We’ve all heard it before: breakfast is the most important meal of the day—but those scrambled eggs may not be all they're cracked up to be. According to a recent article on STAT News, the long-held belief that eating breakfast helps people lose weight may be misleading. In reality, the correlation between breakfast and weight-loss (or gain) is much more complex.
So where did the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day come from? The short answer is research; but is it always reliable? According to the STAT News article, the studies that we base many of our breakfast-eating assumptions on may have been funded and supported by cereal companies, such as Kellogg and General Mills.
Evidently, a 1992 study that was heavily used by the Kellogg company—and even featured on their cereal boxes—found that people who started eating breakfast lost weight. However, not only was the study too small (only 50 subjects) to reliably draw such a conclusion, but the box did not include the full research findings. According to the article, David Schlundt, a coauthor of the study, explained that Kellogg chose the piece of information that was the most beneficial to them, stating that “only the ideas they see as favorable get money.” Not only that, but the cereal company chose to leave out the finding that people who had been routine breakfast eaters lost more weight when they began skipping the meal.
With so many variables among breakfast foods and the individuals consuming them, it can be difficult to untangle whether or not breakfast can, or even should, be skipped. So until more intensive research is done, here is what we know:
Don’t eat breakfast just to eat breakfast.
Eating an unhealthy breakfast is worse than skipping breakfast all together. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by starting your day with toaster pastries, sugar-coated kids’ cereals, or leftovers from last night’s pizza party. As with any meal it’s more important to consider what you are eating than when you eat it.
If you have a highly active lifestyle, you probably do need breakfast.
If you’re the type of person who starts off the day with a long walk or jog, or who has a physically demanding job, chances are breakfast is less of a choice for you than it is a necessity. Still, for people who burn more calories than they can keep up with, it’s particularly important to stay away from simple carbohydrates like donuts, bagels, and white bread for breakfast. While these foods do give an initial boost of energy, they break down quickly, and can lead to a sugar crash and even greater hunger later in the day.
In the end, whether or not you eat breakfast and what you eat for breakfast is dependent on your individual lifestyle. Try skipping breakfast. If skipping it makes you feel dizzy, or sluggish, by all means — eat breakfast! Or maybe you can play with just reducing it. What happens when you make breakfast a healthy snack, like fruit, instead of a meal? The important thing is that you do what works best for your body and not what’s written on the cereal box.