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.”