Good news if you have a sweet tooth: A recent study found that dieters have less hunger and cravings when they eat a carbohydrate-heavy and protein-rich breakfast that includes dessert. Yes, you read that right.
Presented recently at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting, researchers studied about 200 non-diabetic obese people. The subjects were randomly assigned to eat one of two low-calorie diets (about 1,600 calories for men and 1,400 calories for women). One group ate a low-carbohydrate breakfast with 30 grams of protein that had about 300 calories. The other group ate a 600-calorie breakfast with 45 grams of protein and 60 grams of carbs, which included a small sweet, such as chocolate, a doughnut, a cookie or cake.
While dieters in both groups lost weight—an average of 33 pounds per person—four months into the eight-month study, the low-carb group regained an average of 22 pounds a person. However, the people who ate the larger breakfast with dessert ended up losing another 15 pounds on average, according to ScienceDaily. Also, the group who noshed on dessert said they felt less hungry and suffered from fewer cravings as compared to the other group.
So what's behind these big results? The secret to the dessert group's weight-loss success may have more to do with the composition and the size of the meal rather than the actually sugary dessert, says Jae Berman, registered dietitian and personal trainer at Bay Club San Francisco.
"I am not convinced the dessert breakfast group did better because of the dessert but rather because they had a more significant breakfast than the other group," she says. "Starting your day off with calories consisting of protein and carbohydrate will start the day off right, leaving you feeling full and satiated."
This balance of protein and carbs is important both mentally and physiologically, Berman says. First, it's mentally important because when you eat enough calories and the meal is balanced with protein, carbs, and fat, your cravings are subsided and you are not trying to get through the day hungry. Second, from a metabolic or physiological perspective, it is important to remember that stress hormones are elevated when we wake up since we have gone so long without eating, she says.
"Providing the body with protein and carbs lets the body know there is no need to stress and allows it to be fueled for a successful day," Berman says. "When the body is not stressed, our metabolism works efficiently. If the body thinks it is stressed, it will not lose weight or burn fat very well."
In fact, Berman sees no benefit to adding dessert to breakfast at all since it could easily make eating processed sugar an automatic part of your day. Instead, she recommends eating a significant breakfast that is balanced in protein, carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), and healthy fats. This mix will help to reduce both hunger and cravings even if you don't have a dessert, she says.
However, if you really want to try this breakfast-with-dessert concept out, she recommends doing it smartly. That means eating a 600-calorie breakfast with 45 grams of protein and 60 grams of carbohydrates.
"Make sure you are still eating 45 grams of protein and 45 grams of carbohydrates consisting of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit," she recommends. "Then, dedicate 15 grams of carbs to your most favorite dessert. If you are going to do this, make it good!"
And also remember that when it comes to healthy living and weight loss, there is no quick fix.
"The point of the study is not that the successful participants were eating dessert for breakfast. They were successful because they were eating significantly less calories in a day, and breakfast was the biggest meal and along with some dessert had a hearty portion of protein and non-dessert carbohydrates," she says. "Quit the fads and get down to basics. Eating the right calorie level for your metabolism and activity level and eating a balanced diet of protein, carbs, and fat is the way to succeed and reach your goals. It really does work!"
What do you think about this study? How big of a breakfast do you have? Does it normally include a sweet treat? Do tell!