It’s the best meal of day. Don’t take our word for it, though. According to research from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in the US, skipping breakfast leaves people more prone to snacking and more likely to become overweight.
But for all the good reasons not to miss breaking the fast of a night’s sleep with a hearty meal after waking up, one in four people in the UAE still don’t eat breakfast.
According to a recent poll of Arab nationals, Emiratis and expatriates carried out by the US firm Zacra Interactive, taking the time in the morning to eat an energy boosting starter is something that 26 per cent of us refuse to do.
However, new reports from the 94th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Houston, Texas, may encourage those folk who usually desert their home without a belly full of breakfast to think again.
Researchers at the meeting revealed that eating desserts – cakes, chocolate or carbohydrate-rich doughnuts – alongside a healthier cereal or fruit means people are more likely to lose weight in the long term and keep it off. That’s right, sweet desserts first thing in the morning could be your best dish of the day.
In a study of 200 adults by Dr Daniela Jakubowicz, a senior physician at Tel Aviv University’s Edith Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, dieters were split into two groups. Each had different diet plans. One group was put on a low-carbohydrate regime, with a 304-calorie breakfast that contained only 10 grams of carbs, while another group ate a 600-calorie breakfast, with 60g of carbs. The carbs came in the form of a piece of chocolate, doughnut, cookie or cake.
After four months on the plan, researchers noted that both sets of dieters were doing equally well, with an average weight loss of about 15 kilograms. But in the following four months, those who had not had the sweet treats for their breakfast regained, on average, two-thirds of the weight they had lost. The dieters who ate the cakes, chocolates and biscuits for breakfast continued to keep the weight off and lost, on average, another 7kg.
The research team noted that ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, production was considerably lower among those who were in the breakfast-with-dessert group compared to the low-carb group.
The study is good news to many who are struggling to cope with restrictive diets that outlaw carbs which, while initially effective, often cause withdrawal-like symptoms that may explain the resulting weight gain in the no-dessert diet group.
“The combination of carbs and proteins gives you energy and helps you feel full faster and longer,” says Emilie Hartmann, a dietician with the EHL Dubai Mall Medical Centre. “But remember, studies are different from normal life and the total amount of calories was controlled and similar in both diets of the study; that’s a very important point.”
Fast fixes for a healthy start
Some of us have not the time, appetite or imagination to make something appealing and healthy for our first meal of the day. Here’s how to remedy that.
• Break it up: Sitting down for a meal when you’re focused on the day ahead may be too much of a challenge so try splitting your breakfast between tasks. Have cereal or toast – to raise your energy levels – then take a shower. Give yourself some filling calcium by having some yogurt, then get dressed. Finally, just before you head out the door, eat some fruit to stop you from snacking later in the day.
• Do the night shift: Prepare a breakfast the night before and refrigerate it. Look at protein filled dishes like a Spanish omelette – with plenty of vegetables. Cook it, cool it, cover it in foil, refrigerate it and then eat it first thing.
Give breakfast a purpose
Different ingredients will elicit different responses from your over-night- fasted body. You could boost your metabolism with wholemeal toast topped with grilled tomatoes – the bread has a low glycaemic index so it will give you a slow release of energy while the tomatoes contain acids that will help filter out body fats.
“Carbs that have a low glycaemic index or are high in fibres, such as whole-wheat breads, are best choices to avoid sugary cravings later on,” says Hartmann. The addition of proteins (from a yogurt, low-fat cheese, egg, nuts or pulses, for example) will also help to keep you full until lunch. “Brown Arabic bread spread with labneh and a cup of fruit juice would be ideal.”
Make it a moveable feast
If you’re going to have to eat on the go, look to avoid the temptation of only picking up the sweet stuff – muffins with a milky coffee. Instead aim for fruit that you can dip in a low-fat yogurt at your desk or a whole-grain seeded or granola breakfast bar that will help fill you up without leaving you craving for more.