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Psychology of Breakfast: Facts & Anecdotes Behind the Most Important Meal of the Day

From the Show: Eat Right Radio
Summary: Choosing the right breakfast foods can help control cravings and reduce snacking the rest of the day.
Air Date: 5/21/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Torey Armul, MS
Jones Armul Torey 0712Torey Armul, MS, is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics and award-winning nutrition communications expert. She counsels active adults on food and fitness, weight loss, gastrointestinal disorders, prenatal nutrition and emotional eating. Armul also works as a health coach consultant for an employee wellness company and a mobile health app. She is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and earned a master's degree in Human Nutrition from University of Illinois at Chicago.
Psychology of Breakfast: Facts & Anecdotes Behind the Most Important Meal of the Day
In this segment, Torey Armul, MS, discusses the power of breakfast... often considered the “most important meal of the day” by health experts.

Starting with the latest research, Armul reveals how choosing the right breakfast foods can help control cravings and reduce snacking the rest of the day.

She also taps into the psychology of breakfast and how eating right can impact your weight loss willpower and success and shares personal stories from her work with weight loss clients to reveal how weight control starts with the first meal of the day.

Melanie Cole (Host):  Do you know the power of breakfast? It’s often considered the most important meal of the day by health experts. But can choosing the right breakfast foods help control cravings and reduce snacking for the rest of the day? My guest today is Torey Armul. She’s a board certified specialist in sports dietetics, an award-winning nutrition communications expert. Welcome to the show, Torey. So, breakfast. We’ve always heard “the most important meal of the day.” Is it really the most important meal, and can it help us with the rest of our day’s eating cravings? 

Torey Armul (Guest):  Hi, Melanie. Yes, it really is just about the most important meal of the day, and there’s two big areas to consider with breakfast. The first is the research behind breakfast, so what these studies are actually showing breakfast can do for us. There’s some pretty strong research that eating breakfast, especially something with protein, is linked to increased fullness, fewer cravings, and even reduced snacking later on at night. 

Melanie:  Okay. So what do you think makes the components of a healthy breakfast but one that’s enough to fill us up and keep us going through the day? 

Torey:  The best components for a healthy breakfast are going to be protein, especially because, again, that has been linked to increased fullness, fewer cravings, but also fiber. So you really have those two buckets you want to fill. And some good protein options. That may be greek yogurt, other low-fat dairy, eggs, nuts, nut butters, and then some great fiber is going to come from fruits and vegetables. Also, whole grains. So maybe whole wheat toast, wheat pancakes, or oatmeal. 

Melanie:  Okay. So, eggs. I’m just going to start there because eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years. It’s something I love to feed my children almost every morning, along with their smoothie and a bowl of fruit. Eggs: good, bad? Can we do that? 

Torey:  I am a fan of eggs. And as with everything you’ll hear dietitians say often, everything in moderation. So if you’re having a few eggs a week, that is perfectly fine. That’s perfectly healthy. And I even like keeping the yolk in. A lot of people think they need to do egg whites only to stay healthy, but the yolk actually has a lot of important nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and even healthy fats that are so good for us and can also help keep us full throughout the day. 

Melanie:  How can we make breakfast more entertaining, a little bit more varying? Because it seems to be sometimes to be the same thing every day. You’ve got a bowl of fruit; you do something with the yoghurt. How can we make it more interesting? 

Torey:  The best way to make breakfast more interesting is to have fun with it. Try new fruits and vegetables. Let your kids have a hand in the grocery store what new produce to pick. And also, planning ahead can really help. Some people start their breakfast the night before by making overnight oats, where you kind of simmer some raw oats with some milk and some fruit. So you can really play ahead of time even if you don't have much time in the morning to get ready. Advance planning with breakfast can be very important and actually kind of keep you excited about it and really allot some time for your breakfast. 

Melanie:  What about on-the-go breakfasts? You see granola bars and now these protein bars. There’s so many on the market, Torey. What do you think about those and when people have no time for breakfast, they grab one of those? 

Torey:  I usually say when you have a choice between something for breakfast and nothing for breakfast, always go for the something. Now, of course, you want the something to be moderately healthy, so check the ingredients labels. Try to find something where you can recognize each ingredient in that nutrition facts label. You’re going to see all sorts of products with the granola bars, and they really vary, so it’s hard to pinpoint one brand that does it best. So you really need to compare your nutrition facts labels and your ingredient list and see which ones are the most wholesome natural food. 

