“You Need to Eat Breakfast” is Yet One More Nutrition Myth

Filed in Diet & Exercise by on January 12, 2017 2 Comments

Breakfast with bacon, eggs, pancakes, and toast


Note to readers: In the New Year I will be posting articles less frequently as I have a lot going on this year. I really appreciate all of you, my faithful readers, and I wish for you and your families a healthy and prosperous 2017!


It’s almost comical how often so-called “healthy eating guidelines” change. The basic tenets of healthy nutrition which have been promulgated by the government and prominent experts seem to have no staying power whatsoever. The so-called “food pyramid,” formally named Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is jointly determined by the well-respected USDA and Health & Human Services departments of the federal government. Yet how many times has the food pyramid been revised in the last couple of decades? It’s become a running joke.

So I want to address yet one more “pillar” of sound eating and nutrition: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and its even more interesting corollary, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” Considering the choice of the word “pauper,” this idea has probably been around for quite some time.

Probably more out of personal preference than any searing insight on my part, I have never been much of a breakfast eater. I’m just not hungry when I first wake up, and since I’m pretty much always counting calories, I usually eat very light, if at all, to start the day. I tend to feel hungriest around dinnertime, so then I usually eat more substantially. I have always functioned fine with these eating habits, having maintained a consistently healthy weight, with plenty of energy throughout the day.

Well, it happens that a recent study supports my casual observation that eating breakfast is not necessary for proper weight maintenance and good health. It was previously thought that eating breakfast boosts your metabolism, thereby helping you burn more calories, and also makes you less likely to be overly hungry and prone to overeating later in the day. The researchers found no scientific basis for either of these conclusions. They found no evidence of increased metabolism associated with eating a breakfast, and while subjects that ate breakfast tended to eat a slightly smaller lunch, it was not small enough to offset all of the extra calories they consumed at breakfast. Overall, subjects who ate breakfast were no less likely to gain weight than their counterparts who skipped breakfast.

So what should you do about breakfast, considering the lack of any broad consensus about it? I say just use your common sense. First of all, the fewer total calories you consume during the day, the less weight you will gain or the more you will lose, regardless of the time of day they are consumed. Second, go with your body’s normal rhythms and needs. If you are a person who craves a large breakfast, then your body is probably telling you it needs the calories at that time of day, so eat a good-sized breakfast. If you are like me and have little desire to eat much to start the day, then definitely don’t force yourself to eat when you aren’t hungry.

Lastly, here is one additional bit of simple common sense, from one of the researchers involved in the recent study: “Most of us could do with eating less, so maybe skipping breakfast occasionally is an opportunity for some people.”

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

Comments (2)

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  1. Bill Quick says:

    Hi Timmy, I love ya brother but are you forgetting about muscle vs. just weight? We should be thinking not about calories in vs. out, but feeding our body the nutrients it needs to prosper and stay young. One of the secrets to staying young of course is building or maintaining our muscle. Everything good happens from that. If we don’t eat a high protein breakfast, we are missing the first opportunity of the day to feed our muscles. People ask me all the time how am I able to improve my strength and physique at 57 years old. Plenty of protein and good old fashioned hard work. I can’t see how I will improve much if by not eating, my body feeds off of my muscle for fuel, letting all that hard work in the gym go down the drain. Just sayin. 🙂

  2. Tim McIntyre says:

    Hah, I had a feeling you might comment on this one! Yes, you’re right, we need to eat regularly and properly to feed our muscles, organs, etc. Ideally, everyone would eat like you and I do. But obesity is such a big problem, and causes a so many diseases. People who are severely and chronically overweight really need to address that problem.

    I love you too brother! Thanks for the feedback, it’s always appreciated!!

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