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To Lose Weight: Eat Breakfast Like a King, Dinner Like a Pauper

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  August 12, 2013 07:59 PM

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There may be something to the old adage to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper when it comes to better managing your weight, according to a study published in the journal, Obesity.  Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) studied how changing the timing of meals by switching between a high calorie breakfast and a high calorie dinner, but keeping the total daily calories the same, would impact weight loss.  In this 12-week study, 50 overweight women were randomly assigned to a 1,400-calorie diet that consisted of a breakfast of 700 calories, a lunch of 500 calories, and a dinner of 200 calories or the same calories and same food choices but with the breakfast and dinner meals switched.

While both groups lost significant amounts of weight, the women consuming the large breakfast lost an average of approximately 19 pounds compared to only about 8 pounds in the large dinner group.   The breakfast group also lost twice as many inches around their waists than the large dinner eaters.  Since the hormone ghrelin, which increases your appetite, was lower during the day in the breakfast group, these women also experienced higher levels of satiety, or that filling of fullness, throughout the day.  In addition, large breakfast eaters also had significantly lower levels of insulin, glucose, and fat in their blood, which may help lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The secret may lie in the body’s circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental, and behavioral changes in the body and can influence hormone release and other bodily functions.  “Metabolism is impacted by the body’s circadian rhythm, the biological process that the body follows over a 24-hour cycle.  So the time of day we eat can have a big impact on the way our bodies process food,” says Professor Daniela Jakubowicz, MD, of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the lead researcher of this study.

This isn’t the first study to suggest that eating your larger meal earlier in the day can have some health benefits.  For those trying to lose weight, flipping your calories to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper may help you flip the numbers on the bathroom scale. 

Here are some tips:

  1. Consider having a larger breakfast and smaller dinner. Consuming protein at each meal will help keep you full between meals.
  2. Stop eating after dinner.  Avoid munching in the evening, which is often more due to boredom than hunger.
  3. Make sure that your diet is well-balanced to meet your daily nutrients needs.  Fiber-rich whole fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are important dietary staples that also satisfy hunger between meals. 

Be well, Joan

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

If you have a nutrition topic you would like discussed, please email me at salge@bu.edu
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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