Should You Skip Breakfast? (Sorry, the Answer Is Still No)

A recent study showed that adults who skipped breakfast had significantly poorer overall diet quality compared to those who ate breakfast.

January 31, 2022

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Photo by: Marshall Troy ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Marshall Troy, 2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

When it comes to breakfast, there’s always been a looming debate: Does skipping breakfast matter when it comes to body weight? There have been numerous studies showing both sides, but when registered dietitians weigh in, the answer is always to eat breakfast daily.

The Research

A 2021 study published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society examined the diet of adults who consumed breakfast versus skipped breakfast on diet quality. Data from over 30,000 adults of at least 19 years of age were looked at from the 2005 to 2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Researchers found that breakfast skippers ate significantly more calories, carbs, total fat, saturated fat and added sugar during lunch, dinner and snacks compared to those who ate breakfast. Adults who skipped breakfast were also less likely to meet the recommended daily intake for a myriad of nutrients, including folate, calcium, iron, vitamins A, C, and D, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. As such, researchers concluded that adults who skipped breakfast had significantly poorer overall diet quality compared to those who ate breakfast.

However, a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that skipping breakfast doesn't affect weight loss in overweight and obese dieters. Researchers examined the effect of skipping or eating breakfast on weight loss in 309 healthy overweight and obese people who ranged in age from 20 to 65. One group ate breakfast before 10 a.m., while the second group didn't eat anything before 11 a.m. A third group consisting of 44 people who normally skipped breakfast and 52 people who normally ate breakfast were not given any instruction.

The study found that eating or skipping breakfast did not affect weight loss one way or the other.

Another set of data suggests breakfast can play a beneficial role in weight control. The National Weight Control Registry follows people who have lost 30 pounds or more and have kept it off for at least one year. Participants in the registry, which is run by a team of researchers from Brown Medical School and the University of Colorado, have lost an average of 66 pounds and have kept it off for 5 1/2 years; 78% of those participants report eating breakfast every day.

The Verdict

Breakfast is the first opportunity of the day to take in important nutrients, especially those that are lacking in the American diet, such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fiber. Getting in the habit of skipping breakfast means missing out on a regular timeframe to get these nutrients. Breakfast also offers a chance to incorporate important foods and food groups — including dairy, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein — into one's diet.

The Time Factor

One of the biggest challenges to eating breakfast is time. To overcome this obstacle, here are five simple breakfast ideas, no recipes required:

  • Whole-grain cereal and skim or low-fat milk
  • Single-serve container of vanilla Greek yogurt topped with 1 cup of berries of choice
  • Whole-grain breakfast bar and a fruit (like apple, pear, banana)
  • Hard-boiled egg (pre-cooked the night before) and a cheese stick
  • 1 slice whole grain bread and 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

And if you love to cook, here are five easy recipes that can be whipped up in 10 minutes or less:

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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