Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? Is it really necessary to jump-start your fat-burning metabolism by eating something healthy first thing in the morning? Will eating breakfast really help you lose weight—and keep it off?
Despite what we’ve long been told, the answer to all three questions now appears to be “maybe.”
In a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. David B. Allison, director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, casts some doubt on the long-held belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for the dieter.
Dr. Allison and his colleagues released their findings after examining 50 of the most popular studies concerning breakfast and weight loss.
They concluded that there was only one truly reliable study – one that randomly assigned two groups to a test or control and then measured the effect on body weight. In that study, each group followed diets that provided identical calories, but one group ate breakfast while the other did not.
The end result: Both groups ate the same amount of food, but they did so via different meal patterns – and the members of each test groups lost the same amount of weight. That finding appears to validate the belief that calories count more than the time of day they are consumed.
So, what about all the hardcore advocates for breakfast? Didn’t we all grow up learning that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?
For me, the best dieting advice appears to be that you should eat in a manner that’s most comfortable for you.
Practice Mindful Eating
Many people confess to having no appetite first thing in the morning. Food is the last thing on their mind as they rush to get ready for their mad dash to work or school. If you’re not hungry after you rise, don’t stress.
I’ve learned that the so-called naturally thin learn to eat when hungry and stop when full. Don’t be envious. This is a skill that can be developed. The next time you’re not hungry at breakfast time, head out without eating – BUT take along a healthy snack in case hunger pangs do pop up before lunch. A few good choices include a yogurt, a handful of almonds, a cup of high-fiber cereal, half a sandwich, or a few apple slices and a tablespoon of peanut butter.
Be aware that skippingmeals can set you up for failure if you tend to overcompensate later. Don’t tell yourself, “Hey, since I didn’t eat breakfast, I can eat more the rest of the day!” It’s easy to overdo it at lunch or dinner if you bypassed breakfast or brunch.
Also, if you prefer exercising first thing in the morning, you might want to try a quick fuel-up of complex carbs and protein. Almond butter on a slice of whole-grain bread will work just fine. The first fuel your body burns is carbohydrate stores so fuel up with complex carbs, not simple sugars – and avoid the sports drinks.
Here’s why breakfast can be a good eye-opener. For many people, it’s the one meal where they consume some fiber and fruit – something that’s often missing from lunch and dinner.
Studies show that most Americans consume fewer than 13 grams of fiber daily. The recommendation is for at least 25 grams. Just one bowl of a high-fiber cereal with a handful of blueberries boosts fiber intake tremendously. Be sure to look for a high-fiber cereal that is not coated with sugar.
The last word: Feel free to skip breakfast. Just be sure to plan for a healthy mid-morning or late afternoon snack.
Susan Burke March is Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, who as eDiet's Chief Nutritionist promotes the dietary health and well being of consumers worldwide.