The old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day isn’t necessarily set in stone. After all, lots of people have success with intermittent fasting. But if you’re a breakfast eater who is trying to lose weight, your first meal of the day can be incredibly important. “Eating the moment you wake up isn’t necessary, but research is strong for the benefits of eating a morning meal,” explains Olivia Brant, a registered dietitian certified in sports dietetics. “Your metabolism can get a boost from eating in the morning and a nutritious choice will set the pace for the rest of your day.”
To ensure your breakfast sets you up for weight-loss success, take a cue from these RD-approved rules:
“Too often, I see people eating sugar-heavy meals for breakfast, which means elevated insulin levels first thing in the morning and the resulting energy crash,” says Samantha Presicci, RD. For example, oatmeal with honey and fruit-based smoothies are popular breakfast choices that seem healthy. And they are — but they might not be the best choices for weight loss. “Having a sweet breakfast first thing often leads to sugar cravings throughout the day,” adds Presicci.
“Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and it helps signal your brain that you’re full,” notes Presicci. That means you’re less likely to be ravenous by the time lunch rolls around. Eating more protein has other benefits, too. “Consuming adequate, high-quality protein helps avoid muscle loss, which can often happen with weight loss, especially when someone tries to lose too much weight too fast.” Aim for at least 20 grams of protein at breakfast.
Look to include foods that are high in volume compared to their calories, recommends McKenzie Flinchum, RD. “They will fill you up and keep you fuller for longer, which can help you stick to your calorie needs and goals. A few examples are high-fiber foods and foods that contain a higher water content such as fresh fruits and vegetables, boiled potatoes and cooked whole grains like oatmeal.”
“Coffee is an important part of many people’s mornings,” says Annie Reed, RD. However, flavored creamers, sugar and oils or butter used in drinks like bulletproof coffee can turn your morning cup of joe into a full-fledged dessert. “Try drinking your coffee black or with a splash of milk,” suggests Reed. “It may take some time to adjust to the new taste, but eventually you will learn to love your new way of drinking coffee without sabotaging your calorie goal.”
We often eat breakfast on the go, but whenever possible sit down to eat. “Seeing your food on a plate or in a bowl in front of you can help with the satisfaction part of the meal,” explains Flinchum. “It is very easy to overeat if you eat while you’re distracted. Your meal will be much more satisfying if you see it, consume it without distractions and are able to enjoy it.” This intuitive eating approach may help you feel full sooner, and get more satisfaction out of your morning meal, which is key to avoiding feelings of deprivation as you lose weight.