Summer Slim-Down meal plan: Week 3
Look and feel your best without feeling deprived by following our eight-week program. This week: How a balanced breakfast helps you eat better all dayBy Melissa Greer
We often don’t think of breakfast the way we should—as the most important meal of the day. Rather, it's often a hassle on our way out the door on the way to work every morning. But, says registered dietitian Mary Bamford, “Breakfast is not the place to save on calories”—and she's strict on this point. Too often our diets begin with a light breakfast that lacks in protein and other nutrients, which triggers us to overload on food later in the day.
Breakfast: Fuel for your body and mind
Bamford says breakfast should consist of as many calories as dinner, if not more. One of the most common diet mistakes people make is skimping on calories throughout the day, only to have a large meal at night. “It would be almost like filling up your car tank at the end of the day to go nowhere but sit in a garage,” she says. “Breakfast is when your body needs food for you to get moving in the day.”
And despite the jump-start that your morning caffeine fix gives you, making you feel as though you don’t need any extra energy from food, a latte does not count as a meal. Treat breakfast, and your food in general, as fuel for your body. This will ensure your metabolism stays up throughout the day.
Keep meals consistent
“Eating little during the day causes cravings in the evening and lowers your base metabolic rate, so it actually reduces your calorie needs,” says Bamford—in other words, eating less breakfast encourages your body to hang on to calories rather than burn them. Maintain a consistent meal schedule throughout the day, eating every few hours, to keep your metabolism and blood sugar levels steady.
Just as dinner should be between 400 and 450 calories for most women (closer to 600 for men), so should breakfast. Including protein with your first meal of the day will also sustain you for longer, so you’re less likely to be reaching for those office snacks all morning.
What if I hate breakfast?
If eating first thing in the morning has always turned you off, start slowly making it a new habit by at least eating something small, like a piece of fruit. Then keep adding more food to that first meal each day until you’re eating a full 400-calorie meal. Build a meal around a protein-rich food such as eggs, Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, and then add other breakfast selections such as fresh fruit and rolled oats or whole grains.
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Web exclusive, June 2011