Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

Plate of scrambled eggs

Photo credit: vidalia_11 via Visual hunt / CC BY

Sometimes I skip breakfast. I blame it on my mother. I have clear memories of her standing over me saying, “Diane, you can’t go to school without breakfast. Eat your scrambled eggs. They’re good for you.” 

When I asked her about it many years later, she said worried about me because she thought I was a “fussy eater.”

I loved my mother but for the longest time, I HATED scrambled eggs. And I’ve never been too fond of breakfast. Brunch is more my style. Is it a bad thing to skip breakfast? Worse than missing any other meal?

I asked registered dietitian nutritionist Eileen Molloy, MS, RDN, CDE, a member of the Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (MAND). 

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

Eileen’s answer:

Maybe not for weight loss, but breakfast is an important step toward good nutrition.

Although older population-based studies seemed to point in the direction of breakfast-eating playing a role in leanness, more recent studies have not confirmed this. However, your weight is not the only reason that eating a good breakfast is a healthy habit. Why? Spreading your energy intake out throughout the day, including eating in the morning, has definite benefits.

A balanced morning meal improves your intake of valuable nutrients, increases concentration and focus (perhaps most notably for children), helps diminish hunger and stabilizes blood sugar. Over years of counseling people I’ve found that most breakfast skippers tend to make up for the “ skipped” calories by eating less nutritious snack foods later in the day, or overeating at their other meals.

As a result, I generally recommend that people plan to eat a meal shortly after waking up. For some people this might be when they first wake up, for others it might be within 1-2 hours, depending upon hunger.

What to eat? The focus should be on including high quality foods and a balance of whole fruits, whole grains, and lean protein-rich foods.

Do you eat breakfast? If so, what do you usually have?

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now she writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.