The benefits of breakfast

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” We’ve all heard it from both parents and television commercials. But advice seems to be mixed on how true this statement really is.

Keep reading to learn more about the great breakfast debate and how to figure out what works best for you.

Why breakfast?

A 1917 issue of Good Health (edited by none other than the co-inventor of flaked cereal, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg), reads “[I]n many ways, the breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because it is the meal that gets the day started.” A few years later, a public relations consultant convinced Americans it was bacon and eggs—not whole grains—that made for the best breakfast, as part of an effort to increase demand for pork products.

Thankfully, scientists have for decades been conducting research to verify such claims about the benefits of breakfast. Here are a few that have been proven true.

  • You’ll have more physical and mental energy for your day. Consider this: studies have found that children do better on school tests and have better memory and attention when they eat breakfast.
  • Eating breakfast can help you get on track—and stay on track—with more mindful eating habits.
  • Breakfast is one more opportunity to get the vitamins and nutrients you need from low-fat protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Some studies also show that consistently eating a healthy breakfast can help with weight loss. Breakfast helps keep your appetite in check after you’ve essentially been fasting overnight. When you’re less hungry, you’re more likely to make better choices, such as eating healthy meals and exercising. However, nutritionists caution that what you eat matters as much as when you eat. A stack of pancakes topped with butter and syrup every morning won’t do much to control weight. (Check out this list of the 10 Worst Foods to Eat in the Morning.)

Bye-bye, breakfast?

Some people skip breakfast because mornings are just too hectic. Others have abandoned breakfast as part of an intermittent fasting-style eating plan. (It’s complicated, but the basic idea is to restrict when you eat to certain time periods in a given day or week.)

Experts say there just isn’t enough research yet to determine the impacts of intermittent fasting or skipping a morning meal. Most nutrition experts still recommend eating a well-balanced breakfast to fuel your body at the start of each day.

Plus, skipping breakfast has been shown to cause negative side effects, such as:

What’s the right choice for you?

If you love breakfast, go ahead, and enjoy a nutritious morning meal! If you are struggling with a metabolic medical problem, you might scale back to water, tea, or coffee and have a healthy lunch. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with your health care provider or a dietitian about an eating plan that fits your lifestyle and will help you reach your goals.

Healthy breakfast options

Ditch the donuts and high-sugar cereals. If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then what you decide to eat matters!

It’s easy to grab a breakfast bar or toaster pastry when you’re in a hurry. But if you can, put in a little planning to make a more nutrient-dense meal. Better balance will help you feel energized and full through lunchtime.

  • Lean protein: try eggs, seafood, unsweetened Greek yogurt, poultry, legumes, beans, and lean cuts of beef and pork.
  • Grab some fruit or make an omelet with leftover veggies from last night’s dinner.
  • Get your whole grains from oats, frozen waffles, or toast.
  • Choose healthy fats such as avocados or nut butters.

Most importantly: skip the sugar! Pay attention to labels and avoid products with more than 4 grams of added sugar per serving. Surprise sugars are often found in oatmeal, sweetened yogurt, juice, bagels, and coffee drinks.

Need to mix up your morning routine? Check out these 21 Healthy Breakfast Foods to Power Through Your Morning.

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