I don’t know about you, but I rarely have the capacity to eat that much in the morning!
We have long been encouraged to fuel up at the start of the day. Yet, research sits on both sides of the fence as to whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or whether we ‘need’ to eat anything at all.
Have you ever considered how you feel when you skip on the morning feed?
Do you feel more energised? Do you reach for coffee, chocolate, and cake by midday? Or does it vary and sometimes you skip breakfast and feel clear headed, when other times you suddenly realise you cannot focus and the local 7-Eleven beckons?
The need for breakfast can vary day-to-day, person-to-person. However, whether you eat or not, and the quality of what you eat, can dramatically impact the rest of your day, your sleep that night, and the days to follow.
If I were not hungry, why would I eat?
There are some of us who just don’t wake up hungry. Even to consider eating is a trial, and in some ways can go against instinct!
Why is this? There could be many answers to that, but here are a couple things to consider as to why you mightn’t desire eating breakfast:
- How late did you eat the night before?
We want to allow at least 12-16 hours between yesterday’s supper and today’s breaking of the fast. Eating late can disrupt sleep, and leave you completely un-hungry come morning.
- How much did you eat the day and night before?
So, dinner was a big one! Ideally we should be eating any meal until 80% full. Aim for this and offer the digestive tract time and space to process your chow.
- Do you think skipping breakfast means skipping kj, therefore weight loss?
Less kilojoules are being consumed when skipping breakfast. According to research, it is apparently quite hard to make up the kilojoules over the rest of the day, despite what is eaten.4 But other research claims that eating breakfast regularly is helpful in maintaining healthy weight (more on this below).
In general for many people skipping breakfast can contribute to a slump in energy. In this state, poor food choices can be made like reaching for cake and a second coffee at morning tea for a quick energy hit; or eating way more at lunch than you need because you are ‘starving’ (which is often followed by a strong desire to nap).
So, in theory, if we can increase our desire to eat breakfast, we are more likely to fill our fuel tank with good quality food choices, and not overeat later in the day. Here is why you may wish to consider breaking the fast an important task.
Stabilising blood sugar levels is important – short and long term. Fluctuations lead to carbohydrate and simple sugar cravings, mood swings, lack of clarity, focus and patience, weight gain and inflammation. Ongoing the damage internally is rife, contributing to issues with the liver, heart and brain.
There are three things to consider here:
One – not eating for an extended period can result in low levels of glucose available for brain and body cells. Cravings for an instant energy hit may prevail. Research has shown that afternoon and evening blood glucose is more stable with breakfast than without.3
However, not eating when you are not hungry is okay – just not to the point where you feel faint!
Two – eating foods like toast and jam, cornflakes and honey, or a blueberry Maccas muffin will cause blood glucose to rapidly rise, and subsequently dramatically drop. This can totally negate the point of why breakfast is considered by many the most important meal of the day!
Therefore, when eating breakfast make sure it is good quality, including fibre, protein and healthy fats to minimise the fluctuations of blood glucose.
Three – mood, decision making and cognition can be impacted by missing meals (which can be related to the blood glucose, though this depends on on who you are, your energy expenditure and what you have eaten previously).
Learning and school performance improves in children who are on the breakfast eating trend. But the quality of the breakfast matters.1;6
Some recent studies have shown that skipping or eating breakfast mightn’t make a difference to weight gain or loss.4
There are also plenty of observational studies that have drawn the skip breakfast and weight gain correlation (though correlation needn’t mean causation!), and intervention trials have shown negative alterations to hormones and appetite without the morning meal.2;7
Any weight gain seen in breakfast skippers may be because those who have breakfast are more likely to eat better overall.5;6 Though interestingly, it has been seen that individuals who regularly ate breakfast had lower levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.7
In saying this, you don’t want to force food down at 7am if it makes you feel ill! Instead, prepare a small meal to have on hand that is full of fibre, protein and healthy fats, ready for you to tuck into a few hours after you have graced the day.
What you eat matters
When eating breakfast, choose foods that will release energy slowly, like whole grains, protein and healthy fats. And if you aren’t an early morning muncher, it needn’t be a massive meal! Just prepare yourself with good options for when you are ready to eat.
But if you have issues with energy, focus, weight, and cravings for all things sweet and caffeinated, you may need to consider how to adjust what you do in order to encourage the morning hungry.
Breakfast ideas for you!
When eating breakfast, try swapping out conventional breakfast options for those that will better nourish and support your throughout your day!
- Margarine for avocado
- Juice for smoothie with a banana, veg, seeds & nuts
- Cereal for whole oats, buckwheat or quinoa
- Pain au chocolat for sourdough & nut butter
- Flavoured yoghurt for Greek yoghurt & fresh fruit
- Jam for smashed berries, cinnamon, chia & vanilla
- Store bought museli bar for homemade banana, oat & nut butter bar
- Fried eggs & sausage for poached eggs, avo, greens & salmon
Think good quality whole foods, including fibre, protein and healthy fats, and get creative!
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)
- Adolphus, K, Lawton, CL, Champ, CL, & Dye, L 2016, ‘The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review’, Advances In Nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 590S-612S.
- Astbury, NM, Taylor, MA, & Macdonald, IA 2011, ‘Breakfast consumption affects appetite, energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters’, The Journal of Nutrition, no. 7, p. 1381.
- Chowdhury, EA, Richardson, JD, Holman, GD, Tsintzas, K, Thompson, D, & Betts, JA 2016, ‘The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in obese adults’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 103, no. 3, pp. 747-756.
- Dhurandhar, EJ, Dawson, J, Alcorn, A, Larsen, LH, Thomas, EA, Cardel, M, Bourland, AC, Astrup, A, St-Onge, M, Hill, JO, Apovian, CM, Shikany, JM, & Allison, DB 2014, ‘The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 100, no. 2, pp. 507-513.
- Geliebter, A, Astbury, NM, Aviram-Friedman, R, Yahav, E, & Hashim, S 2014, ‘Skipping breakfast leads to weight loss but also elevated cholesterol compared with consuming daily breakfasts of oat porridge or frosted cornflakes in overweight individuals: a randomised controlled trial’, Journal Of Nutritional Science, vol. 3, p. e56.
- Giovannini, M, Agostoni, C, & Shamir, R 2010, ‘Symposium overview: Do we all eat breakfast and is it important?’, Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 97-99 3p.
- Jakubowicz, D, Barnea, M, Wainstein, J, & Froy, O 2013, ‘High caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women’, Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), vol. 21, no. 12, pp. 2504-2512