You know the people I am talking about — the slim people who always seem to be able to maintain their weight with seemingly little to no effort. They still indulge in cake, they drink coffee and snack regularly yet their weight is much lower than yours and never seems to go up. What are they doing and specifically what are they doing at breakfast time?
"Slim by Design" — a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University — looked at this question in depth when they set up an online registry to examine the behaviours of those elusive individuals who are able to maintain a healthy weight with seemingly little to no effort. And surprise, surprise there were no fad diets or strict calorie control in sight, rather a significant number of the 147 people studied maintained relatively stable eating behaviours most of the time, ate plenty of vegetables and tended to snack on healthy foods.
One of the standout findings though was exactly what slim people ate at breakfast time. Specifically, the studied found that there was that a high proportion of responders ate breakfast every day, and most commonly healthy options. Almost half the responders ate fruit and veg at breakfast, and a third ate eggs, meaning that more than three-quarters of responders consistently consumed a very healthy breakfast.
Nutritionally, these findings make sense. In general starting the day with some nutritious calories gives the metabolism a kickstart after the night's fast. Protein and fibre-rich options are filling and unlikely to fuel extreme cravings, plus overall the options are low in calories.
If you are buying breakfast on the run, keep in mind that those cafe favourites of banana bread, muffins, smoothies and juices can clock in with 600-800 calories in a single serve — more than double what we need.
Previous studies have linked consuming breakfast to lower body weights and a lower daily calorie intake overall and eggs have previously been identified as a particularly filling breakfast option.
So how can you make a good breakfast a daily habit? For busy people it is about making healthier, low-calorie options the easy option. For example, if getting a juice on the way to work, opt for a vegetable juice instead of a fruit-based juice.
It is keeping a few healthy staples at work, such as some wholegrain bread and an avocado for a healthy toast option on the go; or ordering sides of spinach and tomatoes when you have eggs at your local cafe.
Also, carry simple staples such as a piece of fruit in your car or work bag at all times so you always have a quick and easy, yet healthy and lower-calorie option on hand.
For the super-organised among us, prepare chopped fruit and Greek yoghurt or some mini breakfast frittatas in advance so you have a weeks' worth of healthy breakfasts ready to go.
Even more importantly, if you are a breakfast skipper it is time to start a new healthy habit by beginning each day with a healthy option. This could be as simple as a piece of fruit, or a couple of hard-boiled eggs, but consistency is the key — not a coffee sometimes, eggs occasionally or a 10am breakfast at other times.
The next important point is that low-calorie, healthy options are crucial. Hard-boiled eggs or a vegetable omelet are great options but a bacon and egg roll is not the same thing.
The same can be said for fruit. A bowl of fresh fruit is fantastic but not the same as a high sugar acai bowl or mega smoothies.
And finally, don't forget the vegetables — whether in a vegetable juice, enjoyed with your eggs or eaten raw in addition to your breakfast, the more veg you factor into all your meals, breakfast included, the better.