Is Breakfast Really The Most Important Meal Of The Day?

For years we’ve been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that it kick starts your metabolism, fuels you for the day ahead and that you shouldn’t leave the house without it.

Firstly, as I always reiterate there is no one size fits all and so I wanted to take you through both sides of the argument.

Initially I’m focussing on the role of breakfast for adults although scroll a little further down and I’ll also explain how breakfast should be approached with regards to children.

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What are the pros for eating breakfast?

1.       Energy and brain function

Firstly, it’s said that eating breakfast helps improve energy levels and brain function across the morning.

2.       Body weight

Some research suggests that eating breakfast is associated with a lower body fat percentage. One study on 270 adults suggested that skipping breakfast was associated with a reduction of fat-free mass (aka muscle mass).

3.       Replace losses

Additional arguments for eating breakfast suggest that eating breakfast helps to replace stores of protein and calcium which are lost during the night as a result of repair.

4.       Improved blood sugar control

Some studies suggest that eating breakfast can help to support balanced blood sugar levels throughout the rest of the day. Those who ate made breakfast the largest meal of the day were also said to have a lower body weight than those who didn’t.

Although like with anything there are two sides to the story and the research is still unclear as to whether breakfast skippers are more likely to be overweight in general.

The reason for the individual skipping breakfast could be a greater predictor of bodyweight rather than if they eat breakfast or not.  

For example, an individual who skips breakfast in an attempt to lose weight may have history of chronic dieting and a poor relationship with food which as a result may lead them to eating later on in the day. In this case the individual is more likely to be overweight despite having breakfast or not.

Furthermore, the new clan of intermittent fasting advocates argue that skipping breakfast is better for weight management, insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.

The strongest argument still stands that you should listen to your body. If you’re someone who wakes up hungry then eat a good quality breakfast. Equally if you’re someone who struggles with the sight of food in the morning then honour your body and wait until later.

Finally, on this point, I wish to reiterate that focussing on what you’re eating for breakfast is of equal importance as to whether you eat it or not. Opt for breakfasts high in protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates to see you through the morning. Foods such as eggs, scrambled tofu, smashed avocado on rye toast, smoked salmon or peanut butter on rye toast or a hearty bowl of porridge are all great options.

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But what about children?

Children are growing bodies with high physical and psychological demands.  As a result I would suggest that children always have breakfast to ensure they’re getting enough micronutrients and to aid energy, concentration and performance throughout the day.

Much like adults a bowl of high sugar cereal won’t cut it. It will play havoc with their blood sugar levels and may impair cognition, mood and behaviour throughout the morning. Opt for porridge with banana and peanut butter, eggs on wholegrain toast, peanut butter on wholegrain toast or natural yoghurt with frozen berries are much better options.

Yasuda, J., Asako, M., Arimitsu, T., & Fujita, S. (2018). Skipping breakfast is associated with lower fat-free mass in healthy young subjects: a cross-sectional study. Nutrition research60, 26-32.

Cooper, S. B., Bandelow, S., Nute, M. L., Morris, J. G., & Nevill, M. E. (2012). Breakfast glycaemic index and cognitive function in adolescent school children. British Journal of Nutrition107(12), 1823-1832.

Sievert, K., Hussain, S. M., Page, M. J., Wang, Y., Hughes, H. J., Malek, M., & Cicuttini, F. M. (2019). Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Bmj364, l42.