We’ve all heard the adage “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” to keep our weight in balance. But is there any truth to the advice? A recent study conducted by Frank Scheer, an associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University in Boston joined researchers at the University of Murcia in Spain to study 420 overweight and obese men and women who participated in a 20-week weight-loss program. The average age of the volunteers was 42.
Since the mid-day meal is typically one of the largest meals of the day in the Mediterranean culture, the study participants consumed about 40% of their daily calories for lunch (approximately 550-700 calories). The group was then divided into “early” eaters – those who ate lunch before 3:00 p.m. – and “late” eaters -those who ate lunch after 3:00 p.m. There was no difference between the amount of calories that each group consumed; the overall average was about 1400 calories per day. Energy expenditure was also similar between the two groups. Results reported in the January 29 2013 edition of The International Journal of Obesity suggest there may be some truth to the age-old advice of eating more earlier in the day to control your weight. On average the group who ate an early lunch lost 22 pounds while the group who ate later in the day lost 17. The “later” group also tended to skip breakfast and had a lower sensitivity to insulin, which may lead to diabetes.
While the study has its limitations, these findings do provide evidence to support the following dietary guidance:
• Eat breakfast! It really is the most important meal of the day. If you don’t have an appetite in the morning and find it difficult to eat, try experimenting with small amounts of various types of healthy foods.
• Try high protein foods for breakfast, such as eggs, lean meats, or Greek yogurt. You’ll find these foods will not leave you feeling hungry mid-morning, like a doughnut or pastry would. Compliment your meal with a bowl of fresh fruit and a glass of skim milk or 100% juice.
• If you enjoy a hearty meal, try eating a larger lunch earlier in the day. Lighten up dinner with a salad or vegetable, cup of soup and a small sandwich. While a calorie is a calorie no matter what time of day you eat, eating a more substantial lunch earlier in the day than a larger dinner later at night seems to be easier on your circadian rhythm and natural “body clock”. It also allows you time to expend excess calories before you go to bed. Should you get hungry at night, try eating a small snack.
Written by: Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, EFNEP/FCS, Hamilton County.
Reviewed by: Carolyn Gunther, Assistant Professor, Human Nutrition; Liz Smith, Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed.
Source: http://m.npr.org/news/U.S./170591028, http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/29/meal-times-may-affect-weight-loss-success/,