Sunday, February 6, 2011


Everyone is looking for the perfect diet
Maybe half the adults in the U.S. have tried some kind of diet in an effort to shed some of their excess pounds. Unhappily, most of these diets depend on calorie restriction, and that means cutting back on total volume or eating only low-cal foods. And, basically, the large majority of us aren’t happy when we have to eat less than what we’re accustomed to. So, we try one diet and another, and too often lose only about 5 pounds which comes back quickly when we ditch our low-cal diet and start eating our customary meals. Consequently, we spend our time awaiting the new, ultimate diet that will let us lose some weight and keep it off – hopefully – forever. This page is about another fashionable diet, the so-called “Big Breakfast Diet”, and it’s one that needs to be considered.

Recently, a number of popular fitness magazines and blogs have encouraged people to lose weight by following the Big Beakfast Diet. The novel solution of this diet is a relatively high intake of calories for breakfast to be followed by 2 or 3 very small meals throughout the day. Now, nutrition science has pretty well convinced most of us that the only way to lose weight is to ingest fewer calories than those that are burned, and the big breakfast diet goes along with this kind of calorie reduction. On the other hand, it’s different from other diets in that it calls for 50% or more of daily calories to be consumed at breakfast. The idea is that the added calories, including a high load of protein, consumed at the breakfast will curb the appetite and, so it will be possible to have a drastic calorie reduction at other meals (virtual snacks) later in the day.

Does the "Big Breakfast" make sense?
Proponents of the Big Breakfast diet claim that eating a big breakfast will lead to weight loss because the big breakfast sets the metabolism higher and more calories are burned during the day, whereas added calories later in the day often never get burned and are a cause of extra body fat. But is that necessarily so?

Most nutrition science and fitness sources speak of benefits of eating breakfast because the body needs fuel in the morning. But how much fuel is enough and importantly, what is the nutritional quality of what’s eaten at that meal? The Big Breakfast Diet places an emphasis on plenty of breakfast foods - protein, carbohydrates and fat. This could be a problem when dieters are boosting their breakfast calories with fatty and sugary foods such as bread, eggs, sausages, butter and jelly. If that’s the way that calories are being added early in the day, no amount of “metabolism boosting” is likely to burn all that fuel during the day.

Then there’s a social side to this question. We know that there are people who really like to eat a big breakfast, and that others prefer a small breakfast. Some skip breakfast all together. So, the “Big Breakfast” diet may not be good or even tolerable to a lot of people. Beyond that, many people eat with others at lunch and/or dinner hours and may find it hard to restrict their calories at these times. For this group, a plan to eat big in the early morning may, in fact, be unwise. They’ll end up “eating big” at two meals and will be frustrated with their failure. Obviously, a “Big Breakfast Diet” won’t be of much help for those people.

So, what’s to be done? Probably the healthiest choice for most of us is eating a nutritious breakfast but not a a very big one. When following a calorie-restricted diet, you need to carefully select foods to ensure nutritional adequacy at every meal. Any diet based on poor food choices that's extended over time will finally be a threat to good health.

Whatever diet is chosen, weight loss will depend on a lower intake of total calories and a slightly higher intake of protein, rather than the timing of the meals. Three smaller meals, totaling 400 to 500 calories each, and light snacks to keep down hunger is a safer bet for the most of us. But, if for personal habit or for social reasons, one meal tends to add on more calories, it’s best to strongly restrict calories at the other two meals and end up with a better outcome for the whole day. Despite comforting promises made to ourselves, our plan to eat less the next day usually doesn’t work out. Too often, we face other situations that make it difficult to reduce our calory intake on the following day.

Another option: the "Not-So-Big Breakfast"
A smaller rather than bigger breakfast is probably best for the majority of us, and we need to make sound food choices at that meal, including lots of protein and fiber to help us feel full longer.(And we can do it with eating meat-based protein.) A good-sized bowl of old-fashioned oats or granola can be a great help to losing unwanted pounds because it’s nourishing and keeps you full. But, as we know, a lot of popular, packaged oat cereals, including granolas, are high in cost and not so nutritious. You can make your own lower calory granola at home without the big price tag and unnecessary oil and sugar. The following recipe is for a nutritious, homemade granola bread that has diet-sticking power and not so many calories. Unlike the trendly muffin, this hearty granola bread is high on protein and low on oils and sugars, and it still has the advantage of easy transport for eating on the run.

Recipe for a nutritious granola bread (made in the bread maker)
1 cup water, at room temperature
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 cup oats
1 cup bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup peanuts or sunflower seeds

Add all ingredients, except raisins and nuts, to the bread maker pan, in the exact order listed and use the basic or whole wheat bread setting. Raisins and peanuts are added to the pan when the machine gives the “ping” for added ingredients.

Note: My own usual “Not-So-Big-Breakfast” consists of a small banana, a bowl of oatmeal or granola bread and just a bit of butter or honey, along with 1 soft- or hard-boiled egg. I'm not sure I should admit it, but sometimes I don't eat any breakfast.

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