Bacon or Bust: Should You Skip Breakfast?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Rise and shine, or rise and dine? For decades, eating breakfast on the daily has been heralded as the cornerstone of a healthy diet, with countless studies linking morning meals to everything from better academic performance to more efficient glucose metabolism to reduced risk of heart disease. For many, it provides the necessary fuel to tackle an early workout or demanding workday. If you're trying to slim down, breakfast has also been shown to give you an advantage in the weight loss department.
 
But recently, new research emerged suggesting that it may be okay for dieters to skip breakfast. In one Canadian study of more than 12,000 people, there was no significant difference in body mass index between the groups who started their days with morning meals and those who opted out. And other studies have suggested that minifasting, or occasionally skipping meals—breakfast, perhaps—could help regulate blood sugar, boost energy and strengthen immunity.
 
Complicating things further, a 2016 Yale study showed that eating two breakfasts could do more to prevent childhood obesity than skipping breakfast, the idea being that breakfast-skippers would be more likely to overeat later in the day. "In addition to preventing obesity, eating breakfast has also been linked with better concentration and test scores in school-aged children, as well as reducing incidence of hunger, notes Lisa Andrews, registered dietitian with Sound Bites Nutrition. "As 15 million children suffer from food insecurity in the U.S., offering breakfast at school is a great alternative to combating malnutrition as well as obesity."
 
With all of these conflicting reports hitting your newsfeed, what's the definitive answer on the a.m. eating debate? SparkPeople's registered dietitian, Becky Hand, is here to break it down.
 
One Breakfast Does Not Fit All
 
Hand's quick answer to whether breakfast is beneficial or expendable: It depends.
 
"One-size-fits-all nutrition recommendations just don't work, and that includes breakfast," she says. "It's not realistic to make a general recommendation that everyone needs to eat breakfast within a certain time of waking."
 
According to Hand, the question of when and if to eat first thing in the morning hinges on many different factors, such as age, medical needs, physical and mental demands, and hunger scale and food availability throughout the morning hours. For example, a construction worker who will spend the next six hours digging a ditch likely needs more early sustenance than a teenager who will sleep until mid-morning, and someone who will be doing creative work at a computer may need more fuel than someone performing routine tasks. If you typically become grouchy or fatigued when you go a few hours without eating, you're probably not a good candidate for waiting until noon to nosh.

"When determining the importance of breakfast, also consider the quality of that breakfast," Hand recommends. Chocolate-covered puffs of dough won't deliver the same benefits as, say, scrambled eggs with whole-wheat toast or an apple with peanut butter.
 
The Breakfast Bottom Line
 
The only way to determine whether breakfast is essential or dispensable is to assess your situation and your eating plan, says Andrews.
 
If you don’t have much of an appetite in the mornings, you’re already a healthy weight and your a.m. activities don’t require early fuel, you may be able to skip it. But if you tend to wake hungry and your body needs sustenance to perform critical morning tasks, you’re a good candidate for a healthy breakfast. The quality of the food also plays a big factor in the decision to skip or not to skip. If you usually start the day with sugary cereal or donuts, which add more empty calories than sustaining fuel, your diet won’t suffer without it. But if you reach for high-protein, relatively low-calorie breakfasts that help curb cravings and keep you full until lunch, your current eating plan is likely serving you well.
 
And in the event that hunger strikes early, it's always a good idea to have high-quality foods readily available. "If food is not available or there is no time for a break, you may need to force yourself to eat a lighter breakfast earlier in the morning to stay in working action until noon," Hand says. Short on time but big on hunger? Check out these quick and healthy breakfast ideas to get your engine going in 10 minutes or less.
 
What do you think about the purported benefits of eating (or skipping) breakfast? Do you eat a full breakfast, grab a quick snack on the run or just wait until lunch?

*Updated 7/19/16 to ensure accuracy of research findings.

