Here’s a test!
You are staying at a hotel that is providing you a complimentary breakfast.
Your breakfast choices are:
- Bagel with Cream Cheese
- Yogurt with Fruit
- Bacon and Eggs
One of these breakfast options will keep your body in a state of fat burning, while the other two will encourage your body to make fat.
The answer might surprise you!
The Best Breakfast for Fat Loss [Video]
When you’re eating breakfast foods for fat loss, you want to choose foods that will digest slowly and provide sustained energy. So, you can avoid fatigue and hunger.
With that said, proteins and fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates.
Carbs, (especially sugar and refined or processed carbs like bread and cereals), digest quickly, AND they spike insulin.
So, if Insulin is the hormone that pushes calories or fuels from the foods you eat into storage. We can conclude that:
Insulin is Literally Your Fat Storing Hormone.
With just that little bit of information, we can start to evaluate these three breakfast options we talked about at the beginning.
The first option was a bagel with cream cheese.
Bagels Have a Reputation for Being Healthy, but They Don’t Deserve It
Bagels are refined grains that have a high glycemic index. This means they spike insulin, which is that fat-storing hormone.
When you put cream cheese, which is mostly fat, on top of this refined carb you have a recipe for disaster.
This is because the insulin that is spiked from eating the refined carb (bagel) not only pushes sugar into your fat cells but so do also the fatty acids that come from the cream cheese.
Bagel and Cream Cheese: You’re Ingesting A LOT of Energy
You are probably ingesting about 300 calories of energy.
However, because that available energy is being quickly pushed out of your blood and into energy storage areas, a.k.a. your fat cells, it is no longer easy to access.
Your Brain Turns on Hunger and Cravings
These are basically a request for you to eat some more calories
Your brain is saying, “give me something I can burn without having to go to the trouble of pulling fat out of fat storage.”
A good example of this principle in action comes from a memory I have from high school.
One year I had the latest scheduled lunch, which was something around like 1 p.m. in the afternoon.
Now at the time my breakfast, like most girls growing up in the 80s, was a bowl of cereal.
Of course, it wasn’t a healthy cereal or breakfast food for fat loss by any stretch of the imagination!
I think I used to eat the Rice Krispies that were chocolate flavored. They were called Coco Crisp or something like that…
Anyway, it was extremely refined carbs.
I remember that in the class I had right before lunch, my stomach would always start growling really loud.
Everyone Heard My Stomach Growling, and It Was Embarrassing
I used to dread when there would be a test because it was so quiet.
I tried everything to keep my stomach from growling, and one of my strategies was to up my cereal intake from one bowl to two or maybe even three.
So, I would try to stuff myself with food in the morning to keep hunger away.
Now I look back at that and I think. Oh my gosh! What a terrible strategy!
First of all, it didn’t work, and secondly, I was trying to fill up with one of the quickest digesting foods on the planet…Refined carbs.
So, the main difference between eating a few refined carbs and a lot of refined carbs, is mostly how much insulin your body is forced to produce.
So, by eating two bowls of cereal instead of one, my pancreas pumped out more insulin, and the sugar from the carbs made it into my fat cells just as quickly.
Eating More Refined Carbs in Hopes of Staving Off Hunger is NOT a Strategy That Will Benefit You…
Two donuts are never better than one.
Two bagels are never better than one.
So, a bagel and cream cheese is not a breakfast food I recommend if your goal is to lose weight.
How About Yogurt and Fruit as breakfast foods for fat loss?
Let’s Take a Look At Another Popular Breakfast: Yogurt and Fruit
If you follow me on my blog, you know that I don’t often recommend yogurt.
The reason is mostly that it is so hard to find a yogurt that is not filled with sugar.
For instance, I picked up this Greek yogurt at the grocery store. It has 19 grams of carbohydrates, 17 of those grams are sugar and 12 of them are actually added sugar.
