without experimenting with eating large portions at different times of the day.”
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