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How to Avoid Late-Night Snacking with Breakfast

New research shows high-protein breakfasts can help prevent weight gain.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests found that overweight and obese young women who ate high-protein breakfasts were less likely to oversnack on fatty and sugary foods at night. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

We’ve long known that breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. But new research suggests that the higher the meal’s protein content, the better—especially for those trying to lose weight.

The study, which involved 20 overweight or obese females ages 18 to 20, wanted to determine whether a high protein or normal protein breakfast was more beneficial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The participants had a habit of skipping breakfast, something approximately 60 percent of young Americans do regularly.

For six days, researchers had the participants consume the following 350-calorie breakfasts: 1) a cereal-based meal with 13 grams of protein, 2) an egg and beef meal with 35 grams of protein, or 3) no breakfast at all. Every day the participants filled out questionnaires and provided blood samples. They also underwent MRIs before dinner to track brain signals associated with food desires.

Not surprisingly, results showed that eating breakfast in general reduced hunger throughout the day compared with skipping it. However, researchers found that eating the high-protein breakfast produced the best results, including longer feelings of fullness. In addition, the protein-heavy meal reduced the participants’ cravings to snack on fatty and sugary foods at night.

Consuming a high-protein breakfast (think egg-based waffles with applesauce and a beef-sausage patty or Greek yogurt) also altered the brain signals that control food motivation and reward-driven eating behavior.

“These data suggest that eating a protein-rich breakfast is one potential strategy to prevent overeating and improve diet quality by replacing unhealthy snacks with high-quality breakfast foods,” said lead researcher Heather Leidy in a statement.

Currently, it’s recommended that men consume approximately 56 grams of protein per day; for women, 46 grams.

Since the study was relatively short, Leidy said further research is planned to determine whether eating a high-protein breakfast every day will improve bodyweight management in adolescents.

The full study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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