Healthy Breakfast 101

You might have grown up hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day…but is it? Or would you stick with liquids till lunch? And what exactly do you need for a healthy breakfast? Breakfast has become surprisingly controversial.

Do you really need breakfast?

Say you eat dinner around 6:00 p.m. and close the kitchen after that. You sleep for eight hours and by 7:00 you’ve gone about 12 hours with no food. Your body definitely needs fuel.

Skipping breakfast is associated with higher rates of heart disease and obesity. Eating breakfast seems to improve kids’ school performance, too. But the evidence is not conclusive. 

There is also some evidence that intermittent fasting, in the form of waiting until lunch to start eating, may have some health benefits. This is currently a trendy method of weight loss, but some researchers say that it also improves other health markers and even increases life span.

This controversy has been going on for years and the jury is still out. But this may be because there are some other factors involved. 

What’s for breakfast?

Breakfast should include protein, fiber, healthy fats, and some carbs for quick energy. That means oatmeal with fruit and nuts, yogurt with berries and a slice of whole-grain toast with avocado, or eggs with greens on the side. 

In real life, breakfast for a lot of us means a thousand-calorie breakfast burrito from the drive-through or a couple of doughnuts and a Coke. Those aren’t healthy choices, no matter when we eat them. 

Other behaviors

Skipping breakfast is associated with increased heart disease and a variety of other problems. But that may be because it is also associated with a range of unhealthy choices. People who skip breakfast, including teens, are more likely to smoke and drink, and less likely to exercise regularly. People who choose to eat breakfast may do so as one of their healthy habits. 

Skipping breakfast can also be the result of nighttime snacking. People who enjoy nachos during late-night video game binges are less likely to be hungry in the morning than those who quit eating for the day right after dinner. 

A 2021 survey by the International Food Information Council found that 60% of Americans snack after 8:00 at night. 

The bottom line

There is evidence on both sides of the breakfast controversy. Many experts suggest eating breakfast if you’re hungry in the morning, and skipping it if not.

But your first meal the day should certainly be a healthy meal. 

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