Do You Have to Eat a Big Breakfast to Be Healthy?
You’ve probably heard the saying that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Many weight loss diets will tout the same philosophy, claiming those who eat more at the start of the day are less likely to overeat or reach for the sweets later on.
But is this advice really true? Is eating a big breakfast necessary to be at a healthy weight or live a healthy life? Let’s look at the facts:
Breakfast vs No Breakfast: It Depends
It seems that when it comes to breakfast, it’s best to listen to your body! What’s most important is the quality of foods we eat throughout the day, not necessarily how early we eat them.
Here’s some recent research that supports this:
- A 4-month study following 300 people and published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that there was no difference in weight change between a group of dieters eating breakfast and those not eating breakfast.
- Similar results were found in another United Kingdom-based study published in the same journal.
- In another study in Canada, researchers studied the eating habits of 12,000 adults and found no consistent connection between BMI or being overweight and eating breakfast.
While timing for breakfast isn’t as crucial as we once thought, that doesn’t mean we have a free pass to ignore our bodies’ needs. There are still some basic guidelines, like those below, to help us make good choices.
Healthy Breakfast Tips
Here are some tips for listening to your body and being healthy when it comes to breakfast:
#1 If you wake up hungry, eat! And give yourself something wholesome. It doesn’t have to be a huge breakfast if you aren’t hungry for that, but make sure it contains whole foods and a nice balance of healthy carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This will fuel you with a steady dose of clean energy throughout the day.
#2 If you wake up and aren’t hungry, don’t be afraid to wait until you’re ready for food. If you have to go to work, practice prepping something healthy the night before to grab ‘n go. That way you don’t end up empty-handed when hunger strikes.
#3 If it’s not possible to eat later in the morning, consider having a very small morning meal to stave off hunger later, especially if you know you’ll need something before lunchtime.
#4 Don’t starve yourself! While it’s good to listen to your true hunger, skipping breakfast on purpose to lose weight is not a viable solution. You’ll just end up extremely hungry later in the day and more prone to binge or overeat. Our bodies are in a fasting state while we sleep, so listen to your body’s hunger signals—and answer them.
#5 No matter when or how much we eat at our first meal, we must focus on real foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes or high-quality animal proteins, nuts and seeds, etc. Skip the processed carbohydrates and sugar-laden options. Feeding our bodies the good stuff will help them naturally regulate when they’re ready for food.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, when it comes to breakfast, timing and size isn’t as important as listening to when our bodies are truly hungry and making wholesome food choices that nourish us. The body has a lot more knowledge than we give it credit for.