Dear Dietitian: Breakfast?

Leanne McCrate

Dear Dietitian,

I am trying to lose weight, so I often skip breakfast. My husband insists that this is not good for me and actually works against my efforts to lose weight. What do you say?


Dear Shirley,

We have always heard, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” However, recent studies have challenged this age-old standard. Some studies have found that people who skip breakfast do not overcompensate for this and overeat later in the day. Other studies show a connection between skipping breakfast and being overweight, but some argue that this has nothing to do with breakfast itself. People who eat breakfast tend to have other healthy habits. They eat more fiber, exercise, do not smoke, and drink less alcohol than those who skip the morning meal.

The truth is there aren’t enough good studies on this topic to make a scientific conclusion. The largest study I found was about 300 people, which isn’t large enough to draw a conclusion for the entire population.

While in clinical practice, people would often tell me that they had trouble with night eating, even when they weren’t hungry. Inevitably, these were the people who skipped breakfast.When a person consumes more calories than she needs (at night), the body stores this in an intermediate form of energy known as glycogen. You wake up the next morning and don’t feel hungry because your body knows it has fuel reserved. You skip breakfast, and the cycle starts all over again.

My advice is to eat breakfast. It anchors your appetite for the rest of the day and may help protect you from needless snacking in the evening. Choose a meal with carbohydrates and protein: peanut butter on toast with a banana; eggs with salsa plus toast; or a high fiber, low sugar cereal plus protein. If you don’t care for breakfast food, don’t eat it. Enjoy leftovers from the night before.

Since people who eat breakfast tend to have other healthy behaviors, all the more reason to spoon it in. Maybe it will give you the energy to get to the gym!


Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician from St. Louis, Mo.