Timing is everything if you are dieting.
Ever hear of the “Chocolate Cake Diet?” Probably not – because it’s not exactly healthy. It was named for the 300 calorie piece of chocolate cake added to breakfast – that actually helped people lose weight!
People eating a 1400 calorie diet including cake for breakfast lost more weight than people who ate a normal 1400 calorie diet. The “normal” diet could include dessert. But just at normal dessert times.
Besides losing more weight, morning cake eaters didn’t feel as hungry for the rest of the day.
They thought it was because they got dessert for breakfast. So the “woo-hoo” feeling lasted the rest of the day.
But it turns out that the earlier in the day you eat most of your calories, whatever they are, the more weight you lose – even though it is the same food, and the same calories.
This doesn’t happen right away. It took the cake eaters over 4 months before they showed a difference compared to other dieters. So if you try this approach, don’t give up too early.
While chocolate cake in the morning is one way to change timing of your calories, it is not exactly the healthiest addition to a diet. So here are 5 other ways that can produce the same effect:
A typical 1400 calorie diet has low breakfast calories:
300 calories for breakfast
500 calories for lunch
600 calories for dinner
Change the calories around by adding an additional 300 calories in the morning, and cutting out 150 calories at lunchtime and dinnertime, so it looks like this:
600 calories for breakfast
350 calories for lunch
450 calories for dinner
(See the recipes at the end for healthy quiche recipe and a decadent brownie recipe.)
Another way to accomplish the same thing is to eat your dinner at breakfast time, and breakfast at dinner time.
But if mornings are hectic and it’s too hard to change your breakfast routine, try this:
Change your snack time
Basically, all evening snacks have to go. No food after 6 pm.
Start gradually, cutting out the latest snacks first, then gradually moving the cutoff time up to 6 pm.
For even better results, you should move up your dinnertime.
Move calories to an earlier time of day, away from dinner. Eat a heavier lunch, with a light meal – say, a salad – for dinner, and eat dinner before 6 pm.
The 6 pm deadline is a type of time restriction. The most extreme time restriction is fasting (ugh). You don’t have to go that far to get benefits.
The least extreme time restriction is a 12-hour break between the last food you eat in the evening and the first food you eat in the morning. You can gradually increase the time of fasting by eating dinner earlier.
Healthy 300 calorie breakfast addition:
No-crust spinach-mushroom-cheese quiche (6 servings)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup spinach leaves, torn into small pieces
4 eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Saute onion and mushrooms gently until onions begin to look translucent. Add spinach and stir until it is wilted. Pour off the liquid (save and use in soup or spaghetti sauce). Combine with eggs, salt, pepper, and cheese. Pour into a 9-inch pie pan lined with parchment paper (or greased).
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until eggs have set. Cool 10 minutes, then slice into 6 slices.
Note: Other types of cheese can be used, if you prefer. My favorite substitute: Swiss
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups spinach leaves, torn into small pieces
12 eggs, beaten
¼ tsp pepper
1 ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Decadent 300 calorie breakfast addition: 9 servings
Very fudgy brownies Warning: – this is for chocolate fanatics – the chocolate flavor is intense.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups unsweetened, natural cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place butter and sugar in a saucepan on very low heat. As butter melts, stir until butter is completely melted and sugar is dissolved in the butter. Do not brown the butter. Remove from heat and add to cocoa and salt, stir till blended. Add one egg at a time, stirring after each one until each is blended in. Add flour and baking powder, stir until completely blended. Finally, add vanilla.
For thick 300 calorie brownies, pour or scrape batter into a 9 by 9-inch pan lined with parchment paper, and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. The middle will still be soft when done, but the edges will be set. When done, sprinkle top with powdered sugar and cut into 9 brownies. (These are very rich – you can cut into smaller pieces. Just be aware that it will take more than 1 brownie for your 300 calories.)
For a thinner version, pour/scrape the batter into a 9 by 13-inch pan lined with parchment paper, and bake for 30 minutes. 1/9 of the pan is about 300 calories.
Now that you have recipes in hand, try shifting your calories to a time that is earlier in the morning. The effect takes time, so don’t give up too early. That means it won’t be one of those Ta-Da! moments when you wake up and find you lost 100 pounds in the last week. But keep it up and I am sure you’ll like the final results.
(A slightly different version of this blog post appeared earlier in Sixty and Me, at https://sixtyandme.com/when-chocolate-cake-calls-do-you-ignore-it-or-enjoy-it-mindfully/.)