Updated: Feb 3
A study released recently and resulting slew of articles came out questioning the influence of eating breakfast on weight gain/loss. Now, any of us grew up shoveling in bowl after bowl of spackle-like gruel with our parents incessantly reminding us of those 'starving children in Aftica’ and how much they would appreciate our bowl of goo. We were reminded repeatedly about the importance of ‘breaking our hours long fast.' We were told that without breakfast our brains would not function and we would not be the least bit operational without breakfast. This was all before the annihilation of breakfast meats and eggs; breakfast with eggs was the best way to start your day.
And now? We are told that breakfast is neither important nor necessary. We are told that you can eat it, but if you are trying to lose weight, it would actually be in your best interest to opt out. We are told that even a cup of coffee is 'healthy food.'
What are we to believe?
Truth be told, I love breakfast. I am a creative breakfast maker and make sure my kiddos have something (not cold cereal) before they head out the door for the bus. I believe in grabbing all opportunities to offer phytonutrients (read: fruits and veggies), know the benefits of quality carbs (yay, fiber!) for sustained energy and am fan of breaking up the protein intake throughout the day. I am also a fan of making sure one of the meals I have direct influence over has a beneficial impact on my family; certainly, I could choose cold cereal and milk and it would be significantly easier. And certainly, many types of cold cereal are, in fact, good choices (read: those with less sugar and more whole grains and healthy fats per serving; sorry, but Capt Crunch and Lucky Charms are probably not going to make the cut!). However, I like to change things up, and I like to futz around in the kitchen, so ... they get an array of generally whole grain options with tons of fruit and healthy fats. And, to be honest, I also love that I get to connect with my family however briefly before we all rush off to our various destinations. A family huddle, if you will, to start the day.
It would absolutely be 100% easier to give my kiddos a cup of jo and send them on up the hill to catch the bus. I am not, however, going to do that.
Be a smart internet consumer: I am aware that there is no shortage of ‘evidence’ one can find online to support pretty much any argument. Studies, opinions and articles abound that support pretty much any side of every argument. You believe the world is flat? There are societies to join that believe that. You think insects are a good source of protein? Sure. The three little pigs should have combined efforts and lived on a commune instead of building their own houses of hay, sticks and brick? Maybe you’re onto something. Eggs are good for you, or bad for you, or the cause of all evil. Yes, yes, yes. Breakfast supporters and nay-sayers each have their place too. The important thing about reading articles ('research' if you will) is to know the quality of what you read, be able to recognize your source of information as a reliable source and know not to jump on every band wagon. Not only is that exhausting, confusing and expensive, but it is also not good for your peace of mind. Case in point: did you know that a very large percent of the studies we all grew up hearing about the wonders of breakfast were actually funded by cereal manufacturers? Naturally, you can imagine what message it is they want their studies to be portraying, right? Breakfast cereals good. Skipping breakfast bad.
Onward. Breakfast: should you or shouldn’t you? Will not eating breakfast help save you enough calories to make enough of a dent in your caloric balance to help you lose weight? Maybe. Will not eating breakfast leave you in a grumpy hangry energy-less blob by mid-morning? Maybe. Will your brain dysfunction by midday if you don’t eat breakfast? Maybe. Conversely, if you give your kiddos breakfast will they ace all of their exams and get into Harvard? Probably not (unless they try very hard and are extremely vigilant in their studies). If you give your family a well-balanced breakfast will they be forever grateful and appreciate you more each and every day? Hm, can’t promise but they should! :)
I think the biggest take-home of the plethora of breakfast-related articles that have surfaced recently is that we should definitely pay attention to the quality of foods we are eating at breakfast. Try to limit the sugar intake, if possible, and if you can, opt for whole grains over those that are more refined. Eat fresh fruits and include protein and healthy fats. If you drink milk, this is a good time to have some. If you have time, sit down and enjoy breakfast (especially with your family). Drink a little tea, a little coffee, definitely some water.
And know this: Just because breakfast doesn’t promote weight loss or act as a “health panacea” doesn’t make it pointless. There is no one food or one meal that can do that because nutrition is, in all senses of the word, a combination of your food intake. If eating breakfast works for your routine, keep doing it. If you don't eat breakfast, and your day goes okay, keep skipping it. Have confidence in what you are doing to nourish yourself and your family.