NZ dietitian, performance nutritionist and health expert. Dave does his best to make sense of what we eat.

Dave Shaw: Is breakfast overrated?

Some people aren't in the mood for breakfast in the morning. 
Photo / 123RF
Some people aren't in the mood for breakfast in the morning. Photo / 123RF

We've all heard the saying, and I bet most of us have said it: "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day". It's gospel and anyone who chooses to ignore this worldly advice is often considered wrong.

Really, breakfast is just another meal. No single nutrient, food or dining occasion wears the crown in the hierarchy of healthfulness. So, if you don't particularly enjoy eating at sunrise, there's probably no harm in prolonging your overnight fast.

Depending on what you have for breakfast, some of us may be entirely better off skipping it all together. But any healthy person would never choose to skip breakfast, right?

Well, this probably more of a cultural belief than a scientifically supported claim. I'm not saying eating breakfast isn't important - it definitely can be for many people - but some of us may be just fine starting our morning without immediately filling our bellies.

Two recent studies have delved into the breakfast conundrum, comparing breakfast-eaters with breakfast-skippers.

The first study showed breakfast eaters participated in more moderate physical activity, yet consumed considerably more sugar - not a surprise here when you look at most breakfast cereals. Overall, there was no significant difference in weight or risk of cardiovascular disease between the two groups.

The second study tracked 309 subjects for 16 weeks to evaluate whether advice to eat or skip breakfast made any change to their weight. The results? Nada. What an anti-climax.

Okay, so it doesn't really matter whether or not you eat breakfast? Not necessarily.

We know that irregular breakfast eaters can be at an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While on the other hand, committed breakfast eaters tend to be non-smokers, eat a healthier diet overall, are physical more active and drink less alcohol.

Bottom line, it's all about lifestyle. Eating breakfast may simply be a marker of a healthier way of living. So here's some simple advice for you to chew on.

If you're healthy, physically active, enjoy your life and always eat breakfast then I recommend you carry on doing so. You may even be fortunate enough to experiment with new breakfast combos or have the time to relish breakfast in bed.

Commercialised breakfast cereals tend to come in last place
There aren't many breakfast cereals available that can boast being low in sugar, fat, salt and additives. Your best bet is to make your own and ignore their over zealous marketing schemes. Or you could settle on sprinkling a little of your favourite cereal over some wholesome berries, yoghurt, nuts and seeds.

Quit the sugar fix
If you are married to a sweetened cereal and a jam-laden breakfast washed down with a jug of cordial, then you could be better off skipping breakfast. Instead try adding some protein and healthy fats to your meal by topping your toast with eggs and avocado or spreading nut butter over your banana.

No hunger, no problem
A lot of us wake up in the morning and struggle to have more than a cup of coffee. I wouldn't worry, so don't go forcing down an English muffin for the sake of having breakfast. Instead, wait until morning tea when you can sit down to enjoy a snack that's filling and wholesome.

What about kids?
All children should start their day with a nutritious breakfast, especially if they're at school and going to be active. Not only does it provide them with the fuel to power their learning and playground adventures, it also helps to ingrain good dietary habits from an early age.

Get your protein hit
Protein helps us feel full and reduce our cravings throughout the day. Many cereals and other classic breakfast foods like crumpets and muffins don't exactly provide a quality source of protein. Eggs are a great start to the morning, as are nuts, seeds and diary. You can even have bacon from time to time - yes, I did just say that.

Try eating vegetables in the morning
It's easy having some vegetables first thing in the morning. Make bubble and squeak from last night's roasties or throw spinach, onion and capsicum to your omelette.

Fasting is fine
Yes, it's okay, you may skip breakfast completely and wait for lunch. For some people, skipping a meal can help maintain their weight and prevent them wolfing down excessive calories throughout the day. But, keep in mind, if fasting works for you, it doesn't mean it will work for everyone else.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

NZ dietitian, performance nutritionist and health expert. Dave does his best to make sense of what we eat.

Dave works in public health and alongside some of New Zealand’s top athletes. Whether it's for vitality, performance, identity or spirituality, Dave loves the way food brings people together. He believes that no one diet is the cure for our growing rates of chronic disease, but a diet based on wholefoods is the perfect start. Always keeping up-to-date with current evidence and food trends, Dave is a relentless researcher for how we should eat and likes to challenge what we may think about nutrition.

Read more by Dave Shaw

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 25 May 2017 02:34:42 Processing Time: 53ms