Tag Archives: Hunger

Eat Your Breakfast: No Excuses!

Breakfast is far too important — and delicious! — to skip. Yet around 25% of Americans regularly skip what most nutritionists call the most important meal of the day! Breakfast is vital for providing energy at the beginning of the day, boosting cognitive performance and jumpstarting the metabolism, but also plays a huge role in weight loss and control: a study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that people who regularly skip breakfast are 450% more likely to become obese than those who regularly eat breakfast. In addition, skipping breakfast may lead to unhealthy eating behaviors later in the day: studies have found that breakfast-skippers consume 40% more sweets, 55% more soda, 45% fewer vegetables, and 30% less fruit than breakfast-eaters.

So now matter what situation you’re in — you’re not hungry in the morning, you don’t have time — there’s a breakfast for you. No excuses!

I don’t have enough time.

If time is always an issue in the morning, make sure you have a stash of healthy bars to grab on your way out the door. Look for bars with at least 3 grams of protein and fiber, as well as healthy fats from nuts and seeds, which have been shown to reduce the glycemic index of a meal and stabilize blood sugar. Because most healthy bars clock in around 200 calories, it’s a good idea to supplement the bar with a fiber- and nutrient-rich serving of fruit or a protein-rich latte. Some good options are KIND bars, which have at least 5-7 grams of protein and fiber, Regeneration USA bars, and Zing bars. If you still want a homemade meal, take some time on Sunday to whip up freezable burritos (made with a whole wheat tortilla, eggs, beans, and salsa) or frittatas, and grab one on the way out the door.

I’m not hungry in the morning.

Many adults complain that they have no appetite in the morning; for some, even the thought of breakfast can bring on nausea. Since breakfast literally “breaks your nightly fast,” it’s important to get something into your system. Try a smoothie: since you’re drinking it — not eating it — it may be easier to hold down. Break away from the typical sugar-laden smoothies, though; add ingredients like Greek yogurt for protein, oatmeal for fiber, and ground flaxseed or chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids. Try these smoothie recipes from Women’s Health Magazine (including “The Hunger Killer,” made with strawberries, mango, flax seed oil, and tofu) and Shape Magazine.

Also, try to start training your body to be hungry in the morning. If you eat dinner late (say, after 8 o’clock), move it up a few hours. If you like to treat yourself to a midnight snack, start scaling back that habit. It’s okay to go to bed a little bit hungry!

I work out in the morning.

Since you need fuel before a workout and muscle-repairing protein after one, it’s best to split breakfast into two parts. Since most of the energy from dinner the night before has already been used up, your blood sugar is likely low. Pick a mini breakfast with carbohydrates, which will top off glycogen (the fuel you use for exercise) stores, as well as some protein or fat, which will both enhance the lasting power of those carbs. Try whole wheat toast with almond or peanut butter, a banana with almond or peanut butter, a small bowl of oatmeal, or Greek yogurt with whole grain cereal. After your workout, pick another mini breakfast with a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Carbs will provide energy, and protein will help repair muscles. Make sure to eat within 30 minutes after your workout; the small window is when protein is maximally absorbed. Some post-workout mini breakfasts: two scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast; Greek yogurt with berries or whole wheat cereal; chocolate milk and whole wheat toast; or a peanut butter sandwich.

I need something to last me until lunch.

For lasting power through lunch, pick protein-rich eggs and high-fiber oatmeal. According to a study from Louisiana State University, the specific proteins found in eggs help keep us full more than other common breakfast foods. In the study, those who ate eggs instead of a breakfast of cereal (with equal amounts of protein) had lower levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and higher levels of PYY, a hormone that boosts satiety. Oatmeal, which is loaded with fiber, provides energy and keeps blood sugar levels stable. Add some nuts as the final punch to your hunger: the monounsaturated fats reduce feelings of hunger and also boast cardioprotective benefits.

I eat breakfast with my kids and don’t want to make two breakfasts.

Don’t settle for sugary kids’ cereal — for you or your children. Many brands pack more sugar than a cookie, says the Environmental Working Group. For a breakfast that takes just as little time to prepare, but is much more nutritious, whip up some wafflewiches: toast a whole grain waffle, smear it with almond butter and sliced apples, and fold. With far less sugar, more fiber and healthy fats, it’s a better breakfast whether you’re headed to elementary school or the corporate office.

I don’t like breakfast foods.

If you’re not a fan of typical breakfast foods — eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies — but you’re still hungry, just treat breakfast like you would a healthy lunch. It’s not convention to have a turkey sandwich or stir-fry for dinner, but if it works for you, go full speed ahead! Just keep it between 350 and 400 calories of high quality protein and belly-filling fiber, and throw in some nuts, seeds, or avocado for healthy fats.

I want to lose weight.