Melanie:  Do you have any recipes you’d like to share for smoothies or things you like to get us going in the day, something that you yourself would want to serve? 

Torey:  Well, when I do smoothies, the biggest consideration is you want to make sure is you have some protein in there. So of course, it’s super easy to make a smoothie at home with some frozen fruits, Greek yoghurt, water, milk, chia seeds. There’s a lot of fun things you can do with smoothies. But the number one consideration is, again, to make sure you add that bit of protein. So that may be some skim milk with the smoothie, some Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese. Sometimes you can even add some peanut butters for more of a savory smoothie. So making sure you’re really kind of adding that protein to the smoothie is important. And that goes with all sorts of breakfast foods, too. 

Melanie:  Now, if someone is really trying to lose weight, the first impulse is to skip breakfast and then try and make it up at lunch or dinner or snacking throughout the day. If you really want to have that willpower and success in losing weight, what might a good, healthy breakfast look like? 

Torey:  A good, healthy breakfast is going to have a few different components. First, always make sure you’re having some kind of fruit or vegetable with your meal. We really should be eating about 50 percent of our foods from fruits and vegetables, but of course, very few people actually do that. But it’s really a good idea to have. So making sure that you’re really loading up on the fruits and vegetables, because that’s that important fiber that really helps to fill you up and keep you full throughout the day. You also want to make sure you have that protein again, and then ideally some healthy fats, too. So you can find that in olive oil, in avocado, in nuts and seeds, so those are the three big points that it would be great to hit. And one other thing about breakfast, too, they found that people who eat breakfast are more likely to exercise more often, and it may actually increase the amount of calories burned during exercise. So the importance of breakfast even goes beyond what you’re eating. It can actually translate into how you’re acting and exercising the rest of the day. 

Melanie:  Torey, people hear avocado, oatmeal, foods that you and I both know are so good for us, but they also worry that those are high in calories, so then they would contribute to weight gain or not help us to lose weight. Clear that up for us. 

Torey:  Some of the really healthy foods you hear of, like avocado and nuts, can be higher in calories. And part of the reason for that is because they’re chockfull of healthy fats, which tend to be higher in calories gram for gram than protein or carbohydrates. It’s one of those food groups that you want to watch, so keep in moderation. But I'm a fan of healthy fats because they can really fill you up. So I would rather a client eat something with some good, solid healthy fats and maybe 200 or 300 calories and get really full from that than try to snack the rest of the day trying to get full. It’s a really a question of which would you rather, and I would rather a client eat the real food and really go for something that they want and get full from that than keep chasing the satiety with more hundreds and hundreds of calories. 

Melanie:  What about the sugar levels to keep a stable blood sugar level during the day? Does fruit hurt that? Because it’s pretty high in sugar, vegetables maybe being lower. But people tend to think of fruit with breakfast. Does that mess with our sugar levels in the day? 

Torey:  I am a big fan of fruits. And even though it does have some sugar, they’re natural sugars. So one thing I say to clients who are looking to lose weight is no one ever gained weight on eating too much fruit. I really have truly never seen that. So I believe that fruit is such an important part of a healthy diet because it’s full of fiber, and that can help fill us up and keep you feeling full and satisfied until your next meal. So it’s not akin to eating half a cup of sugar or eating some candies. Fruit is much richer in nutrients and fiber, so I believe it’s actually a critical part of a healthy weight loss diet. 

Melanie:  In just the last few minutes, Torey, if you would, give us your best advice for a good, healthy breakfast to keep those craving for snacks down a little bit throughout the day and even possibly help us lose weight. 

Torey:  My best advice for a healthy breakfast is to, first, make sure you’re having something every day. And that requires some planning ahead. We may not always have 5, 10, or 15 minutes in the morning to make breakfast, so make sure you’re thinking about breakfast when you’re at the grocery store, the night before. You always want to have a plan for a healthy breakfast. That’s first. Second, just make sure your breakfast has some protein and fiber because we know that research shows that helps to fill you up and control cravings the rest of the day. And then ultimately, routine is good when it comes to breakfast, because we talk about willpower and we know willpower is a finite resource. And you don't want to use up all your willpower at breakfast. You have a full day of food choices and other decisions ahead of you. So I'm a fan of finding three or four solid healthy breakfasts and getting them in a rotation so it’s something you don't have to think about, something you don't have to dwell on every morning. It can become very automatic for you. 

Melanie:  Thank you so much. It’s great information. You’re listening to Eat Right Radio with our good friends from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, you can go to This is Melanie Cole.