If you really want to lose weight this year, experts say forget the fad diets and remember what your mother told you -- eat breakfast and drink your milk! Recent studies suggest starting each day with milk and cereal may be the secret to success for achieving a healthy weight.

That's why registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer and actress Molly Ringwald have teamed up with the National Milk Mustache campaign to promote the weight loss benefits of milk and breakfast. The new got milk? breakfast club is a FREE online community dedicated to providing tips, tools and solutions -- including a 24-day meal plan -- for achieving a healthy weight. Somer says most women don't realize that something as simple as starting the day off right can result in long term success. In fact, according to the latest NPD food trends data, more than 1/3 of women are skipping breakfast entirely or considering a soft drink or coffee as their morning meal.

"When women diet they often make two big mistakes that can actually result in weight gain -- skip breakfast and ditch dairy," says Somer, author of the new book 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet (McGraw Hill, January 2006). "But in reality, eating breakfast and including 24 ounces of milk each day are two small steps that could make a significant difference in achieving a healthy weight."

Studies indicate that people who regularly eat breakfast -- particularly cereal with lowfat or fat free milk -- tend to be leaner compared to those who skip the morning meal or eat other options(1). Additionally, breakfast eaters are more likely to have long-term success in maintaining a healthy weight. In fact an analysis of 3,000 people in the National Weight Control Registry found that a cereal and milk breakfast is a habit common to successful weight loss maintainers(2).

Combine that with studies linking 24 ounces of milk a day as part of a reduced-calorie diet with healthy weight loss, and you've got a strategy that may lead to lost pounds.

Milk's Weight Loss Power

Multiple studies have shown that women who drink milk and get adequate amounts of calcium in their diets tend to weigh less than their peers who don't drink milk. A diet deficient in calcium has been identified as a "risk factor" for being overweight.

Beyond these observational studies, three recent clinical trials have demonstrated the weight loss power of milk(3-5). Researchers have found that when overweight adults who typically don't drink milk begin to include 24 ounces of milk or milk products in their reduced-calorie diet, they're able to lose more weight and more body fat than people who simply cut calories and drink little or no milk (8 ounces or less).

Diet Mistakes Women Make

Despite the growing evidence heralding the benefits of breakfast and milk, women don't seem to be adopting the habit.

Studies show that increasing numbers of women either skip breakfast or opt for one that's grabbed on the go, eaten in transit, or at their desk (dubbed "deskfast"!) These away-from-home breakfasts rarely include cereal, and milk drops off the list of beverages most likely consumed outside the home. Instead, carbonated soft drinks become the beverage of choice -- seizing the No. 3 spot behind coffee and juice.