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Comments

PATRICIAANN46 5/3/2019
Thank You............. Report
KHALIA2 4/24/2019
Must have my breakfast! Report
BILLTHOMSON 4/12/2019
Great information Report
MNABOY 12/14/2018
Thanks Report
_CYNDY55_ 11/23/2018
Thanks Report
MUSICNUT 11/16/2018
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
MISSPEACHES3 9/20/2018
I usually cannot eat breakfast when I first get up. My stomach seems to be able to tolerate food between 10 am and 10:30 am. If I have an early Doctor appointment, I will eat only a couple of bites of food and just an ounce of milk. This is so I won't get that gnawing feeling if I am there for a while. And when I am able to eat lunch, I really do not feel that hungry. Report
KHALIA2 9/8/2018
MUST have my breakfast! Report
KHALIA2 9/8/2018
MUST have my breakfast! Report
DGRIFFITH51 7/17/2018
I have a cup of coffee with half and half then I eat breakfast about 2 hours later, after my morning chores. Report
i starting to enjoy my breakfast and I do feel better when I do . need to start working on getting my lunch to be a habit . Report
I eat breakfast unless i'm doing intermittent fasting Report
I try to eat something small every morning but not when I first get up. Food does not sound appealing when I first get out of bed Report
"Break"Fast starts whenever you eat your first meal, for some that can be 7am other's 11am, or 1pm.. Report
I've been doing intermittent fasting for the last 4 months. No breakfast. Eat in an 8 hour window. Fast 16. As a type 2 diabetic my A1C went from 6.5 to 5.7 in three months. Nearly a full point drop. My triglycerides are 111 for the first time EVER! I've gone from losing 3 pounds a month to about 5 pounds a month through a national conference, vacation and the holidays. I also changed to low sugar low grain, gluten free, no fake sugars either at the same time. It's really reduced the pain from my rare arthritis (DISH) as well. this works for me. I think I can do this forever. The hardest part is the gluten free... but gluten free seems to be low pain as well. Report
EAT A BREAKFAST EVERY DAY. USUALLY AFTER MY MORNING WALK. Report
Never skip breakfast! Report
THE_PLAN
even if I wake up late enough to call it brunch, I like a tiny something (cube of cheese for instance 110 calories, calcium fat protein) is something.... then lunch at the usual time etc is doable w/o issue. Report
I am for sure a breakfast person Report
I, like several here who have commented, am generally just not hungry for 3-4 hours after I get up. Many times I do eat a small breakfast of S/F oatmeal with fruit as I keep thinking I "should" eat breakfast, but if I wait and have something healthy closer to lunch, I do not overeat the rest of the day. From time to time, my husband and I go to breakfast-I have a spinach and feta omelette. It is a large portion-I bring half home for later. One minute in the microwave and it's great. Sometimes that and a yogurt + fruit are my lunch. Report
If I don't eat breakfast, I nibble all day. My favorite is oatmeal laced with wheat berries. Report
Skip breakfast at your own peril. Report
decreased insulin sensitivity is a precursor to Diabetes, Increased sensitivity is NOT dangerous, but advantageous. Decreased insulin sensitivity is one symptom of PCOS or Metabolic syndrome. you had it backwards. Report
I have to eat breakfast it is my favorite meal of the day . I am miserable if I do not have it ,going on a trip in the early mornings is hard for me without that breakfast !! Report
JEAN-LIB
I finally figured out that I need to be up and active for a least a 2 or 3 hours before I eat. Otherwise, my digestive system isn't awake yet and I end up with an upset stomach. I eat late in the morning, when I feel hungry. Once I break my fast, I usually eat every 4-5 hours until bedtime. It works for me. Report
I haven't eaten breakfast in years. I'm just not hungry until 4-5 hrs after I wake up, even if I didn't eat a lot the day before. So I'm very glad to read this. Report
AZURE-SKY
If I skip breakfast and just have coffee in the morning, I'm not hungry until lunchtime. But, if I eat a carb-laden breakfast (cold cereal, bagel, toast, muffin, etc.) I'm starving all day.

If I eat a protein-rich breakfast, I'm not as hungry, but if I eat that breakfast early in the day, I still tend to eat more during the day than if I skipped breakfast. Report
LARKSPURLAZULI
This article is incorrect. Like Woubbie, I also noticed that the defintion of insulin sensitivity you gave is incorrect. It's DECREASED insulin sensitivity that is a potentially dangerous condition. Report
That is VERY confusing about the insulin sensitivity!

I looked up the research and it says " insulin sensitivity increased with breakfast relative to fasting."
I am thankful to Woubbie for her comments. Report
If I skip breakfast, I tend to graze ALL day long. When I eat a morning meal, I'm good until lunch with no snacking or cravings. Report
140GECKO
I was so happy to read this. I've never, ever been a breakfast eater. On many diets they insist you eat breakfast and I'd try to force myself and could for awhile. I just can't tolerate food when I get up. I just try to eat my meals later in the day and it just works for me. Glad to know I wasn't so bad all these years. Report
It's a personal preference; I've never been hungry in the morning. Why should I force myself to eat if I'm not hungry?
I eat if I'm hungry, and I don't if I'm not. Doing anything else, to me, just seems foolish. Report
Wow, this is bad journalism right here:

"In another study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating breakfast every day was shown to increase insulin sensitivity, a potentially dangerous condition that can cause elevated blood sugar, increased blood pressure and higher heart disease risk."

Increased insulin sensitivity is the GOOD thing. It's insulin resistance that's the bad thing, and is a marker of metabolic syndrome. Therefore, the AJCN article implies that eating breakfast is a positive thing, at least in terms of insulin sensitivity.

Please fix this, it is incorrect and highly misleading. Report
Very timely article. Most important is to eat only when hungry and to avoid sugar and refined carbs and get enough water. Report
I am one of those that MUST have breakfast at least during the weekday whereas on the weekends I may not eat until noon. If I skip breakfast I will most likely overeat as indicated in the article. Report
Good this is coming from Sparkpeople. Nice Article, I eat my breakfast only when I am hungry if not I shift the time a little close to noon. Report
I agree, I get up early like 4 or 4:30 and don't eat breakfast on schedule, so anywhere from 7:00 to 8:30, I'm already up 3-4 hours before I eat. Also, can't eat before a workout as my stomach hurts and it slows me down rather then give me energy. So you are right we are all different. I do have tea and coffee first thing that has milk and honey in my tea..so maybe the is another reason I can go without food? Report
VERY happy to read this. I've never been interested in eating breakfast and have been nagged (parents) or lectured (friends/medical practitioners) all my life. So I no longer discuss my 'breakfast habits' as if I might reveal a guilty secret. I eat an early and healthy lunch at noon, a small teatime snack at about between 4.00 and 5.00 and dinner around 7.30. It suits me very well and I'm happy to see it confirmed that not all of us are suited to perceived conventional mealtimes. Thank you. Report