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|All Health and Nutrition Bites|
Cereal grains in the Mediterranean Diet
Whole grains are really good for you. If you are used to "white" starches like white rice, pasta and white bread, make the transition slowly. There are "light" whole wheat breads that taste great, for example. Start with those and move slowly toward whole grain breads. Use whole wheat hamburger buns in place of regular.
How to choose the right portion size
In the last few decades portion size has become a major issue, with portions in restaurants increasing dramatically. Forty years ago a 32 ounce milk shake with 1,160 calories would have been unusual. There was no such thing as a Quarter Pounder (let alone a Double Quarter Pounder) and getting a mountain of nachos would be rare. These huge plates have spilled over into how people choose their food.
What Not To Eat: Cereal Edition
I have spent the last twenty-five years or so talking about what you should be eating. Last week I began a discussion of what not to eat. I can't say that I have deliberately avoided talking about what you shouldn't be eating, it's more that I like to remain positive. There's so much great food that's great for you and that has taken me a lot of time to talk about. Even so, I get a lot of emails asking about advice on foods to avoid. This week I want to talk about breakfast choices and we'll begin with a discussion of cereal.
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I've said for years that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Skipping breakfast appears to reduce your metabolism while actually delaying fat burning and increasing fat deposition. Having a higher-fiber breakfast of quickbreads or cereal not only helps you remain satisfied for longer, you'll eat your other meals more regularly throughout the day. We also know that those who eat breakfast tend to snack more sensibly, have better cholesterol scores, and have better insulin response than those who usually skip breakfast.
But should you have a big breakfast, or a small one? Because we Americans are used to eating our largest meal in the evening, I advise my patients aiming for 1200 to 1500 calories per day to have between 250 and 500 calories at their breakfast meal, about the same at lunchtime, and the remainder at the evening meal. Recent research published in the journal Obesity (2013;21(12):2504-2512), however, suggests that those who are working on losing weight might do better to reverse that pattern of small meal in the morning/large meal in the evening.
For their study the researchers recruited 74 overweight and clinically obese women to participate in a 12-week diet study. All of the women met with a dietitian to plan for a 1400 calorie per day daily intake. Half of the women were directed to eat half of their calories at breakfast, while the other half were directed to eat half their daily calories at the evening meal. All of the women had their cholesterol, glucose, and insulin sensitivity tested along with their blood pressure at the start of the study as well as at regular intervals throughout the study.
You would think that eating the same number of calories would mean losing about the same amount of weight regardless of when those calories were eaten. Not so! The women who ate the majority of their calories at the breakfast meal lost about 11% of their body weight, while those who ate a big dinner lost only 4% of their body weight.
Not only did they lose more weight, their blood pressures, insulin resistance, and cholesterol scores improved more than those eating the big evening meal. (Indeed, those eating the large evening meal actually saw their triglycerides increase by almost 15% while the big breakfast eaters reduced their triglycerides by about 30%.)
The women in this study who ate the big breakfast ate about 700 calories at breakfast, about 500 calories at lunch, and about 200 calories at dinner. While I won't necessarily be changing my usual recommendations - it's hard enough for many people to eat a muffin for breakfast, let alone a significant meal - if your daily life allows it and you're working on your weight, by all means, have your main meal at breakfast.
First posted: January 1, 2014