Breakfast: I can’t live without it. When researching my book Stop & Drop Diet, I became more convinced than ever just how crucial this morning meal is. Breakfast energizes you from the get-go, keeps you satiated until lunch for a productive morning, and can help you maintain a healthy weight. One study that observed seven years of data on 20,000 adults found that people who skip breakfast typically weigh more and have a larger waist than those who start with a healthy meal.
But, “healthy” is key: As I started reading labels of breakfasts on cafe menus and supermarket shelves, I realized too many rise-and-shine meals are high in calories but skimp on protein. A meal balanced with this important macronutrient—say, an English muffin, almond butter, and Greek yogurt with fruit—keeps your blood sugar steady, unlike, for example, a large cafe muffin (which can be equivalent to a piece of cake in calories). When your blood sugar is balanced, you avoid energy crashes and snack attacks later in the day. University of Missouri researchers found that a high-protein breakfast leads to less snacking throughout the day.
[pullquote] Too many rise-and-shine meals are high in calories but skimp on protein. [/pullquote]
My second breakfast tip is to be wary of add-ons and fillings. An omelet may seem like a great option (and with the right toppings, it is), but adding just a tablespoon each of chopped ham, crumbled feta, cooked onion, and ketchup piles on 77 calories. Opt for a veggie omelet instead; a tablespoon each of diced tomato, cooked spinach, and cooked mushrooms is just 8 calories.
Finally, remember that breakfast plates can often be oversized and indulgent. Instead of ordering restaurant combos, which pile on large portions of bread, potatoes, meats, and eggs, order off the restaurant’s a la carte menu. Opt for portion-controlled pastries at the cafe, like mini muffins and small bagels. The average cafe bagel is equivalent to four slices of bread! You’ll be surprised by just how satiating a smaller option can be, especially when paired with a great protein source like Greek yogurt or a hard boiled egg.
Here, take a look at the astounding number of calories you save when you choose smarter breakfast staples.
Stop: Bruegger’s Whole Wheat Bagel (270 calories)
Start: Arnold’s 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins (100 calories) (pictured below)
Stop: Jimmy Dean Delights Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit Sandwich (410 calories, 29 g fat)
Start: Jimmy Dean Delights Bacon, Egg & Cheese Honey Wheat Flatbread (230 calories, 12 g fat) (pictured below)
Stop: Au Bon Pain Blueberry Yogurt & Wild Blueberry Parfait (380 calories, 47 g sugars)
Start: McDonald’s Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait (150 calories, 23 g sugars) (pictured below)
Stop: 1 cup Barbara’s Morning Oat Crunch Original (210 calories, 12 g sugar)
Start: 1 ½ cups Kix (110 calories, 3 g sugar) (pictured below)
Stop: Panera Orange Scone (540 calories, 38 g sugars)
Start: Dunkin’ Donuts Jelly Donut (270 calories, 15 g sugars) (pictured below)
Reader’s Digest’s Editor in Chief Liz Vaccariello calls her latest book, Stop & Drop Diet, her easiest plan ever. The book and online course teach you how to stop eating unhealthy versions of the foods you love so you can drop up to five pounds in the first five days—and keep losing. You’ll get a mix-and-match 21-day meal plan designed for weight loss and balanced nutrition, plus hundreds of easy weight loss tips and tricks via videos, quizzes, slideshows, and other interactive tools. Learn more and buy the book and course here.