For Overweight Teens Only: A Breakfast with Serious Benefits

High-protein breakfastIf you’re an overweight teen who regularly skips breakfast, you are missing out on some serious benefits, a new study finds. Turns out, eating one specific kind of breakfast can deliver a host of body benefits tailor-made just for you. This is not your garden-variety breakfast of cereal and milk, rather it’s a breakfast rich in one multitasking nutrient: protein.

When you make a high-protein breakfast part of your new morning routine, you could be on your way to preventing body fat gain, curbing hunger and keeping your blood sugar on a more even keel all day long. And, you’ll likely finish your day eating significantly fewer – yes, fewer – calories. Read on for all the details. This study just may be the inspiration you need to not only reclaim breakfast, but make it your most powerful meal of the day.

The study

For this study, researchers at the University of Missouri, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, along with a colleague at Purdue University enrolled 67 overweight teens from the Columbia, Missouri, area. The teens were serious breakfast skippers, passing on breakfast six times a week, on average. The researchers randomly assigned the teens to one of three groups. One group continued to skip breakfast. A second group was given a 350-calorie typical “normal protein” breakfast of ready-to-eat cereal and milk (about 13 grams of protein). A third group was given the same number of calories but more protein (about 35 grams) from egg- and pork-based menus.

After 12 weeks, the researchers compared the changes in food intake, body composition, hunger ratings and other parameters among the three groups. A total of 57 teens – over 80% of the enrolled teens – completed the study. Results are published in the June 2015 issue of the International Journal of Obesity and the September 2015 issue of the Obesity Journal.

Here are the highlights:

  • A high-protein breakfast may help prevent you from gaining body fat.

Compared to the breakfast skippers, only the teens eating the high-protein breakfast (35 grams) were significantly better at preventing a gain in body fat. In fact, the teens eating the high-protein breakfast lost almost one pound of body fat, on average, while the breakfast skippers gained over 3½ pounds of body fat, on average, over the 12-week period.

  • A high-protein breakfast may help curb your daily hunger.

Compared to the breakfast skippers, only the teens who ate the high-protein meal reported significantly less daily hunger.

  • A high-protein breakfast may help reduce your total daily calorie intake.

Compared to the breakfast skippers, only the teens who ate the high-protein breakfast voluntarily consumed significantly fewer daily calories – about 420 fewer calories per day, on average. The breakfast skippers, on the other hand, added over 370 calories, on average, to their daily plate.

  • A high-protein breakfast may help balance your blood sugar.

The researchers followed a subset of 28 teens over the 12-week study to continuously monitor changes in their blood sugar. They found that, compared to those eating the typical breakfast with only 13 grams of protein, the teens who ate the high-protein breakfast with 35 grams of protein were significantly better able to avoid post-meal blood sugar spikes (that can ultimately trigger hunger) over the entire 24-hour period after eating breakfast. (This is likely one of the reasons for the hunger-curbing effects throughout the day.)

Making it work for you

We’ve talked about the 5 essential habits for successful weight loss in overweight teens, including eating more daily protein. This new research suggests that eating more of that daily protein at breakfast – at least 35 grams – can be especially helpful for overweight teens who now regularly skip breakfast.

Nutrition Nugget

There are plenty of options to add protein to your morning meal – eggs, lean meat and poultry, fish, peanut butter, dried beans, milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts, seeds and more. Yet, it can be tricky to prepare a meal packed with 35 grams of protein. Not to worry. Lorna is in the kitchen working on a few menu ideas to inspire you to start your day in the high-protein zone. She’ll post all the delicious details in an upcoming blog, so be sure to stay tuned.

Here’s to the power of breakfast protein!

Kathleen Dunn, MPH, RD
Co-author of Eating for A’s

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PS – Teens, we’re here to help you on your quest to be the best you. If you have any questions or need additional information, just join us on Facebook and drop us a note. Take it one day at a time. Soon you’ll reach your goal.  Work hard, play hard, study hard, and have fun! Good luck, the EatingFor Team is cheering you on!