Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Find out the potential benefits of eating breakfast from a registered dietitian.
Growing up, you were probably told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But is it actually?
As both a foodie and a dietitian who’s worked in weight loss counseling and research, I can tell you that your mom was 100% right: breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Let me show you why!
When it comes to nutrition and the media, messages surrounding a healthy diet can be beyond confusing. And that includes whether or not breakfast is important.
Now, part of the confusion is we all tend to have different definitions of “healthy.” And when it comes to whether or not to eat in the morning, most headlines equate healthy with weight loss — which isn’t true for all of us.
As a dietitian, I define something as being “healthy” if it provides the nutrition and fuel that you need to support your physical and mental well being.
And when it comes to helping others live healthier lives, eating breakfast is one of my top recommendations.
Your body has a natural circadian rhythm. And this rhythm affects nearly every aspect of your health, including your sleep/wake cycle, hormone levels, hunger cues, and digestion.
And keeping this rhythm going has been shown to be essential for health.
In fact, disrupting your circadian rhythm can lead to weight gain, depression, diabetes, and sleep disorders. Not things that you want to have happen.
So how does breakfast fit into all this?
When you eat breakfast, specifically something with some carbs like fruit or oatmeal, it causes a cascade of events in your body that keeps your circadian rhythm running on time.
And when you skip breakfast? Research shows that there’s a disruption in this rhythm – which we don’t want.
Besides being delicious, food provides the essential nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. And I’m not talking just about calories or carbs.
Our bodies also need a certain amount of fiber, protein, fat, and specific vitamins and minerals.
By not eating breakfast, you’re skipping out on an important opportunity to get a good amount of these nutrients in for the day.
In fact, studies have found that those who skip breakfast are significantly less likely to meet their daily nutrient needs compared to those who have a morning meal.
Of course, that also means it’s important that your breakfast is full of nutrient-rich ingredients — but we’ll get to that later.
When you wake up, your body is low on energy. And that includes your muscles and brain.
Having something to eat in the morning is key for giving both your brain and muscles the energy that they need to support your day.
Whether you’re going for a run or headed off to work, think of your morning meal as fueling the activities that you plan on doing that day.
This is especially important for kids. Find out why!
Let’s say that you rush out the door in the morning and spend the next several hours stuck in meetings. By the time you get to lunch, chances are you’ll be so hungry that you won’t be able to think about making a healthy choice.
Or maybe you skip breakfast, but your coworker brings a box of donuts to one of your meetings. Trust me, it’s going to be much harder to resist the temptation if you’re running on empty.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply want to eat healthier, eating a filling breakfast is so important for keeping away cravings during the day. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy mid-morning snack too.
Find out how to make your own healthy protein bars.
Want to improve blood sugar control and maintain a healthy weight? Then you may want to think about eating most of your calories earlier in the day and eating less at night.
People tend to split into two camps: those who eat most of their calories earlier in the day and those who eat mostly at night.
You may be surprised to learn that research shows even when calorie intake is the same, individuals who eat more of their calories earlier in the day are more likely to have a healthy weight and have better blood sugar control.
While research is ongoing, one of the main thoughts about why this happens goes back to my first reason why breakfast is so important: our circadian rhythm.
It’s thought that due to this rhythm, our bodies may be more efficient at burning calories and regulating blood sugar levels earlier in the day.
As I’ve mentioned a few times now, it’s not just important that you eat breakfast. What really matters is eating a breakfast that fuels your lifestyle and nutrition needs.
And it doesn’t matter what type of diet you follow. Keto, plant-based, high-protein, or Mediterranean, diet quality in the morning is key.
Find out what a good, healthy breakfast looks like here!
To keep your circadian rhythm on beat and get your metabolism revved up, it’s best to eat within 2 hours of waking up.
Now, if you’re planning on an intense workout or have diabetes, you’ll likely want to get that morning meal in earlier.
While there are benefits of eating the majority of your calories earlier in the day, it may not be realistic or preferable for everyone.
Curious what those benefits are? Check out my post on breakfast and weight loss.
Plus, if you’re headed to the gym or on a run, a big breakfast will leave you feeling sluggish and even sick.
If a big breakfast isn’t your cup of tea, not to worry. Just make sure to eat something with some nutritional substance in the morning.
Not sure what to eat? Overnight oats can pack a lot of nutrition in a convenient package. Find your perfect jar of healthy overnight oats here.
I get it. Not everyone can jump out of bed and wolf down a piping hot bowl of oats or a veggie-packed breakfast casserole.
If you can’t stomach a full meal in the morning, you can break your breakfast into two smaller snacks to eat throughout the morning.
Some healthy options include:
Get even more breakfast snack recipes here.
Occasionally skipping breakfast isn’t a big deal.
However, getting in the habit of skipping breakfast can disrupt your body’s natural rhythms. And as a result, your eating and sleep patterns can also get off track.
Other consequences of skipping the morning meal include:
And if you have diabetes, not eating breakfast could cause your blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low.
Another great part about eating breakfast? There are so many options!
From oats and pancakes to eggs and avocado, I’ve got plenty of recipes to help fuel your day. Check them out now!
Disclaimer: This information is meant simply for educational purposes and should not be mistaken for personalized nutrition advice. It’s always important to talk with your doctor or dietitian before making any changes to your diet.
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