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What’s the best time to eat cake when you're on a diet?

Dessert is a meal best served hot, cold — and in a pinch, even stale. The dessert course is wonderfully flexible — even a week-old store-bought coffee cake hits the spot. And while the health-conscious will often skip a sweet treat after dinner, there are many people for whom the very idea of not having a small wedge of pie or a chocolate chip cookie is cruel and unusual punishment.

Dessert is a meal best served hot, cold—and in a pinch, even stale. The dessert course is wonderfully flexible—even a week-old store-bought coffee cake hits the spot. And while the health-conscious will often skip a sweet treat after dinner, there are many people for whom the very idea of not having a small wedge of pie or a chocolate chip cookie is cruel and unusual punishment.

While dessert is often eaten after dinner or after a late lunch, a new study (via MSNBC) suggests that if weight is a concern, it might be wiser to get that cake eating out of the way at breakfast time rather than wait until mid-day or evening. In fact, getting your cravings out of the way early may help you keep trim over the long term. 

For the study, researchers in Tel Aviv separated obese participants into two dietary groups. The first group ate a breakfast high in protein and carbs and included a dessert. The second group stuck to a low-carb, low-calorie breakfast minus a sweet nibble. Surprisingly, it was the first group that managed to stick to their diet better than the group that ate a more restricted menu. 

While there’s no clear explanation for the finding, the researchers suspect that it may be the happy result of a few factors. For one, the timing of when sweets are consumed may affect how the participants stored the food. Second, it may be because the more flexible diet allows participants to still derive pleasure from their meals rather than feeling robbed of the items that make meals enjoyable. 

Most importantly, however, the study offers further proof that eating a healthy breakfast that includes a good mix of carbs, protein and fats is a good way to start the day.