Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal of the Day?

How important is breakfast is your diet?

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We’ve heard – probably from our own parents – that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many of us are preaching that to our own children. But, is it true? And does it matter what you eat?

Wanting to know more about the role that breakfast plays in the diets of both children and adults, we reached out to Toby Amidor, registered dietitian and author of ‘The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals To Cook, Prep, Grab, and Go.”

Bottom line – is breakfast *really* the most important meal?

Amidor: “Moms have always said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I believe this is still true. It is imperative that you start your day fueled properly after going 8 or 10 hours without food. Research has also shown that skipping breakfast can lead to over-consumption of calories later in the day. In addition, breakfast is also an opportunity to take in important foods and nutrients needed to stay healthy.

If quality matters at breakfast, what should we be eating?

Amidor: “You don’t need anything huge for breakfast, it’s quality not quantity that matters most. By quality I mean foods that provide nutrients you need to keep you healthy, especially foods that we tend to under-consume.

“According to the 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans, Americans eat only 10% of the recommended amount of vegetables, 15% of fruit and only 2 of the 3 recommended daily servings of dairy. As with grains, most folks in the U.S. do not make half their grains whole – another recommendation from the dietary guidelines. As such, the amount of calories in breakfast vary based on individual needs, but should range from around 250 to 450 calories and include at least two food groups (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low or nonfat milk or dairy, lean protein).”

Is cereal a healthy choice at breakfast?

Amidor: “It can be. Cereal can be high in added sugar, so it is important to read the nutrition facts panel. In addition, many folks over pour cereal which then provides many more calories than needed. You can pour 2 servings of the serving size listed on the box, but if you are still hungry, opt to top the cereal with fresh fruit or add a hardboiled egg on the side for more protein.”

Amidor shared ideas for breakfast besides cereal.

Other benefits of breakfast:

  • Breakfast eaters tend to have lower rates of heart disease, blood pressure and cholesterol. (American Heart Association)
  • Breakfast influencers a majority of our being during the day, including physical and mental performance. By eating breakfast, you are refueling the body with the nutrients it needs to start, and continue through, the day. (University of New Hampshire)

During a study at University of Hohenheim in Germany, however, a research group tested 17 healthy adults over the course of three days. During the three days, they were instructed to follow different schedules – one day they skipped breakfast, one day they consumed three regular meals and one day they skipped dinner. The research findings showed that people burned more calories over a 24-hour period when they extended their overnight fast compared to a normal three-meals-a-day diet. However, there were reports that glucose levels were higher after eating lunch on days where breakfast was skipped.

This study suggests that skipping breakfast can boost your metabolism. What do you think about that?

Amidor: “The study, conducted with a very small number of subjects (17), found some difference between skipping breakfast versus skipping dinner. My concern would be the nutritional status of these individuals over an extended period to see if eating only two meals provided the nutrients they needed to stay healthy.  In this study, participants were provided with all meals that were well balanced, but can this type of diet really be mimicked outside of the home? Americans do not meet the needs of many foods including recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy foods. So, trying to have folks take in the required nutrients in two meals may be extremely challenging to say the least. In addition, the practicality of skipping dinner regularly when in our culture it is a time to sit with the family and eat may be taking away the social aspect of the family– especially in an electronic filled world where we are seeing less face time between people, including families.”

When it comes down to it, eating breakfast is important to a maintaining a balanced diet. While you’re making decisions about what foods to eat, remember that quality matters. Be sure to diversify your food groups to get a great start to your day.