Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

As I talk to patients in our office, a frequent statement I hear is, “I am really good with eating all day, but around dinner time I am really hungry and can’t stop eating.” Once I start going through their usual diet, most often I find out they have either not eaten breakfast or maybe just had coffee. Many people think by skipping breakfast, they are eating less and doing “good”, but in reality this has a negative effect on the body and especially with weight loss. You can’t save your calories for later! This sets your body up to hold on to your fat stores and slows down your metabolism.

There are many reasons why skipping that first meal is not a good idea. Not eating breakfast everyday is associated with an increased risk of being overweight and obese, as well as vitamin and mineral deficiencies. When you don’t eat breakfast, it sets you up for eating more calories at lunch and the rest of the day, and making poorer choices when you do eat. Eating a healthy breakfast helps jumpstart your metabolism, so your body will burn more calories easier, which helps you lose weight and maintain your weight. Eating breakfast also helps reduce high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Mood and brain function are also better when you have eaten something in the morning.

What you eat for breakfast matters as well. The typical American breakfast is high in carbs and very low in protein. This can be a big reason why some feel really hungry later in the day. Getting enough protein through the day, including breakfast, helps maintain muscle, keeps you feeling full longer and helps curb food cravings. The goal for breakfast, as well as the rest of the day, is a balanced meal. This is what your plate should look like:

Balanced meal

  • ½ of your plate should be vegetables and fruit
  • ¼ of your plate should be protein
  • ¼ of your plate should be carbohydrates (mostly whole grains)


Examples of good protein choices for breakfast are eggs, milk, yogurt, lean meats, nuts and nut butters. Aim for at least 10 grams of protein at breakfast. You can then pair your protein with some whole grains, such as oatmeal or whole wheat toast. Balance your meal out with a little fruit in the morning. Adding some healthy fats in the morning can also help keep you feeling full longer. Nuts, nut butter, real butter, olive oil and coconut oil are good fats to add to your diet.
Eating within the first two hours of waking is the best way to get your metabolism working for you. If you are not use to eating breakfast in the morning, start with something small, but have some protein. A Greek yogurt or protein shake can be a great start to your day.
Establishing good breakfast eating habits is beneficial for heart health, weight control, mood and memory.
So, yes, breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day!

Post by: Cheryl Stebbins, RDN, LDN