Despite all the advice to the contrary, I’ve long been of the belief that breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day for everyone. We are told time and time again (pushed by cereal manufacturers and health advisors alike) that we should have a hearty breakfast if we want to keep hunger at bay and lose weight…but I don’t think it always holds true. I believe it’s a personal thing. I can happily go until lunchtime with no more than a banana or even just a cup of good black coffee, stocking up on food later in the day, whereas others I know are unable to even hold a conversation until they have had their fill of cereal!
It’s therefore very interesting to read a review of all the available research on breakfast in our leading British Medical Journal. The bottom line is that people who eat breakfast usually eat around 260kcals a day more than non-breakfast eaters and weigh a little bit more, not less. Of course, many nutrition studies are poor quality as they rely on people remembering and accurately recording what they ate and, just because eating breakfast is associated with eating more overall, doesn’t mean that breakfast causes over-eating – other related factors may be at play.
But, what we can say is that there is actually no good evidence that eating breakfast is good for weight-loss. And, in fact, there are more and more studies showing that eating fewer meals in the day with periods of hunger in-between may be better for weight and health – even if we eat the same number of calories overall.
What does that mean for those of us who are trying to work out the best way of eating?
I think you should listen to your body – we all have a natural ‘circadian’ rhythm that may vary from person to person, with some people being morning larks, others being night owls. Our eating pattern may reflect that. So, if you need breakfast, have it. If you are happy eating later in the day, then that’s fine too.
But, if you are having breakfast, avoid the big bowls of cereal and glasses of fruit juice – the high sugar content will have you hungry again by mid-morning. Instead, opt for a higher protein meal. The protein, especially if paired with healthy fats and perhaps some wholegrain carbs too, will keep you fuller and satisfied until lunchtime or beyond!