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Big Breakfasts May Pack Pounds on You: Study

classic breakfast meal - bacon, egg, sausage and hash browns with toastes, coffee, cheese and orange juice
iStockphoto
NEW YORK -- Conventional nutritional wisdom says breakfast is the most important meal of the day - but a new study suggests big breakfasts may actually result in weight gain by adding calories to your daily intake.

The study by University of Munich researchers, published in Nutrition Journal, showed that people ate the same at lunch and dinner, regardless of what they had for breakfast, according to the BBC.

And on "The Early Show" Tuesday, Health magazine Senior Food and Nutrition editor Frances Largeman-Roth, a registered dietician and co-author of "The CarbLovers Diet," said the study's main finding means a big breakfast resulted in a total increase of about 400 calories consumed over the course of the day. The only difference seen was the skipping of a mid-morning snack when someone ate a really big breakfast; however, that wasn't enough to offset the extra calories they had already eaten. Those 400 extra calories per day would amount to an additional 41.7 pounds over the course of a year!

So, should people skip breakfast? Largeman-Roth says she hears that question a lot, especially "if you're not a breakfast person. You should wait until you're hungry. And when you are hungry, you should still have breakfast foods, because that's sometimes the only opportunity in your day to eat fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grains. If you don't need or want to eat a lot, try eating a banana. Fiber from whole grains fills you up and improves digestion. Food in the stomach keeps you focused all day. Eating breakfast, or something, helps with mental sharpness -- it keeps you from having blood sugar go too low, which can affect your ability to concentrate. That's why breakfast is so important.

What's clear, Largeman-Roth adds, is that you should eat breakfast, but if you think magically eating 800-1000 calories on top of your usual diet will help you lose weight, then you're wrong -- you still have to limit the amount you eat.

And that's even though research shows certain breakfast foods, such as oatmeal, can boost your metabolism by as much as 25 percent. We tend to process food more efficiently during the day, because you're moving more early in the day, and have a better chance to burn those calories off.

There's no question, Largeman-Roth points out, that eating a healthy breakfast is beneficial:

• Fiber from whole grains fills you up and improves digestion
• It's the easiest time of day to fit in recommended servings of dairy and fruit
• It helps keep you focused throughout the day
• It prevents snacking on the bad stuff

Guidelines for Healthy Morning Eating on the Go

• A whole-wheat tortilla and two tablespoons of peanut/almond butter and a banana are a great way to fuel up when you're on the run. You could prep them the night before and grab them on the way out of the door!
• Keep a bowl of freshly washed fruit on your desk at work or around the house. Instead of nibbling on something like French toast, grab a piece of fruit (it's extremely satisfying and has fewer calories)!
• Clementines are a great fruit to have around the house: They can be room temperature or refrigerated, and can be eaten without a fork/knife!
• If you're craving last night's leftover pizza, that's OK! It's better not to deprive yourself. Have a slice -- but limit yourself to just ONE.

Poor Breakfast Choices

Take, for instance, a meal made up of a three-egg omelet with full-fat cheese, five strips of bacon, a short-stack of pancakes (three pancakes with maple syrup), a Danish, and a cup coffee with cream and sugar. That's more calories you need at breakfast. Most people don't need more than 500 calories. This breakfast is upwards of 900 calories, approximately. It's a sodium bomb because of the bacon and cheese, and has plenty of saturated fat from the Danish, bacon and cheese. Pancakes aren't entirely bad, but they're more a weekend treat - and better if they're whole-grain.

Appropriate Breakfast

A wise choice might be oatmeal with whole-grain cereal. You should aim for 300-500 calories, depending on how active you are. We've all heard that oatmeal is a great breakfast food: It's packed full of fiber. If you're more of a savory person, you could still have eggs and cheese on an English muffin - that's got some carbs, but in a smaller portion size.

According to the study, eating a large breakfast must be balanced by eating substantially less the rest of the day. The key here is to focus on what you're eating; you want something that will fill you up without costing too many calories. You'll find that in meals rich in whole grains and fiber, such as:
• 1 cup oatmeal with blueberries and 2 TBSP walnuts plus coffee or tea with low-fat milk
• 1 cup whole grain cereal with low fat milk and strawberries

The average semi-active female should consume 2,000 calories per day. Different people have different needs and varying amounts of caloric intake. Your breakfast should typically be between 20-25 percent of your total day's caloric intake. If you're a 45-year-old woman, 5'4" and weigh 140 pounds, your BMR is 1200 calories. Your breakfast would be 240-300 calories. With moderate activity, your caloric intake would increase and therefore the breakfast would, as well. For males, it would be slightly higher (about 500 calories)