I get asked this question so frequently! Nutrition headlines of oscillated over the years, once stating that breakfast is a MUST in order to be “healthy”, and now changing with the tides of the Intermittent Fasting trend, saying well, maybe we don’t need breakfast every day!
The problem with these headlines, or even general tips from wellness and nutrition influences, is the “one approach fits all” message. In my practice as a dietitian, I’ve never found that to be true for my clients!
A: It depends!
I do recommend that most of my clients make a habit of eating something in the morning, and each person’s version of “breakfast” will be different. It may be more of a snack, or it may be a meal. We try to get curious about what will work best for their lifestyle, habits, and appetite.
I often recommend a morning meal or snack (or both!) because for most people, it helps them eat enough throughout the day. Skipping a whole meal in the morning means you have a lot of calories and nutrients to try and get in by the end of the day, with just two meals (lunch and dinner) and maybe a snack or two (or three).
And even though some people don’t feel physically hungry in the morning, they do show other signs of hunger by mid-morning, such as difficulty concentrating, irritability, food thoughts, and/or low energy.
If I client is asking me whether or not they “should” be eating breakfast, I would ask them some questions, first.
We explore their hunger and appetite in the mornings, being mindful of factors that will affect those things on a day to day basis (e.g. sleep quality, exercise, stress, travel, etc.) We also explore their personal history with eating patterns—have they always been a breakfast eater? Or is this a new thing they’re trying? We get curious about why they don’t eat breakfast, if it’s not currently part of their daily eating habits. Oftentimes, a habit of “skipping breakfast” is related to dieting and trying to restrict food intake. And when that’s the case, we often find out that this person is feeling really hungry later in the day, and may even feel out of control around snacks or desserts. Other times, I’ve heard clients express that they don’t eat breakfast because of a lack of appetite in the morning. There are a lot of things that may come up here!
So, should you eat breakfast every day? Well, that depends on why you might skip it, and/or how you’re feeling the rest of the day.
Here are examples of how people incorporate “breakfast” in a way that works for them:
If you wake up feeling ravenous, you may feel best with a substantial meal first thing in the morning (usually within at least 30 minutes of waking up).
If you prefer to exercise in the morning, start with a pre-workout snack and then have a breakfast meal 30-45 minutes after completing your workout.
If you are having trouble concentrating in the morning, and/or have constant food thoughts before lunch, that’s often an indication of hunger and would be helped by eating earlier in the day.
If you typically skip breakfast and don’t feel hungry until lunch, but then feel ravenous by dinner time, it may be a sign that you’re not getting in enough food throughout the day, so adding a morning meal or snack could help.
If you don’t have an appetite for food in the morning, a smoothie or juice could be helpful to start with, and then try having a solid meal or snack within an hour.
I’m curious, of course, what works for you, and what you love to eat in the morning!
Leave a comment below sharing why you eat a meal or snack in the morning, and what your favorite morning foods are right now!
I’m definitely a breakfast lover! If I go too long (even 30-45 minutes) without eating in the morning, I get cranky and fatigued. I love all kinds of breakfast foods—cereal, oatmeal, bagels, toast, yogurt bowls, scrambled eggs or omelets, breakfast burritos, smoothies, and waffles or pancakes. Really, I’m here for all of it!