If you’ve hit a weight-loss plateau, it may have more to do with what you’re not eating than what you are. Skipping meals to meet your daily calorie goal could actually keep you from achieving long-term weight loss, dietitians say.
“People who regularly skip meals not only eat larger amounts of food later in the day, but may be at risk of developing other metabolic changes such as weight gain and elevated blood glucose levels,” says Susan Weiner, a dietitian and nutrition business owner.
Breakfast could be a particularly risky meal to miss. Omitting breakfast may lead to greater fluctuations in blood glucose levels throughout the day, driving both hunger and food cravings. Those who skip the most important meal of the day may be at greater risk of becoming overweight or obese, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, a dietitian and author of “The Protein Packed Breakfast Club.”
“Our bodies are like cars and need fuel on the road, not in the garage,” says Harris-Pincus. “When we eat little all day and then fill up in the evening, we are doing the opposite of what our body needs.”
Even breakfast lovers might want to consider amping up the volume of their morning meal. Overweight women who consumed a higher-calorie breakfast experienced greater weight loss and reduction in waist circumference compared with those who consumed more of their calories later in the day, according to a study published in Obesity. Both groups consumed the same number of calories, but those who ate a higher-calorie breakfast experienced more satiety, as well.
To help space out your calories throughout the day, plan a meal or a snack every 3–5 hours and aim to eat within an hour after waking.
“I find those who are not hungry in the morning are eating later in the evening. Try to stop eating 3–4 hours before bedtime so you will wake up hungrier,” states Harris-Pincus.
If time is the biggest factor holding you back from eating a larger breakfast, make it a habit to plan ahead.
“Do as much as possible the evening before,” says Weiner. “Prepare your breakfast the evening before or at least have the ingredients ready to go. This will cut down on decision-making and help you get through the morning without added stress.”
A breakfast rich in protein and fiber that contains between 400–700 calories may be the ideal combination for keeping you satisfied and fighting cravings throughout the day. Need some inspiration? Give a few of these options a try:
- A breakfast burrito made with a whole-grain tortilla, eggs, beans, avocado and shredded cheese.
- Protein pancakes made with eggs, oats and mashed banana, then topped with fruit and drizzled nut butter.
- Overnight oatmeal prepared with oats, milk, Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, seeds and nut butter.
- Hard-boiled eggs — which can be made in advance for the week — paired with raw veggies, dip and avocado toast.