It is not a rare for overly-concerned friends to chide us when we skip breakfast: “Why are you skipping breakfast? That’s so unhealthy!” or “Don’t you know that you need to get your metabolism kick-started?” At the same time, we see a wide variety of opinions on this seemingly irresolvable question – to eat or NOT to eat breakfast – plastered all over the net.
Individuals like you and I are often left confused because of conflicting media reports. We’ve all heard the old adage to “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” A quick search on Google shows us that eating breakfast results in a 27% relative reduction in risk of coronary heart disease (The Guardian), or that regularly eating breakfast allows successful weight loss maintenance (Obesity Research Vol 10). For any number of such articles, there are equally many articles telling us that these conclusions are false. For instance, this New York Times article suggests that eating breakfast has no effect on weight maintenance/loss.
Truth is, there is no absolute benefit or harm from eating breakfast. Various combinations of breakfast/non-breakfast eating habits can be healthy for each individual as it would depend on his/her health aims, diet, and schedule.
The biggest myth is that breakfast helps prevent weight gain and supports weight loss. Put simply, weight gain occurs when calorie input exceeds your total daily energy expenditure over a period of time. While eating breakfast has associated with lower body weight and a smaller appetite for the day, the contents of your breakfast really make the difference. A high protein, high-fiber breakfast tends to be more effective in weight maintenance. (View 1 2 3 4) It is unlikely that starting off the day with donuts or a cake will satisfy you for long, nor will it give your body much nourishment. Thus, if you wish to maintain your weight and health, you should try to choose nutrition-dense foods over empty-calories.
Rather than worrying about eating or skipping breakfast, or how many meals to eat a day, you can focus on finding a suitable balance of meals throughout the day that suits your needs. Skipping breakfast because you were rushing for class may cause you to overcompensate for lunch — this is fine in the overall scheme of things as long as you are satisfied and get the right balance of nutrients you need. If you are used to the habit of breakfast eating everyday, there is no need to tweak it, provided you are getting enough carbohydrates (especially fiber), proteins, fats, and vitamins for the day.
Breakfast can be a perfect pick-me-up to begin the day for all you foodies, or it could be too much of a hassle when you have been up all night working. Ultimately, balanced eating simply means listening to your body’s signals of hunger or fullness, and treating it well with good, wholesome foods.