Should You Eat Dessert with Breakfast?
A lean, fit woman stands alongside colossal characters of fruit, veggies, and protein, flexing her arm muscles with a Kool-Aid smile. Beneath her feet are sweets, chocolate, and fat, lying on the floor with sad, defeated faces. She's the weight loss winner right? Perhaps, but not for long. Do you picture yourself at your goal weight this way? Do you think to yourself, 'I don't need those "empty" calories' or 'If I want to be healthy I'll have to fight those sugar cravings.' Sure you can't have it all, all the time, but as Oscar Wilde so eloquently put it, "everything in moderation, including moderation." This is your invitation to rethink how you view your sweet tooth. In weight loss, it's all about the journey, so says a new study. Think "Any Way You Want It," with a small caveat.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University put 200 obese adults on a restricted calorie diet. Men at 1600 calories a day, women 1400. They split the group in two with one having a high-carb, 600 calorie breakfast and the other, a low-carb, 300 calorie breakfast. The high-carb dieters were allowed a small dessert following their standard meals which included a donut, cookie, or piece of chocolate. The dessert for breakfast group had 60 grams of carbs and 45 grams of protein, while the low-carb group had 10 grams of carbs, and 30 grams of protein. The low-carb breakfast participants had larger meals for lunch and dinner to make-up for the smaller breakfasts so that all participants had the same daily caloric intake. Four months into the eight-month study, participants had lost 33 pounds on average.
Maintaining Weight Loss by Staving Off Cravings
Weight loss was similar between both groups, but maintenance separated the winners from the losers. The low-carb breakfast crew gained back much of the weight lost, about 22 pounds. Surprisingly, the high-carb breakfast group kept their weight off and continued losing in the second half of the study to the tune of 15 more pounds. So with both diets working the same initially, what was behind the big difference in maintenance? According to a recent statement about the study, lead investigator, Daniela Jakubowicz, MD attributes the success to "meal timing and composition." The results show dessert-for-breakfast participants had less sugar cravings and less hunger than the other group, a difference that was confirmed by their lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin following the meal.
The Strategy that Works
The dessert for breakfast model researchers used works by lowering hunger with high protein content, combining protein and carbohydrates to keep you feeling full, and staving off cravings with the dessert. Starting your day with a completely satisfying meal that does these three things is the cornerstone of eating healthy long term. Dessert-for-breakfast participants' ability to learn to have sweets in moderation may have helped them make better food decisions after the initial weight loss. The other group started their day without satisfying their hunger or need for sweets. This may have set them up for making worst decisions than they would have were they satisfied.
The Restrained Eater
This brings us to the issue of food restriction. The traditional view of "dieting" makes it hard for weight loss maintenance for many people who feel they have to deprive themselves or sacrifice pleasure from food altogether. Restrained eaters severely restrict specific foods from their diets or limit their food intake in spite of body signals such as hunger, taste, and satiety in an attempt to get the weight off. But restrained eating leads to weight loss ruin. One study shows depriving oneself of certain foods increases cravings and overeating, while another shows that restrained eaters may make more impulsive food decisions. It's a tight rope to walk between eating what you want and staying within caloric boundaries, but one that is made easier when you prioritize your body's need for satisfaction through carefully selecting a well-balanced meal with a little pleasure. Food is indeed fuel, but anyone who doesn't enjoy meal time is bound to look for greener pastures once the reward of weight loss is achieved. If that means dessert for breakfast, have at it, just don't go overboard. Jakubowicz sums it up, "The goal of a weight loss diet should be not only weight reduction but also reduction of hunger and cravings, thus helping prevent weight regain."
How do you allow yourself small treats while staying within your daily caloric needs?
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