Is breakfast actually the most important meal of the day? And if the answer to that is yes, then millions are wondering what to eat for breakfast. Many of us grew up starting the day with cereal, toast, bagels, or the occasional piece of bacon, but experts now warn against consuming those sorts of sugary, unrefined foods first thing. We investigated what we should be having instead.
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
This is a question that doesn’t actually have a firm answer. While studies have shown that people who eat breakfast generally tend to be healthier and those who skip it are often found to have a poorer quality diet and are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, some of these results could be explained by the fact that breakfast eaters tend to make healthier choices at other mealtimes.
With time-restricted eating methods, such as intermittent fasting, now increasingly mainstream, where does that leave us on the subject of breakfast? “It’s a matter of personal physiology and lifestyle,” says nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson, an expert in functional health. “For some, kick-starting the day with an early meal fuels their morning activities and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Others may find they function better without it. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Listening to your body is key.”
What to eat for breakfast
If you do like to eat breakfast, it’s important to ensure you’re consuming the right kinds of foods, because the wrong ones can set you up for an unhealthy day ahead. “A balanced and healthy breakfast should ideally have a combination of fiber, good fats, and protein,” says Ferguson. “These nutrients work together to slow down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, which helps maintain a feeling of fullness and provides a steady energy release.”
Avoid carbohydrate-heavy options, like cereal and toast, as they cause “rapid spikes in glucose and insulin levels, leading to a roller coaster of energy highs and lows throughout the day,” Ferguson continues. Anything that contains refined sugars or simple carbohydrates should be avoided, and remember that the majority of those cereal boxes that claim to be packed with nutrients actually possess ingredients lists that tell a different story: Always read the label.
A good breakfast might include vegetable omelets; raw (natural and sugar-free) yogurt or kefir (both of which are good for your gut) with nuts, seeds, and berries; or the classics like avocado, eggs, and/or smoked salmon. It might not feel natural first thing in the morning, but load up on vegetables and replace normal bread with whole-grain types, such as German rye or sourdough. Eat this way and you’ll avoid constant fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, and the inevitable crash in mood and energy and the hunger pangs that follow.
Should I skip breakfast?
Where does time-restricted eating fit into all this? If you are someone who has learned about the health benefits that shortening your daily eating window can have on your health and currently skip breakfast as a way of doing it, you might want to think again.