Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? We hear the quote so often “Don’t start your day without breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day”. Yet when I see clients in my practice many are telling me that they’re just not hungry or don’t have time in the morning and hence don’t eat breakfast. So what is the answer? Should you eat breakfast even if you’re not hungry?
There are 4 important aspects to consider here. Why, when, what and how. We can look at the ‘why’ and ‘when’ together by considering what ‘breakfast’ actually means. It is about breaking the fast; ‘Break-fast’. From the last time we eat the previous day until the first time we eat on the subsequent day is our fast. The length of that fast is dependent upon our individual needs and circumstances; it is personalised to us. We break our fast to provide us with nutrients and energy that we need throughout the day.
Evidence demonstrates the benefits of fasting for metabolic and neurological health. However, the length of our fast is individual to us. Children have a high need of nutrients for growth, physical and mental activity and should be breaking their fasts before they go to school in the morning. We all need to break our fasts before we get to the point of being over-hungry, irritable and hypoglycaemic; in other words before our blood sugar levels have dipped leaving us irritable and likely to reach for a quick sugary high energy fix.
What we eat for our breakfast should sustain us until the next meal.
It should ensure our blood sugar levels remain balanced hence avoiding blood sugar highs and lows. It doesn’t really matter what type of food you eat for breakfast as long as it contains protein, healthy fats and any carbohydrates are complex rather than simple ones.
In other words, just think of breakfast as a main meal; whether that be something like eggs, porridge, avocado on wholegrain bread or even leftovers from lunch or dinner. What you don’t want breakfast to be is things like pastries, cereal or toast and jam. Those foods are high in simple sugars and lack protein.
How we eat our breakfast is also important. Although we may not have time to linger we should still take time to sit down and eat without distraction. Mindful eating is paramount to good digestion as well as impacting satiety hormones. When we don’t eat mindfully we are likely to overeat. Have you ever eaten a meal at your desk while working or scrolling through your phone? Sometimes if you are so focussed on something else whilst eating, afterwards you can even wonder if you ate at all!
So what is important about breakfast is that you eat at a time that is right for you, you eat a meal that will sustain you until the next meal and you take time to eat it without distraction. If you’re rushing to catch a train or get the kids to school consider whether to get up fifteen minutes earlier or whether eating slightly later would work for you. Listen to your body and do what is right for you on the individual day.