Here are 6 tips that are not only tasty and stick-to-your-ribs satisfying, they’re low in calorie density, which makes them excellent choices if you’re trying to shed excess weight.
1. Choose fiber-rich, water-rich whole grains over dry grains.
Dry grains like cold cereals, breads, bagels, cereal bars, and muffins are dense with calories. Per bite, you’re taking in a lot of calories, which means that by the time you’ve eaten enough to feel full, you’ve probably eaten more calories than you would have liked. That’s why half a box of Cheerios (and its 700+ calories) can disappear so quickly!
Don’t be fooled by “fat free” or “low fat” choices. A Low Fat Cranberry Orange Muffin at Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, tallies up a whopping 390 calories. (And are you really satisfied with just one?)
For losing weight, you’re much better off choosing “wet” (cooked in water, nonfat milk, or soymilk) cereals like oatmeal, kamut, or rolled barley flakes. Ounce for ounce, you’re eating about one-third the calories of dry cereal or breads. The water that the hot whole-grain cereal is cooked in adds bulk and a lot more stomach-filling satisfaction, which means you’re less likely to go overboard on calories at breakfast – and less likely later in the day to go places you ought not to go.
Here’s another way to think about it. A bowl of oatmeal topped with nonfat milk and berries has about the same number of calories (270) as a typical cereal bar. But in minutes a lot of us can put away five of those cereal bars. Five bowls of oatmeal? No chance. So yes, those cereal bars and energy bars may be quick and easy food, but eat them till you’re comfortably full, and you’ll end up with quick and easy weight gain.
2. Jazz it up.
Add fresh or frozen fruit to your hot cereal. Let your imagination go! If there are no more strawberries in the fridge, slice up whatever you have – nectarines, bananas, mangos. It’s all sweet. It’s all good.
One of our online Pritikin members wrote in recently that she made a “serendipitous” discovery. She’d run out of regular bananas and “resorted” to a frozen banana, slicing it up and putting it in her oatmeal along with blueberries, pineapple, and soymilk. She found out she actually preferred the texture and taste of the frozen banana. Now it’s a treat on her oatmeal every morning.
3. Make it ahead of time.
No time on weekday mornings to cook? No problem. Some of our Alumni have a great solution. They make their oatmeal or other hot cereal one week at a time in a big lasagna-size dish. After it’s cooked, they cut it up and put it in baggies and freeze it. Every morning, they take out a serving, stick it in the microwave for two minutes, mix in some Splenda and nonfat milk or soymilk, and top it with fruit. Real easy.
When Pritikin dietitian Kimberly Gomer knows she has a busy week ahead of her, she gets busy on Sundays. She cooks oatmeal in a large pot (with either water, skim milk, or soymilk) and mixes in lots of frozen berries. “All I have to do for the next five mornings is scoop out some and heat it in the microwave for a minute – that’s it!”
But really, it doesn’t take much time to microwave a bowl of hot cereal each morning. This writer’s tip: While I’m combing out my wet hair, I’ve got the oatmeal cooking in the microwave. In just three minutes (about the time my hair’s done), the oatmeal’s done.
- Another microwave quickie is egg whites and veggies. “Just take a microwavable bowl, spritz it with a dash of butter-flavored spray, add your egg whites and as much spinach or other veggies as you like, and nuke for about 1 to 2 minutes,” recommends Tom Rifai, MD, FACP, Medical Director, Metabolic & Weight Management at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland and member of the Pritikin Scientific Advisory Board. “It’s a satisfying, protein-packed way to start your day.”
- For on-the-go breakfast, another online Pritikin member wrote, “I cook my instant oatmeal packets in a tall To-Go cup and then mix in lots of berries. I use the long-handled plastic spoons (like the ones you get for shakes at Dairy Queen) and have my healthy breakfast right in the car on the way to work. Hey, it ain’t pretty, but it works!”
4. Want dry cereal – period?
All right. Just make sure you’re choosing varieties, like shredded wheat and puffed whole grain (good brand choices are Arrowhead Mills, Kashi, Quaker, Food For Life, Bob’s Red Mill, and Nature’s Path). A shopping tip: Scan the ingredient list. The fewer the ingredients, the better. Shredded wheat, for example, has just one ingredient – shredded whole wheat, which means you’re not getting all the added sodium and sugar that a lot of dry cereals contain. Yes, you want shredded wheat, not frosted shredded wheat.
Make your dry cereal better for your waistline by pouring less of it in your bowl and filling half your bowl with lots of fruit. The fruit fills you up and keeps you from eating too much of the calorie-concentrated cereal. And be sure to choose nonfat dairy milk or soymilk as a topper.
Here’s another tip from another Pritikin member. He was responding to a member who said that oatmeal made her gag. “If you cook up a batch of Chef Anthony’s Oatmeal Supreme on Saturday morning, you’ll never say oatmeal makes you gag again. I hated oatmeal myself, and now it’s my favorite. Both a great breakfast and weight loss are happening.”
5. Want toast?
Tone down the calorie count by using sliced strawberries or sliced bananas instead of jam or jelly. Instead of cream cheese, try fat-free cream cheese or even a smear of naturally thick Greek nonfat yogurt. Top with a little unsweetened applesauce.
6. Breakfast while traveling
Breakfast buffets at your hotel and elsewhere can wreak havoc on not only your waistline but your heart. Sidestep the sausages and other artery-damaging meats. Head straight for the omelet bar. Ask for an egg-white or Egg Beaters omelet and look for healthy fillers, like fresh salsa, grilled bell peppers, grilled onions, and other veggies.
While your omelet’s cooking, pile up another plate with lots of fresh fruit. Add some treats, like raspberries, to a big bowl of hot oatmeal. Top with nonfat milk or soymilk.
What a delicious and satisfying way to start your day!