Why is breakfast important?
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Whether it’s a full English, a bowl of cereal or pancakes piled high, how you break your fast sets you up for the day.
But if you’re not a breakfast person, will your weight loss stall if you can’t face a bowl of Kellogg’s finest first thing in the morning?
The most important meal of the day?
Breakfast being the most important meal of the day is something that is widely accepted as fact, though the phrase was coined by none other than James Caleb Jackson and John Harvey Kellogg in the 19th century. Yes, that’s the Kellogg.
You might say that he had a vested interest in making people believe they were missing out on something by not eating breakfast, preferably his own breakfast cereals. Ah, Don Draper would be proud.
Why is breakfast important?
Aside from marketing, does eating breakfast have any nutritional benefits? As a meal, it’s not suddenly virtuous just because you prepare and eat it in the morning. But your habits at breakfast can have an impact on the rest of your day.
Breakfast is a fantastic opportunity to load up on protein and fibre, plus important vitamins and nutrients. It can give you a head start on your 5 a day if you go for tomatoes with your cooked breakfast or fruit on your muesli, and studies have shown that eating breakfast can boost memory and concentration levels thanks to the restoration of glucose levels.
Having a meal in the morning will also stop you from getting ‘hangry’, where your hunger controls your mood and makes you irritable. A steady blood sugar level helps your mood remain stable throughout the day.
It’s thought to be particularly important for children who have a day’s worth of school ahead of them – the brain needs energy to learn! So, you might find that your performance at work is better when you’ve had a good breakfast, purely because you’ve revved up the old grey matter.
Why are people who eat breakfast thought to be healthier?
It’s not so much about the contents of your breakfast bowl, but how it impacts your day. Studies have found that people who eat breakfast tend to have a lower BMI, but this might be because people who eat breakfast tend to have healthier habits overall.
This might be down to getting up earlier, being more active, or generally eating well. The NHS sums it up as ‘rather than regularly eating breakfast making you healthy, healthy people are more likely to eat breakfast’.
It’s also thought that skipping breakfast can throw your body off, and that if you’re missing that early-morning hit of fuel, you’re more likely to try and make up for it later in the day, which can lead to overeating, which will lead to excess weight (as we all know…)
Why is it not important?
It isn’t always the case that you’ll overeat if you skip breakfast. Researchers from Cornell University found that participants who skipped breakfast didn’t overeat at lunch or dinner, instead saving an average of 408 calories a day. Another Australian study found that people who skipped breakfast saved an average of 260 calories a day.
So it’s not necessarily true that you’ll eat everything in sight if you don’t get your bowl of porridge in the AM. Breakfast is not as essential as we once thought it was, and some even think it’s an easy way of cutting calories.
Should I eat breakfast?
If you’re left wondering whether you should eat breakfast, the answer is that it doesn’t really matter if you do or don’t – it’s not going to have an enormous impact on your health, unless you’re diabetic or a student.
It’s all down to personal preference and how it fits in with your lifestyle. If you’re in the habit of getting up early and working out before work, breakfast is a good idea. But if you’re pressed for time or not hungry upon waking, don’t force yourself to eat breakfast.
Play it by ear – if you’re hungry, eat a balanced breakfast that will set you up well for the day. If you’re not hungry, it’s fine to wait until you are, but just make sure you’re not depriving yourself.
If you find that you’re snacking on all sorts of crap, or that your other meals are piled high because you’re so hungry, it might be an idea to start eating breakfast to avoid this.
Healthy breakfast ideas
If you are going to eat breakfast, you need to do better than a sugary cereal bar or chocolate-filled croissant every morning. The ideal is something that is high in protein, containing complex carbs and fibre.
Porridge is a classic as it’s filling, high in fibre and versatile. You can make overnight oats, get started on your 5-a-day by topping with fruit, or even go for something fancy like Snickers porridge(!), or spiced apple pie porridge.
Eggs are high in protein, making them ideal for your first meal of the day.
Or if you’re pressed for time, a couple of hard-boiled eggs is a good, portable one. Here’s how to boil an egg – it’s ok, we won’t judge.
There’s something just so satisfying about a fry-up. But if you’re trying to lose weight, you’d do well to stay away from greasy fried bread and fatty sausages.
That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a cooked breakfast as you lose weight, though. Cut down on the oil used in cooking, grill bacon and cut the fat off, and load up on grilled tomatoes and gently fried mushrooms.
– Sweet potato probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of breakfast, but Nom Nom Paleo’s sweet potato hash is a beaut for weekend breakfasts.
– If you’re short on time in the morning, here’s a list of 31 healthy and fast breakfast recipes for busy mornings.
– If you’re not a fan of breakfast but want to get into the habit, here’s the NHS’ Eat Well guide to healthy breakfasts for people who hate breakfast.