Is Breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

We’ve all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. But is there any truth behind this?

Unfortunately, there are very few studies which look at the overall impact on your health when it comes to skipping breakfast, most are focused on the impact it has on your weight.

The latest study on this topic, published in the British Medical Journal, found that individuals who ate breakfast ended up weighing 0.44kg more and eating an extra 260 calories per day when compared to breakfast skippers. They found no evidence that eating breakfast resulted in weight loss or that skipping breakfast resulted in weight gain. So according to this study it’s totally okay to skip breakfast, however the authors themselves admitted that the quality of the study was low, that the findings should be interpreted with caution and that skipping breakfast should not be used as a technique to lose weight.

Will skipping breakfast cause you to gain weight?

This will depend on your total calorie intake for the day. The reason this statement has been made in the past is that some studies showed that individuals who skipped breakfast were more likely to snack more throughout the day and tended to have a higher BMI. There are many things that could be at play here. Did those who skipped breakfast feel they were entitled to snack more during the day because of their early calorie deficit? Did the individuals with a higher BMI have a high BMI to start with and used skipping breakfast as a way to help them lose weight?

If skipping breakfast means that you end up reaching for a high energy snack mid-morning and being ravenously hungry, or eating larger portions than usual at lunch time then yes, skipping breakfast may result in weight gain. If you’re able to carry on as normal without needing to fill up on high energy snacks and large portions then skipping breakfast should not result in weight gain.

Will skipping breakfast help you lose weight?

Studies have shown that individuals who eat breakfast tend to have a lower BMI, snack less throughout the day and have more energy. Starting your day with a healthy breakfast often sets you in good stead to continue choosing healthy options throughout the day; it helps you maintain your energy levels so you’re not tempted to reach for a sugary pick me up.

By skipping breakfast you will create a calorie deficit in your total daily intake which should result in weight loss, however this is not a strategy I would recommend. Breakfast is a great opportunity to provide your body with some key nutrients like fibre, protein, calcium and other essential micronutrients. By skipping this meal it becomes slightly more difficult to consume the recommended daily intake of these key nutrients and not consuming sufficient amounts of these nutrients will have a negative impact on your overall health, so even if you do end up losing weight you might not feel that great.

Instead of skipping breakfast, have a look at what you are currently eating for breakfast and ask yourself if you are making healthy choices. Could you make some changes to ensure your breakfast is packed with all those good nutrients?

Will eating breakfast boost your metabolism?

Many believe that having breakfast is essential for an efficient metabolism; however there are currently no studies to support this. In fact, studies have shown that skipping breakfast had no impact on metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate is not impacted by the frequency of your meals but rather by your total caloric intake – once you start consuming fewer calories than your body needs for maintenance it compensates by slowing down your metabolic rate.

What if you’re not hungry in the morning?

I hear this one a lot, and whilst I do believe it’s ok to skip breakfast – as long as this isn’t your strategy to lose weight and you’re not depriving your body of the nutrients it needs – I also believe that not being hungry in the morning could be a result of one of two things, or a combination of the two.

Firstly, you’ve trained your body to not be hungry in the morning. If for the last however many years you’ve not had breakfast then you’re likely to no longer feel hungry every morning as you’ve conditioned your body to not expect it. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s important you look at the impact this has on the rest of your day – are you reaching for snacks or having larger portions when hunger does finally strike? If the answer is yes, then it might be worth trying to re-introduce a morning meal.

Secondly, you’re eating large portions or snacking on energy dense foods the night before. By doing this it’s likely that you’re not giving your body the chance to adequately digest your evening meal/snack in time for your morning meal, which results in you not being hungry. Try having smaller portions in the evenings or cutting out that late night snack and see if that has an impact on your morning hunger levels.

There is no right or wrong, healthy eating is not a one size fits all approach. The important thing is that you do what works for you, and if you’re not sure then play around with a few of the things I’ve suggested and see if they make a difference to you.

Be Healthy, Be Happy, Be you!

Can your diet help save the planet?

Did you know it’s forecast that by 2050 there will be 10 billion humans inhabiting the planet, that’s an increase of 2.5 billion from today.

That’s a lot of pressure we’re putting on the planet to provide for us all, not to mention the carbon footprints that will be created by all of these billions of beings.

It’s not all doom and gloom, by making changes to the way we live and reducing our carbon footprint it will be possible for us all to live healthily and happily ever after. One of the ways in which we can help is by taking on board some of the recommendations published in the EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Diet.

The planetary health diet was created by 37 scientists in an attempt to define sustainable food systems that will minimise damage to our planet; it informs the changes we need to make to the way we eat. What’s more by making these changes, not only will the planet as a whole benefit but our individual health too.

So what does this diet entail?

Firstly let me begin by saying that I am not a vegetarian or a vegan; I love red meat and fish but I’m also a huge fan of plant based meals and I am making a concerted effort to eat more plant based foods every day. Secondly, the information below is a guide – I’m not saying you need to completely overhaul your diet immediately, I’m simply giving you the information for you to use as you see fit.

A week on the planetary health diet would look like this:

  • 1 portion, 98g of red meat (beef, lamb and pork) per week
  • 1-2 portions, 203g of chicken per week
  • 1-2 portions, 196g of fish per week
  • 2 eggs per week
  • 250ml of dairy per day
  • Nuts, lentils and beans should make up the rest of your protein intake
  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Wholegrain carbohydrates for fibre and energy

What else should you take in to consideration alongside this planet friendly diet?

Choose locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, if a food is not sourced locally it needs to travel 100s of miles, be sprayed, stored in refrigerators and artificially ripened in hot houses – all of these things create a huge carbon footprint, so always check what’s in season and find a local farmers’ market for your weekly veg shop.

Reduce food waste; food waste has a huge impact on the environment so taking steps to reduce the amount of food you waste will have a positive impact on the environment. Try not to over-purchase when doing your grocery shop and plan ahead to make sure you don’t have ‘just in case’ ingredients in your fridge that you won’t end up using. Always use leftovers or freeze them for quick mid-week meals and support grocers that sell wonky veg.

If looking at the diet recommendations above feels a little overwhelming and a huge leap from what’s usually on your plate then don’t worry, you don’t need to make these changes overnight and you don’t need to follow the recommendations precisely. The important thing is that you start making small changes where you can – every little bit makes a difference.

I started by turning every second day in to a plant based day and swapping out some of my dairy for dairy alternatives like fortified soy milk and yoghurt. I’ve loved my plant based days so much that they’re becoming more of a norm, and it’s resulted in me being a lot more creative and adventurous in the kitchen!

See what changes you can start making; you never know where they may take you.