Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day. And there’s evidence that breakfast can be good for you, but it’s also ok to skip it.
What’s more important is that you’re eating whole foods packed with vitamins and nutrients that will fuel you throughout the day, whether or not you start eating in the morning.
Is it OK to skip breakfast?
Ultimately, whether or not you should skip breakfast comes down to your goals.
For instance, eating breakfast is associated with benefits like:
- Weight loss: One recent small study found that men burned 2.5 times as many calories throughout the day when they ate a large breakfast and small dinner compared to a small breakfast and large dinner.
- A healthy weight: Research on Japanese men and women found that those who skipped breakfast were more likely to gain weight and be obese.
- More stable blood sugar: A study on people with type 2 diabetes found that those who skipped breakfast had higher HbA1 levels and more variable blood sugar levels.
- Lower risk of some illnesses like heart disease: One large observational study found that people who ate breakfast were less likely to die from cardiovascular illness over 23 years of follow-up.
- Better performance in daily tasks, such as school and work: Research suggests eating breakfast offers a slight advantage on cognitive function, including memory. For example, one review found that students who eat breakfast tend to have better grades and are less likely to be disruptive in class.
Whereas skipping breakfast is also associated with benefits like weight loss. Other research has found skipping breakfast may reduce total daily calorie intake, which can lead to weight loss.
Some people also skip breakfast as a form of intermittent fasting. In general, intermittent fasting is linked to benefits like:
- Lower risk of chronic illness: Researchers have found that people who practice intermittent fasting have lower risk factors for illnesses like heart disease and cancer.
- Better blood sugar control: Intermittent fasting can help improve insulin sensitivity, particularly for people with diabetes, to help reduce blood sugar spikes.
As you can see, there are studies that suggest eating breakfast is important while others suggest the opposite. That’s why it’s so difficult for experts to definitively say that eating breakfast is best for your health.
It’s also important to note that most of the studies about breakfast are observational, and don’t necessarily separate cause and effect.
Therefore, a study may find that healthier people tend to eat breakfast. But it’s unclear whether breakfast caused those people to be healthier or if eating breakfast is a common habit for people who are healthy for other reasons.
So when considering whether to skip, or eat, breakfast, focus on what your specific needs may be.
“The timing of your day depends on schedule and your digestion. Some people should eat earlier, and some might not feel hungry in the morning,” says Taub-Dix, registered dietitian and nutritionist and author of Read It Before You Eat It — Taking You from Label to Table.
Why breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day
When it comes to weight and overall health, what and how much you eat is more important than when you eat.
“My favorite word is balance, and that makes a big difference,” Taub-Dix says.
Some scientific reviews have found that studies tend to overstate the importance of eating breakfast, and that hard data to show the benefits is quite limited.
While some studies have shown breakfast can help improve mental and physical performance in the morning, compared to going hungry, there’s little evidence that it has any advantage if you’re otherwise getting enough to eat overall.
If you do skip breakfast, either intentionally or by mistake, the important thing is to make sure to eat nutrient-dense meals the rest of the day to make sure you’re fueling your body properly. For guidance, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are considered by nutritionists some of the healthiest eating plans you can follow.
For a healthy breakfast, aim for unprocessed food with protein, fiber, and healthy fat
Some examples of balanced breakfasts based from the DASH diet include:
- Oatmeal with peanut butter or almond butter and berries
- Yogurt with fruit and nuts
- Whole-grain toast with eggs and/or cheese and veggies
You can also find a mix of breakfast options under our Mediterranean diet 7-day meal plan like:
- Scrambled eggs with spinach and tomato
- Zucchini tomato frittata
- Whole-wheat toast with mashed avocado and an egg
Avoid processed foods, like sweetened cereals or packaged pastries and muffins, as they can be high in added sugar, and may cause cravings or energy dips later in the day.
“So many people grab a muffin or a pastry but it doesn’t really satisfy you,” Taub Dix says. “You might find yourself with your head on your desk by noon.”
Breakfast is linked to benefits like stable energy and healthy weight in some people.
Overall, there’s no conclusive evidence that skipping or eating breakfast is best. So you can choose to eat breakfast, or not, based on your personal preference.
“Eating throughout the day makes it easier for you to meet your needs,” Taub-Dix says. “But if you prefer it and you know how to balance the rest of your day, there’s no rule that you have to have breakfast.”