Are you so over breakfast? You might be smart if breakfast for you means (yes, confess) a daily Sausage Egg McMuffin (450 calories, 27 grams of fat). A recent headline-making study blames big morning meals for weight gain. But wait! Before you decide to skip breakfast forever, there's a flip side to this story. The right breakfast will not only help you lose weight but also help you keep it off. Just do NOT make the two morning mistakes below. Go for our skinny winners instead.
Do NOT do this: Skip breakfast. It's as bad as or worse than overdoing it. Pass up breakfast and you're twice as likely to pack on pounds. The reason's a no-brainer: You're famished by lunch and feel justified eating anything in sight. That's because not eating in the morning triggers a surge of ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating, willpower-withering hormone. More proof: Thousands of successful dieters can't be wrong. Nearly 80% of the happy losers in the National Weight Control Registry -- a data bank of people who've lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year -- swear by breakfast.
And do NOT do this, either: Plan to work out . . . uh, later. Putting off exercise (whether it's a date with the weight machines or a brisk walk for blocks) is the perfect recipe for not exercising. Just 25% of people who work out at the end of the day are still doing it a year later, according to one study -- but 75% of morning movers stick with it.
Instead, DO THIS: Eat protein in the morning. It digests slowly, so you stay full way longer. When overweight women had a breakfast of eggs and toast (versus a bagel and cream cheese), they ate fewer calories for the rest of the day. So combine protein with fruit or juice (carbs) and whole-grain bread or cereal (fiber) -- you'll feel fuller even longer. In fact, this threesome turns breakfast into a weight loss power tool. (How much protein do you need every day?)
Hate breakfast foods? Go nontraditional: Munch a couple of dried apricots and a stick of low-fat string cheese. Can't stomach food first thing in the day? Sip this healthy smoothie midmorning: Whirl some nonfat plain yogurt, a banana, and some frozen berries in the blender, then sprinkle with wheat germ or ground flaxseeds to get some whole grains in. It'll keep your appetite in line when lunch rolls around.
Too rushed in the A.M. (kids, pets, partners) to eat breakfast? Toss a small handful each of nuts and dried fruit into a baggie, fill a to-go cup with skim milk, and nibble during your morning commute. (Burn more fat with this super breakfast.)
And DO THIS, too: Work out before breakfast. In a new study, people who exercised before breakfast didn't gain weight in the short term, even when they ate a high-calorie, high-fat diet. And their bodies processed blood sugar in a healthier way (good news for the millions of Americans at risk for diabetes). Morning (rather than evening) exercise also seems to reset your body clock so that you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. Another bonus: Feeling virtuous all day!
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