First, say goodbye to the much-believed but mythical mantra that skipping breakfast will help you lose weight. Members who belong to the National Weight Control Registry, who have successfully kept off 30 or more pounds for over a year, regularly eat breakfast. And because breakfast-eaters are satiated early on in the day, they tend to consume fewer calories throughout the rest of the day. Pick eggs: since they keep you satiated for longer, you’re less likely to binge or snack on high-calorie treats. According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity, participants who ate eggs lost 65% more weight than those who consumed the same number of calories from bagels. Add a slice of whole wheat toast for sticking power, and sip on green tea; compounds in the brew have been shown to rev metabolism.

I love breakfast and my appetite is in full force in the morning!

As long as you stick to a reasonably sized breakfast, you’re in the clear. Even if you love breakfast foods, it’s important to keep portion sizes in check: a study published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate large breakfasts — around 600 calories — did not reduce their calorie consumption for the rest of day, leading them to eat around 400 calories more overall than those who ate a small breakfast. Choose a breakfast with around 350-400 calories (or split it into two smaller 200-calorie portions), and make sure it contains protein and fiber.


Pictures of High-Calorie Foods Increase Cravings: How to Stop Them

Maybe it’s time to give up the FoodGawker obsession: a recent study from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine found that viewing images of high-calorie foods increased cravings for those same high-calorie foods.

In the study, brain responses were measured by fMRIs in 13 obese participants who looked at photos of high-calorie foods, like hamburgers, cookies, and cakes, and low-calorie foods, like fruits and vegetables. After each viewing — high-calorie and low-calorie — the participants rated their hunger and desire for sweet or savory foods on a scale of 1 to 10. During the scans, the participants were given drinks with 50 grams of glucose or of fructose.

The researchers found that, as predicted, the reward centers — the ventral tegmental area and nucleus accumbens — were more activated when the participants were viewing high-calorie foods, and, as a consequence, the participants had higher cravings for the high-calorie foods. The researchers were surprised to find, however, that when the participants consumed the sugar-heavy drinks, their hunger and cravings for savory food increased even more dramatically (and specifically, that the fructose-filled drink increased cravings more than the glucose-based drink).

According to lead researcher and assistant professor of clinical medicine Kathleen Page, “Our bodies are made to eat food and store energy, and it prehistoric days, it behooved us to eat a lot of high-calorie foods because we didn’t know when the next meal was coming. But now we have much more access to food, and this research indicates added sweeteners might be affecting our desire for it.”

What does this mean for humans, obesity, and our eating habits?

1. Essentially, this study is just one more reason to be completely present and mindful when you’re eating. Nutritionists and dietitians often advise their clients to focus completely on their meal while they’re eating, to “be in the moment” without any distractions. Being mindful of what, and how much, you eat helps you slow down and listen to your body, so you know when you’re full or if you’re really still hungry. Mindfulness even helps improve digestion: according to a study in the journal Gastroenterology, our bodies perceive distraction as stress. When we try to do many things at once – eat, listen to the TV, and check email, for example – digestion is put on hold, and our cells’ ability to break down macro- and micronutrients are impaired. Even worse: the stress response causes excess glucose to be released into the bloodstream, thereby upping the need and release for insulin – which may also create cravings for high calorie foods. So if your distraction of choice is watching Paula Deen on Food Network, scrolling through FoodGawker, or even looking at healthy recipes in Cooking Light, its effect on your diet is doubly negative: your digestion is impaired (which may ultimately lead to weight gain), and those mouthwatering pictures result in more high-calorie cravings (again: weight gain).

2. Letting your mind drift by innocently looking at high-calorie, high-fat foods may not be the only stimulus for high-calorie cravings. Restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, food trucks and more food establishments are providing the same stimulus as the pictures – just in real life. Imagine that you’ve just been handed your Caramel Macchiato (with 32 grams of sugar) and are waiting to pay. You find yourself right in front of the bakery case, packed with flaky croissants, buttery scones, and exploding-with-toppings muffins – and, even though you came in only to get a java boost, you suddenly have a pastry in your hand! This situation almost exactly mimics the study’s variables: a drink high in glucose and fructose, plus images of high calorie foods.

Unfortunately, restaurants also take advantage of the power of pictures. Chain restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory place pictures of their most profitable dishes – which are usually the dishes highest in calories, fat and low quality ingredients – front and center, enticing diners to order them. And because waiters ask for your drink order before you’ve even cracked open the menu, you’re likely already sipping on a sugary (read: high glucose and high fructose) drink and primed to order a high-calorie entrée.

So what can you do? First, avoid looking at “food porn” when you’re hungry, before a meal, or during a meal. Planning ahead also helps: set aside a treat you can look forward to (for whenever: mid-afternoon, after lunch, after dinner, even after breakfast!). As long as you plan to indulge in this one treat and you have control over it, you’ll have more self-control over cravings that appear throughout the day. (Self Magazine offers a similar concept with their “Happy Calories.”) And if you’re going out to eat at a restaurant, look at the menu ahead of time and decide what you’re going to order. Stick to your choice: don’t let pictures (or your dining companion’s behaviors) affect your choice! Similarly, if you’re headed to the coffee shop, go with the intention of ordering just your java drink of choice. If you’re truly hungry, head back to the office for those healthy snacks you packed!