Close your eyes and picture this: the lustrous crackling of bacon in a cast iron pan, the sizzle of pancakes on a hot buttered grill, the alluring aroma of freshly brewed coffee… ahhh.
There is something about a full, balanced breakfast that just starts the day off on the right foot – but is breakfast really necessary? Some of us opt out of an early morning meal in exchange for a heavier lunch or dinner; however, this could have negative effects on the body.
Studies have shown that eating breakfast can help promote1:
- Good health
- Better memory and concentration
- Lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol
- Lower chances of getting diabetes, heart disease, and being overweight
With so many health benefits, making sure to eat breakfast seems like a no-brainer, right? Yet, many of us are in a rush with the morning hustle and bustle to make the time to properly fuel our bodies. Skipping your morning munchies could leave your body feeling sluggish and lacking the energy it needs to keep you feeling focused throughout the day. Not only that, but skipping the first meal of the day may cause you to overeat later and that’s where the extra calories start sneaking up on you!
Here’s the catch though… having too big of a breakfast can actually do more harm than good. A study referenced on WebMD suggested that “people who had large breakfasts ate more during the day.”2 This may leave you thinking to yourself, should I eat breakfast then or skip it? Well, think of it this way. Food is fuel for our bodies. Think of the stomach as a tank for providing the ‘fuel’ our bodies need to properly function. The type of fuel you put into your tank is going to drastically affect the power you get out of it.
!! Tip: Stick with complex carbs, protein, fruit and/or vegetables, ideally paired with a calcium source.
Grabbing a donut on the way into work or opting for a quick packaged pastry with your morning coffee, may taste good in the moment. However, those empty calories are going to burn off quickly and leave your body dragging. Our registered dietitian, Debbie J., offers some healthy, well-balanced breakfast suggestions to swap in as a replacement for that morning treat.
- Vegetarian: whole grain toast topped with 1/4 avocado, fried egg and roma tomato slices
- Vegan: steel cut oatmeal with nuts, berries, cinnamon, dairy-free milk
- Omnivore: Canadian bacon, whole wheat waffle and diced peaches or strawberries
- Gluten-free: potatoes O’Brien, black bean & tomato salsa, 1/2 grapefruit
In yet another study published in the journal Obesity, researchers recruited 93 overweight women and put them on a 12-week long prescribed diet.3 All of the women participating in the study consumed a total of 1,400 healthy calories a day. The only difference was that half the group ate their largest meal at breakfast, while the other half ate their largest meal at lunch or dinner.
The results were significantly different! The group who ate their biggest meal at breakfast lost two and a half times the amount of weight as their counter group.4 The same group noticed improvements in belly fat, hunger levels, and fasting blood sugar levels! These noticeable differences seem to trend across multiple studies conducted on the benefits of breakfast.
A Message From the AHA
The American Heart Association even issued a statement noting that “planning and timing meals and snacks, such as not skipping breakfast and allocating more calories earlier in the day, might help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.”5 People who choose to forego breakfast, about 20 to 30% of U.S. adults6, are “more likely to are more likely to be obese, have inadequate nutrition, show evidence of impaired glucose metabolism or be diagnosed with diabetes.”7
So, is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? Yes and no. More important than simply eating breakfast before starting your day is paying attention to what type of calories you’re consuming and focusing on balanced and controlled portioning. If you consume most of your calories during the morning, make sure to have a smaller meal for lunch and dinner. Having a larger meal in the morning may also help burn off more calories due to the fact that you have more time to be active before heading to bed.
Our advice? Go ahead and make time for breakfast, because a body lacking fuel is going to be less productive than a body energized with the nutrients necessary for a healthy day.
This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.