We’ve all heard the expression “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but is breakfast actually the most important meal of the day? Since a young age, we have been told that eating breakfast is vital for optimal health, boosting our metabolism, increasing energy, and supporting weight loss, but is it true? The answer to this question is both yes and no, because the truth is, it truly depends on the individual and their personal goals.
The Origin of Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day
You may be surprised to learn that the origins of “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” are not quite as scientific as you may think. In fact, prior to this concept, breakfast wasn’t a particularly important meal; there were no specific “breakfast foods”, people simply ate what was available, which was usually leftovers from the night before, and meal schedules were determined by farm work and labor. It was not until the late 19th century that the perfect storm of events helped to give breakfast its “most important meal” designation.
During the growth of the Industrial Revolution, people began to move from farm labor to a factory and office jobs where they spent less time moving around. People began to worry about indigestion caused by large farm breakfasts and, as more and more women entered the workforce, the need for light, quick and convenient meals began to grow, alongside a healthier living fad that was slowly increasing in popularity.
It was at this same time that James Caleb Jackson and John Harvey Kellogg were in the midst of introducing their newly invented breakfast cereal. Jackson, a preacher, and Kellogg, a religious man, believed that masturbation was the greatest evil of their time, and that bland, tasteless, healthy foods could help to prevent it. It was through their religious beliefs that Corn Flakes were invented and, paired with good marketing, the line “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” was popularized. From there, the bacon and egg industries jumped on the bandwagon and the importance of eating breakfast rapidly increased in popularity.
So, Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal of the Day?
As with all things in nutrition, it depends. Just because you skip breakfast does not mean that you will gain 10 pounds and destroy your metabolism. Eating well is all about context, not a general set of rules that work for everyone. Although some observational studies have shown that breakfast skippers are more likely to be obese than people who eat breakfast, other studies have shown that there is no difference as long as total food volume is controlled. Unfortunately, these observational studies do not address causality: are people who skip breakfast more likely to have a higher BMI, or are people with a higher BMI more likely to skip breakfast as part of a weight-loss strategy or for other reasons?
Although there is no direct evidence that breakfast is actually the most important meal of the day, there are some reasons why eating breakfast, specifically a well-balanced one, can help to support your personal goals.
Signs Breakfast IS the Most Important Meal of the Day
When it comes to breakfast, what works best for one person will not necessarily work best for another. Rather, what is important is that you pay attention to your personal hunger cues and body to figure out what works best for you. So, in an effort to help point you in the right direction, here are some signs that eating breakfast is in your best interest:
You find yourself less productive and more lethargic when you don’t eat breakfast.
You have more sugar cravings when you don’t eat breakfast.
You snack more in the afternoon and evening when you don’t eat breakfast.
You train early in the morning and need a post-workout recovery meal.
Signs Breakfast IS NOT the Most Important Meal of the Day
On the contrary, there are some signs that eating breakfast may not be vital. In fact, there are many benefits to increasing the time between meals, and for those with balanced blood sugar and minimal cravings, there may be no issue with skipping breakfast at all. For instance:
You don’t notice a difference in energy or productivity whether you eat breakfast or not.
You are able to eat well-balanced meals throughout the day whether you eat breakfast or not.
You don’t notice increased cravings whether you eat breakfast or not.
You’re truly not hungry in the morning.
The Bottom Line
So, is breakfast the most important meal of the day? The short answer is no. When you choose to eat your meals is far less important than what you choose to eat, as food quality will always trump meal timing. Skipping breakfast does not have any direct detrimental effects on health, however, for certain individuals, it can help to create healthy habits, limit snacking, and overeating, and, in turn, support optimal health. At the end of the day, whether you eat breakfast or not is dependent on your personal goals, so feel free to play around (but pay attention) to figure out what works best for you.