Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This idea has been ingrained in my head since I was little and Mom wanted me to finish my Cheerios before I headed off to nursery school. Everyone knows that eating in the morning is a surefire way to get your body and brain off to a good start. I know that on mornings when I have to run out the door to those 8 o’clock classes and I don’t grab at least a Luna bar, I feel sluggish for the entire morning. It’s not only an urban or country legend that breakfast is a body booster and an essential part of your daily eating routine; recent research findings have proven that breakfast actually helps you maintain, and even lose, unwanted pounds.
This month researchers reported the results of a new study about the benefits of breakfast. Scientists at the Maryland Medical Research Institute, with the support of General Mills (makers of all our favorite breakfast cereals), conducted a longitudinal study of 2,400 girls over the course of ten years. They tracked the girls between the ages of 9 and19, checking up once a year to collect data on what they had eaten during the past three days.
While 9 year-olds may seem like rather young test subjects, the rate of childhood obesity is steadily rising. In the United States almost one in three adolescent girls struggles with obesity and the problem now extends to even younger girls. This cannot be explained solely by teenage “awkward years.” While adolescents, especially girls, do go through lumpy stages, that does not account for the expanding problem of obesity.
The results of the breakfast study were shocking. The researchers found that on average, girls who ate breakfast all three recorded days had a body mass index (BMI) that was .7 units lowers than girls who never ate breakfast. BMI is a measurement of body weight adjusted to height-to find your BMI go to www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi. Even more surprising was the discovery that girls who ate a breakfast consisting of cereal among other foods had more than double the amount of reduction of body mass index units than the breakfast eaters.
When I read this data I was baffled. With the recent carb-counting craze that has hit the nation I thought that cereal at breakfast would not only prohibit weight loss, but also increase the likelihood of weight gain. This is a good example of how we can be wrongly encouraged to trust weight-loss gimmicks without putting them to the proper test or finding supportive research.
There is an explanation for this cereal phenomenon. The fiber contained in cereal and other breakfast foods explains the results of lower BMI’s among the girls who ate breakfast. However, this is not to say that Cocoa Puffs (my personal Frank fave) can be deemed “weight-loss” food. I do wish I could look at the world through rose-colored glasses and believe that my diet could be made up of Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs, but alas, weeks of eating those sugary cereals create an unfriendly pouch around my midsection.
There is still hope. Just make sure your cake is high in fiber and low in fat. You’d be surprised how many cereals fit this description. Kix are “kid tested, mother approved”; how nice would it be if there were cereals that were “adult tested, weight-gain denied.” Hey, I think I just came up with a million-dollar idea. I’ll have to present my idea to General Mills and then weight-concerned men and women of the world can take comfort in cereals with a stamp of diet approval.
Researchers also hypothesized that the breakfast-correlated weight loss was a result of better eating habits throughout the day because of its healthy start. The CEO of the Maryland Institute suggested that breakfast consumption, “kick-starts your metabolism because you’ve eaten something. When you get to lunch you’re not starving and you can make reasonable choices for lunch and dinner.” John Kirwan, a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University’s School for Nutrition and Metabolism further explained that “those who eat breakfast on a regular basis are more likely to have a structured eating plan throughout the day and consequently are less likely to snack between meals and consume empty calories.”
This research about the benefits of breakfast should encourage you to eat breakfast every morning. Dieting does not mean that you should or must cut out all of your favorite foods or, more importantly, stop eating essential meals. I might have to write this in every article and you might get sick of hearing it, but it must be said: portion control. Those two words are your key to a fit and fabulous you. A good trick is to use a coffee cup instead of a cereal bowl to for that delectable cereal. That way you can have your cereal and eat it too.
Look out next week for more positive ways to stay in shape without giving up your favorite foods.