Eating breakfast can prevent overeating at night, help to manage your weight, improve energy, and increase attention.
I'm sure you have heard the age old saying "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" but, is that really the truth? What if you're somebody who isn't hungry in the morning? Or your mornings are too hectic to get in the kitchen and cook a full meal?
If chaotic mornings mean that breakfast gets put to the bottom of the priority list, you are not alone. Studies have shown that 60% of Americans skip breakfast (1).
Some people are truly not hungry in the mornings while others are just too stressed or busy to feel their hunger. Stress can prevent you from noticing hunger cues or even suppress your appetite in general. If you’re somebody who skips breakfast but is starving come lunch time, this could be a sign that you may benefit from eating breakfast.
So, are you really doing yourself harm if you skip breakfast? Not necessarily! The answer is a little complicated. We'll start by looking at some of the benefits of eating breakfast.
Benefits of Eating Breakfast
Can Prevent Overeating
When you skip breakfast, you set yourself up for getting too hungry later in the day. I think we've all been there where we are so hungry it doesn't matter what it is or how much, we just need to EAT. When this happens we typically eat fast and choose foods that give us the quickest energy which tends to be less healthy foods. By taking the time to eat a protein rich breakfast, you can feel more in control of your appetite throughout the day (1).
Similarly to what is mentioned above, eating a protein rich breakfast can help you by feel more in control of your appetite. This makes it easier to choose healthier foods and prevent the "hangry" feeling that leads to overeating (1). All of this helps your you to reach and maintain the weight that is right for you .
You may have heard this before but skipping breakfast can be compared to driving a car on fumes. When we wake up in the morning, it's been 8-12 hours since we last ate (that's a long time!). Without fueling yourself before you start your busy day, you are likely to crash later in the afternoon and feel more sluggish throughout the day.
According to a review published in Advances in Nutrition, eating breakfast was shown to have a positive effect on memory and attention (2,3). By eating breakfast, specifically one high in protein, you are more likely to have steady blood sugar levels throughout the day. This, in turn, improves cognitive function.
To keep your blood sugar steady, focus on whole grains (oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole grain bread, etc.) instead of refined grains (white bread, white rice, donuts, cakes, etc.) and be sure to combine those with a protein source.
So, Do I Need to Eat Breakfast?
Even though there are definitely benefits of eating breakfast, the most important thing is that you are responding to your hunger cues. This means trying to allow yourself to have as least stressful of a morning as possible, giving your body a chance to feel is you are truly hungry. You may notice that you aren't hungry first thing in the morning but you get hungry later in the morning. In that case, I recommend having a breakfast when you do get hungry instead of waiting out for lunch.
So, the take away here is that NO you do not need to force yourself to eat breakfast if you are truly not hungry. BUT if you feel that your mornings are a whirl wind and come lunch time you are ravenous, you may want to try to slow down and give yourself a chance to feel your hunger.
How to Include Breakfast in Your Daily Routine
So by now you have hopefully bought in to the fact that by eating breakfast you can reap some serious health benefits. HOWEVER, mornings can be hectic and stressful and most people don't want to spend an hour in the kitchen. For less stressful mornings, try the following:
- Wake up 10 to 20 minutes earlier (promise it's not that bad!)
- Allow yourself some downtime each morning to feel if you are hungry. If you still don't feel hungry, check in with yourself again in 1-2 hours later.
- Have a stocked kitchen with things to make a quick and easy breakfast (see below).
- If there's no time for an actual meal, try and have a protein rich snack.
6 Quick & Healthy Breakfast Ideas
Ready in 5 minutes or less
- Peanut butter waffle: whole grain toaster waffle with peanut butter, bananas, and chia seeds sprinkled on top
- Avocado & Egg Toast: 2 hard boiled eggs with avocado on whole grain toast. Try boiling eggs at the beginning of the week and keeping in the refrigerator for quick breakfasts and snacks throughout the week
- High protein overnight Oats: make using Greek yogurt, milk, chia seeds, and whatever flavorings you would like to add (cinnamon, fruit, nuts, etc.). Make the night before and you'll have a grab and go breakfast ready in the morning
- Microwave oatmeal: skip the instant oats and microwave old fashioned oats (higher in protein and fiber) with milk of choice for 1-2 minutes. Top with nut butter and berries
- Peanut Butter & Banana: 1 banana sliced longwise with 2 tablespoons peanut butter. Top with cinnamon and a sprinkle of chia seeds and granola for some added crunch
- Make ahead breakfast tacos: you can find the recipe here. These tacos will take a little bit of time beforehand to prepare before but I promise it will be well worth it. Make several tacos beforehand, wrap in tin foil and store in the refrigerator. At breakfast time, take out of the in foil and heat in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds (cook time will vary based on your microwave). Top with fresh avocado and salsa and enjoy! You could even store these in the freezer, pull them out the night before to defrost in the refrigerator overnight, and microwave when you are ready to eat. Have a little bit more time? You can also heat up in the oven.
- Gwin, Jess A, and Heather J Leidy. “Breakfast Consumption Augments Appetite, Eating Behavior, and Exploratory Markers of Sleep Quality Compared with Skipping Breakfast in Healthy Young Adults.” Current developments in nutrition vol. 2,11 nzy074. 28 Aug. 2018, https://doi:10.1093/cdn/nzy074
- Katie Adolphus, Clare L Lawton, Claire L Champ, Louise Dye, The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 7, Issue 3, May 2016, Pages 590S–612S, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.010256
- Gajre NS, Fernandez S, Balakrishna N, Vazir S. Breakfast eating habit and its influence on attention-concentration, immediate memory and school achievement. Indian Pediatr. 2008 Oct;45(10):824-8. PMID: 18948652. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18948652