Mom told you that breakfast is the most important meal, but when it comes to obesity, she may have been wrong: A 2014 study found that, despite conventional wisdom, eating breakfast wasn’t a key determinant of weight loss.
However, people who lose big weight and keep it off eat breakfast, and following the strategies that gave them success can do the same for those hoping to lose. In a survey done by the National Weight Control registry, 78 percent of people who had maintained a 30-pound weight loss for at least a year were daily breakfast eaters, and 90 percent of that group had breakfast at least five times per week. And researchers from the University of Massachusetts found that men who don’t eat in the morning are almost 5 times more likely to be obese than those who eat breakfast.
Oh, and skipping can put you at risk for heart disease, too: In a 2013 study from Harvard, researchers found that people who didn’t eat breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of death from heart attack or heart disease. So listen to your mother: Eat breakfast, and eat it with these five strategies to turn the meal into an all-day weight-destroying superpower.
1. Start with two glasses of water.
Fill ‘em up: Drinking 16 ounces of water before meals could help you lose 36 percent more weight over three months than if you don’t drink, according to a study from Virginia Tech. And staying hydrated can also help you drop pounds: Researchers at the University of Utah report that a dehydrated body can burn up to two percent fewer calories than one that’s fully hydrated.
2. Have some protein.
Protein can make you full—and keep you full longer. In fact, yogurt or another protein-packed option like eggs can keep you from snacking later in the day. In a 2013 study, overweight participants who ate 35 grams of protein at breakfast consumed fewer high-sugar, high-fat snacks in the evening compared with those who ate cereal or skipped breakfast.
3. Include some healthy fat, like olive oil.
Fat is your friend. Like protein, it keeps you full, and healthy fats like olive oil can help even more. In a German study, dieters were given yogurt with olive oil added in as a supplement to their normal diet. Even though this fat-plus-protein yogurt was added as extra calories, the dieters did not gain weight or body fat—and they had more feelings of fullness than those who ate the yogurt without the oil.
If you’re eating one of your Nutrisystem meals, consider serving it with some sliced avocado, slivered almonds or sliced olives. You’ll get the best balance of nutrients from your meal and some added satiation, thanks to the healthy fats. Just be sure to consult with your Grocery Guide to determine what amount constitutes a serving!
4. Eat eggs.
They’ve got protein and fat, and they’re actually good for your heart. All that stuff you heard about eggs killing you has been debunked: A 2012 study found that people eating three whole eggs per day lowered their “bad” LDL cholesterol and their triglycerides. They also saw a big boost in HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
But this is about weight loss, and eggs offer that, too. Besides the protein and fat benefits already mentioned, one study found that men who ate a breakfast based on eggs consumed fewer calories when offered an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet than guys who ate a bagel breakfast of equal calories. Eat eggs now, eat less later.
5. Add in some oatmeal.
Complex carbs like oatmeal can fill you up and keep you there—and, according to a study from the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, it can reduce the amount of calories you eat at lunch by 30 percent. Oatmeal eaters in the study got these results while eating the same number of calories at breakfast as another group which ate cold cereal. And it happened because the oatmeal stayed with them longer—literally. The scientists added acetaminophen to both groups’ breakfasts, and found that the drug showed up in the blood much later for the oatmeal group—suggesting the high-fiber breakfast stayed in their stomachs longer than the flakes and milk.