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updated: 10/23/2013 12:21 PM

Lean and lovin' it: Breakfast's role in weight loss plans

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There's a war going on over breakfast and weight loss and I'm about to step in the middle of that battlefield. Care to join me?

You've heard it said hundreds of times: "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."

Is it? Really? Let's look at some facts.

The U.S. Surgeon General weighed-in with a statement: "Eating a healthy breakfast is a good way to start the day and may be important in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight." Note the words: "may be." Why so cautious?

Could it be there are too few studies on the relationship between breakfast and weight loss and that those that have been conducted were funded by breakfast cereal companies? Of course that doesn't mean the results were wrong, but there is a possibility for study bias.

In a September New York Times piece Anahad O'Connor wrote "new research shows that despite the conventional weight-loss wisdom, the idea that eating breakfast helps you lose weight stems largely from misconstrued studies."

O'Connor refers to a study published in September in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that clearly states: "The belief in the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity exceeds the strength of scientific evidence."

Feel deceived? I do. I wonder if the U.S. Surgeon General does too.

It seems some studies show that breaking the natural fast between dinner and the following morning (while we sleep) later in the morning, or even early in the afternoon is the best way to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight -- the antithesis of cornflakes at dawn.

Also, some studies show that whenever you break that fast you should do so with higher protein foods and some fat to help with weight loss and keep hunger at bay. Why?

It's all about insulin. Simply put, sugar and refined carbs (like white or even whole wheat flour), naturally raise insulin levels to help us metabolize them. Once those carbs are gone, our body's ask for more and that makes us hungry.

Protein and fat get metabolized without insulin, so the calories from protein and fat should sustain energy levels without leaving us craving more food.

In part, this is what intermittent fasting is all about. Waiting to eat after an extended period of time; like 12 hours.

So what does this all mean for you?

Consider eating breakfast later than usual, like maybe 12 hours (or more) after your last meal, and making that breakfast high in protein and some healthy fats (zero trans fats) and v-e-r-y low in refined carbohydrates and sugar (none, if possible). That may mean jettisoning that cup of sugar-loaded morning yogurt.

Let me know how it goes.

Try this recipe: I spotted a tempting soup in Fine Cooking magazine, but it had way too much fat coming from pancetta and olive oil (43.8 percent calories from fat). I worked a bit of magic on it and turned it into a very tasty, leaner soup. I'll bet you won't miss any of the fat.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at

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