Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day? What the Science Says

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You’ve probably been chided at least once in your life for skipping breakfast. After all, it’s the most important meal of the day—right? Actually, the truth is a bit more complicated.

Some research has found people who eat breakfast have fewer cravings, better self-control, and higher productivity. A 2013 study in the journal Obesity found that overweight and obese women who had a 700-calorie breakfast and had a light, 200-calorie dinner lost more weight than those who did the opposite. This indicates a morning meal might be most important. But not every study links breakfast with a slimmer waist. Research published in 2019 in the BMJ found that there’s no evidence that eating breakfast is a good weight-loss strategy, yet skipping breakfast isn’t bad for weight loss either. So what does that mean for you and your breakfast? Here’s what dietitians say.

How important is breakfast?

In reality, the importance of breakfast varies from person to person, says registered dietitian Torey Armul, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The research is really mixed on breakfast with weight control,” she says. “Some people who skip breakfast have a much bigger appetite later in the day and tend to overeat. Other people find their appetite is no different later on.”

One problem could be that breakfast talk tends to be a yes-or-no question rather than a discussion of what a healthy morning meal looks like. A balanced breakfast contains a mix of protein, fat, and carbs, says registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But most American breakfast staples—think cereal, bagels, and muffins—are largely refined carbs, which give you a quick boost of energy but a crash later on. “Not only do you have fluctuating energy levels during the day, but you’ll also be hungry again soon after,” says Rumsey. “When you have a balanced breakfast, you’re giving yourself a boost of energy so your blood sugar goes up a bit, but the protein and fat help stabilize that energy.”

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