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A look into the variety effect at breakfast

Maxine Builder
August 16, 2017

It's easy to fall into a routine and eat the exact same, simple breakfast every single morning. And if you're looking to be like Mark Zuckerberg and avoid decision fatigue, then sure, go for it and eat a nothing but a single hard-boiled egg and cup of black coffee in the AM. But if you're trying to eat breakfast to lose weight, you might want to add some variety to your first meal of the day. That's according to a new study published in this month's issue of the Journal of Marketing Research, which suggests that breakfast variety is associated with greater weight loss.

The researchers followed a group of clinically overweight and obese women who signed up for a 16-week weight loss trial, tracking both the participants' meals and weight over the course of the study period. Dieticians helped the women develop eating plans and daily calorie intake goals, and according to the study analysis, the women who lost weight were those who had the most variety in their daily diets—especially for breakfast. As the researchers explain, "greater daily variety in breakfast foods was associated with greater weight loss," as was variety in afternoon snacks; the relationship between daily variety and weight loss was less pronounced with lunch or dinner.

So what does "greater daily variety in breakfast foods" mean on a practical level? It's not cumulative dietary variety, which refers to eating a different breakfast every day. Basically, you want to have as many different food groups represented on your plate as possible. So a fruit, a carb, and a protein are going to be better in this context than a protein and a carb alone—so maybe add a banana or apple slices to your slice of toast with peanut butter. The relationship was particularly strong when there were also vegetables on the breakfast plate, so consider making a kale and cucumber smoothie to go along with that toast.

The researchers weren't able to isolate the reason why eating a variety of food for breakfast made a different, even though the type of food played a role. But hey, this is as good a reason as any to ditch your boring breakfast and get as much color from fruits and vegetables as you can on your breakfast plate.

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