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5 Myths About Breakfast

Breakfast—yay or nay—is a pretty hot debate. There’s tons of research on breakfast—which breakfast foods are better than others, when is the best time to eat breakfast and whether we should eat breakfast at all. Despite the amount of evidence supporting healthy daily eating habits, there’s still a lot of confusion on the topic.

Whether you’re a morning person or not, you might be someone who tends to skip breakfast or eat it sporadically. If you’re wondering whether or not it’s important to eat breakfast or what you should be eating, we’ll try to clear it up for you. We’ve compiled a list of some of the common misconceptions about breakfast—myths that might be preventing you from getting the most out of your morning meals.

Myth #1: Eating or Skipping Breakfast Will Help You Lose Weight

While several large observational studies link eating breakfast to weight loss and maintenance, researchers note that there’s no evidence that breakfast habits directly cause weight loss or maintenance. It seems that people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, but it’s not necessarily because of eating breakfast.

One research team found that people who ate breakfast were more likely to engage in regular physical activity. They suggest that people who eat breakfast are, in general, more health-conscious to begin with, but there may be other factors, too.

On the other side of the debate, some researchers found that skipping breakfast—a form of intermittent fasting—can lead to weight loss results, though the results were slight. For some people, skipping breakfast reduces caloric intake, but for others, it increases it. Additionally, dieticians warn that skipping breakfast may lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Is breakfast important for weight loss? The bottom line is that if you want to lose weight, neither eating nor skipping breakfast is going to propel you toward your goals. Fat loss is a result of burning more calories than you eat, and it doesn’t matter if those calories come from breakfast, lunch or a midnight snack.

Losing weight in a healthy way is about way more than counting calories, though—there are tons of things to consider, like vitamins and minerals, sugar intake and food intolerances. If you’re serious about achieving a weight goal, do it the right way. Speak with a registered dietician or a healthcare provider who can help you lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way.

Myth #2: You Should Eat “Breakfast Foods” for Breakfast

The history of breakfast foods is weird and interesting. Ancient Egyptians ate bread with onions and sipped on beer in the morning, neither of which we endorse. Ancient Romans indulged in a full-fledged charcuterie board upon waking. Europeans in the middle-ages weren’t into breakfast at all.

So, where did the idea of “breakfast foods” come from? It depends on where you live. Waffles, for example, were first introduced to North America by pilgrims from the Netherlands in the 1620s. The typical full breakfast (eggs, toast and meat) stems from the United Kingdom. Many traditional breakfast foods, like cereals, muffins and pastries, are disguised as healthy breakfast staples, but a lot of them are loaded with refined sugar and hydrogenated oils.

In reality, what you eat for breakfast doesn’t matter, as long as your nutritional needs are met. Aim for nutrient-dense foods with properly balanced macronutrients. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, balanced nutrition looks like:

  • 45-65% calories from carbs
  • 20-35% calories from fats
  • 10-35% calories from proteins

Balancing breakfast macros is especially important, because you’ll need all three to kick-start your day, and a bagel with cream cheese won’t cut it.

Get our list of the top 10 healthiest breakfast foods.

Myth #3: I’m Just Not Hungry in the Mornings

Are you sure? If your last meal was last night’s dinner, your body probably wants food. If you don’t feel hungry when you wake, you may not be particularly sensitive to your body’s signals. A lack of hunger in the morning is often a result of being too busy and distracted to notice the subtle signals your body is sending—it’s not all about belly grumbles.

Less obvious signs of hunger include fatigue, headaches, irritability (have you heard the term hangry?) and weakness. You may not notice the signs of hunger as soon as you wake, but they’ll likely catch up to you before lunch. Diet researchers have also found that consistently suppressing hunger cues may cause you to overeat later in the day.

Instead of identifying as not a breakfast person, take a couple of weeks and listen a little more carefully to your body. Stick to your usual, no-breakfast routine for the first week, but keep a log of how you feel throughout the day—energy levels, mood and unusual things worth noting, like headaches. For the second week, eat breakfast every morning. You don’t have to commit to waking up an hour early to prepare a full breakfast. There are plenty of grab-and-go options that’ll meet your nutritional needs.

Here’s what to know about skipping breakfast.

Myth #4: I Need to Eat a Big Breakfast

A big meal won’t necessarily meet your needs better than a small meal. There’s a widespread belief that breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day, but there’s no concrete evidence to support that. On the flip side, a big breakfast isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Listen to your body and figure out what works for you.

If you have a physically demanding job or you tend to move around a lot, a big breakfast might be what you need to keep you fueled through the day. On the other hand, if you work at a desk all day, you might prefer eating a couple of lighter morning snacks spaced a few hours apart.

Consider options like breakfast burritos and omelets (maybe a tofu scramble, if you’re plant-based). If a big breakfast leaves you feeling sluggish, opt for lighter options that still meet your needs, like a combination of nuts, yogurt, oats and fruit.

Myth #5: There’s No Time for Breakfast

If you have time to brush your teeth (we hope you do!), then you have time from breakfast. If you feel like your mornings are rushed, then planning ahead is key. Scrambling to get out the door is not an ideal way to start your morning. Your morning is the foundation of your day, and you owe it to yourself to make your mornings better.

Meal prep is trendy right now, and for good reasons. Planning your meals is linked to improved food variety and higher diet quality. If you’re worried about sacrificing freshness for convenience, keep in mind that plenty of foods are still great cold or reheated.

Prepare your breakfast in the evening, store it appropriately (usually in the refrigerator) and enjoy it in the morning. If you plan for breakfast and you make nutrition a priority, then you’ll always have time for breakfast.

Try our best tips on making time for breakfast.

Choose What Works for You

There’s no breakfast habit that suits everyone’s needs. Your breakfast should meet your personal needs, in terms of both nutrition and lifestyle. There’s room for flexibility, too. If you want to eat a light breakfast on workdays and indulge in a bigger breakfast on the weekends, go for it. If that leftover Mexican food is calling your name on Saturday morning, it’s okay to stray from your healthy breakfast habit, as long as you return to it.

Eating a healthy breakfast shouldn’t seem like a chore. Be flexible, and when you find a breakfast habit that works for you, it’ll become a natural part of your routine.

Sources:

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2002.13 
  2. https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l42
  3. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/breakfast-consumption-is-positively-associated-with-nutrient-adequacy-in-canadian-children-and-adolescents/4059D06FBB022B32142B153244ECD44A
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-breakfast-wont-help-you-lose-weight-but-skipping-might-not-either-2019041916457 
  5. Alcock, J. P. (2006). Food in the ancient world. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  6. https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/dietary-reference-intakes-for-macronutrients 
  7. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/reconnect_with_your_hunger_cues 
  8. https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7 
  9. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-breakfast-wont-help-you-lose-weight-but-skipping-might-not-either-2019041916457 
  10. https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2013/10/breakfast-myths-vs-facts 

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