Yogurt (with added sugar) is Not a Breakfast Food for Fat Loss
Now, you might think that if you eat this with some fruit that you’ll make your breakfast healthier.
Well, I have an entire video on how fruit affects your diet and I encourage you to watch that video after reading this if you have questions about eating fruit.
To paraphrase, Whether or not eating fruit is really effective for fat-loss comes down to how well your metabolism is performing.
Fruit contains a natural sugar called fructose, which must be processed by your liver.
Your liver turns fructose into fat, which I know sounds bad, but in a person with a strong metabolism, this is not a problem. This is because their body can easily pull that fat out of storage and burn it when it needs energy.
But if you are someone who has trouble losing weight, then you may have a metabolic issue, like insulin resistance, that blocks fat release.
So now you eat this yogurt with hidden sugars, your insulin goes up, and then you follow that with fruit which your liver converts to fat.
So, fat-burning is not happening.
I Am Not Completely Against yogurt
I know some people like to make their own yogurt, which is fine.
You can also buy acceptable yogurt, but you have to hunt for it.
If you look very closely in the health food aisle of your grocery store, you can usually find a full-fat yogurt with no added sugar.
If you eat full-fat yogurt with seeds, (maybe some chia seeds or raw sunflower seeds), sprinkled on top instead of fruit, you’ll avoid the insulin spike and find that hunger stays away.
So if you enjoy yogurt, that is a good alternative option for you.
Are Bacon and Eggs a Good Breakfast Food For Fat Loss?
what we have here is protein and fat with very little, (if any), carbohydrates.
This breakfast is going to digest slowly and it is not going to spike insulin.
Remember that when insulin stays low, your body is not storing fat, so fat is able to be released from your fat cells.
So, a breakfast that consists of fat and some protein is going to help you extend the low-insulin, fat-burning state that your body naturally fell into thanks to the fact that you fasted overnight.
Breakfast is Literally Breaking-a-Fast
The prevailing wisdom not so long ago was that we needed to eat carbs in the morning because they give us energy.
While it’s true that carbs do give us energy, so does dietary fat.
Because dietary fat digests slowly and does not impact insulin, your body receives sustained energy that is not as easily stored as fat.
This would have been a much better breakfast for me to have in high school because it would have kept hunger away longer.
Now before I leave the bacon and eggs, I have to respond to the elephant in the room and that is saturated fat.
Saturated Fats Have Certainly Gotten a Bad Reputation
Part of that is because logic would make us believe that eating fat makes you fat.
In fact, when we look at the research that is not sponsored by drug companies, (which unfortunately can carry a bias), we see a very poor relationship between saturated fats and heart disease.
(Are you curious about cholesterol? See my Blog Post Understanding Cholesterol.)
Here is a systematic review of the literature that shows a poor link between saturated fats and heart disease (2).
Systematic reviews are good studies to go by because their purpose is to collect and analyze multiple research studies.
So you get an overview of multiple studies and that overrides the biased research that might be out there due to special interests, like selling medications.
Bacon is a Saturated Fat, But It Can Be Healthy
The trick is…
you want to look for bacon with
- no nitrates
- no sugar added
Ding, Ding, Ding! Bacon and Eggs is The Winner!
So, of these three breakfast options, the one with protein and fat wins as the best breakfast food for fat loss over the refined carbs and hidden sugars of the other two options.
But I will add that there is another option available to you if you have trouble losing weight, and that is to skip breakfast altogether.
That is a fat loss strategy called intermittent fasting. I have a blog post that walks you through 3 ways to do intermittent fasting, including the easy method which is a baseline strategy that all members of my weight loss coaching program benefit from.
(1) Kersten, Sander. “Mechanisms of nutritional and hormonal regulation of lipogenesis.” EMBO reports 2.4 (2001): 282-286.
(2) Chowdhury, Rajiv, et al. “Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Annals of internal medicine 160.6 (2014): 398-406.
About the Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.