It’s often called the most important meal of the day, and in some ways, breakfast does jumpstart your eating habits. If you begin with a sugar-filled frappuccino and a plate of maple syrup smothered pancakes, you’ll probably have a hankering for sugar as the hours wear on. But, for those who are hoping to gain better control of their diets and drop weight, it’s better to set smarter, more balanced breakfast habits first thing in the morning.
Here, we spoke with nutrition experts about the best habits for breakfast munchies. Then, be sure to sign up for our newsletter and receive even more healthy tips straight to your inbox!
Focus on protein.
Protein is important for a plethora of reasons, but in relation to weight loss, it ensures our stomachs feel fuller for longer. This, of course, means we won’t be reaching for a snack immediately after finishing a meal.
In fact, protein is the leading macronutrient for satiation, meaning eating a protein-rich breakfast is an excellent way to begin your eating habits of the day, says Serena Poon, certified nutritionist and celebrity chef.
“Even the simple act of eating protein burns calories,” says Poon. “Protein has a higher thermic effect than the other macronutrients, which means your body uses more energy digesting this macronutrient than fat or carbohydrates.”
Breakfast foods rich in protein include eggs, chicken/turkey sausages, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese. Or start with one of these 19 High Protein Breakfasts That Keep You Full!
Eat after exercising.
How come? We have plenty of stored glycogen—fuel to get us through a moderate workout of 30 to 60 minutes—from our dinner the night before.
“When we work out in a fasted state, we burn through this stored glycogen, so we are more likely to burn fat for fuel,” she explains.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should push yourself to the max by running a half-marathon in the morning or lifting weights for 90 minutes. But if your preferred method of fitness is shorter or less intense, you’ll be fine. Just make sure to replenish what you lose in your sweat session within 30 minutes of exercise, Dr. Moday adds.
“There is also an ‘afterburn’ effect to exercise in which your metabolic rate increases post-exercise for several hours, so you will actually burn more calories post-workout while you are fueling,” she says.
Don’t forget to drink water.
As Poon explains, our bodies are made of 60% water, and we need plenty of H20 to function correctly.
“Staying hydrated supports healthy digestion, which can lead to a healthy weight and belly appearance,” she continues. “No matter how you look at it, drinking a lot of water can help you achieve your health goals.”
Don’t eat breakfast too early.
Most of us have been trained to eat breakfast as early as possible. However, when we are trying to lose weight, it could be worthwhile to delay our first meal of the day via a practice known as intermittent fasting.
Dr. Moday says this doesn’t mean you skip brekkie altogether, instead, you aim to make sure you fasted overnight for at least 12 hours. Many people will push the ‘fasting’ window to 16 hours for a longer burn.
“The science behind this is that every time we eat, our insulin spikes in response to an increase in blood sugar,” says Dr. Moday. “This tells our body that we have plenty of fuel on hand, so we don’t need to tap into our fat stores. In fact, longer fasts of 13 to 16 hours can comfortably be attained over time as blood sugar regulation improves.”
Be mindful as you eat.
Mindful eating may feel like a random piece of advice, but remember, maintaining healthy habits emotionally is vital to continued weight loss success. Without tuning in to our bodies or being truthful about our feelings, we can’t make lasting change. That’s why Poon suggests taking a few moments to connect with your body while you’re eating breakfast.
“Tuning into your body like this every day can help you develop the tools to listen to your body’s natural signals, including signs of hunger, which sets up a strong foundation for healthy eating,” she says.
Then, as you sit down to eat, give thanks for your food and chew slowly to really taste the flavors and experience the textures of each bite.
“Mindful eating has been shown to support the development of healthier eating habits that can lead to weight loss,” she adds.
Eat your veggies.
You may not immediately think of vegetables when you consider breakfast menus. However, these wonders from Mother Nature are full of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and most important, fiber, which makes us feel fuller faster.
“Fiber also supports balance in your gut microbiome, which can contribute to sustained weight loss,” Poon says. “Vegetables can also contain nutrients that can decrease belly bloat, such as the potassium and magnesium found in leafy greens that can help your body balance sodium levels.”
Consume metabolism-boosting beverages and spices.
Switch up the spices and drinks you consume to give your metabolism a little kickstart in the morning. Poon recommends organic, fair trade green tea to improve fat-mass-reducing properties. And, if you find a way to add ginger into your smoothie or dash of cayenne, you’ll see a boost, too.
“Drinking coffee with a dash of cinnamon might help moderate your blood sugar, which can lead to healthier eating patterns,” she says. “Keep in mind though that a dash of spice is not going to lead to miraculous weight loss. These foods can simply add value to an overall regimen that includes a wholesome diet, regular exercise, and a healthy, balanced mindset.”
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