A New Way to Approach Breakfast

by Sarah Woehler
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A New Way to Approach Breakfast

Breakfast has been touted as the most important meal of the day for so long we’ve taken it as truth and haven’t bothered to question it. However, the popularity of intermittent fasting, and research backing it up as a potential weight-loss tool, has flipped the concept of traditional meals and mealtimes on its head.

So now, the question of whether or not to eat breakfast really comes down to you — and the question isn’t whether to eat breakfast, but more like when and what. If your a.m. meal happens immediately after you get out of bed or several hours later, it doesn’t matter as much as having that first meal. Breakfast should be eaten when you’re hungry, not necessarily the second you get out of bed. In some cases, your stomach may only begin to growl around 10 a.m.


Beyond the timing of the meal, consider what you’re eating. This study suggests children under 18 perform better in school when they’ve consumed a healthy breakfast. That’s why feeding your kids a fiber-packed bowl of oatmeal or eggs and whole-wheat toast before school is critical. And if you’re at the office when hunger strikes, be prepared to have something healthy on hand so your blood sugar levels don’t dip too low, along with your energy.

“The quality of this first meal is essential,” says Sidney Fry, MS, RD, adding that “convenience causes many of us to grab overly sugared, refined carbohydrate-based items that may actually have a huge negative impact on our health (think: donuts, pastries, muffins and bagels). Opt for protein and/or fiber-rich options like eggs, Greek yogurt, avocado toast or a spoonful of peanut butter.”


Since breakfast is breaking the fast of many hours since dinner, there is a concern that if you go too long without food, you may overeat at your next meal. Avoid this by having healthy snacks at the ready once that hunger finally hits. “Even just a bite or two of something nutrient-dense can make a difference,” says Fry. This is also the case for why eating every 3–4 hours is so important.


For many, relabeling breakfast instead as Meal 1 might take some pressure off and help us achieve and maintain our personal health goals. Try re-thinking the notion of breakfast, lunch or dinner  instead as Meal 1, Meal 2 and Meal 3. According to the American Heart Association, “intentional eating with mindful attention to the timing and frequency of eating occasions could lead to healthier lifestyle and cardiometabolic risk factor management.” With this approach, your first meal doesn’t have to be eaten at any particular time, just when you begin to feel hunger pangs.

This mindset expands the possibility for breakfast to include more than just breakfast food. For example, consider starting with a hot bowl of soup — a filling meal that you may find especially satisfying as the days get colder. And let’s be honest: There’s nothing quite like “breakfast for dinner” some nights.


Our bodies are powerful engines. If we listen to them they tell us things: when we’re hungry, when we’re full, when our energy levels are off. That’s why paying attention is really the key to managing our hunger levels. So, if you’re hungry first thing in the morning, then eat! And if you’re not, hold off until you are. Your body will let you know.


  • rcymozart

    Can the MFP app be updated to support a Meal 1/2/3 concept instead of how it is now?

    • Jon

      Yup…go to Food – Settings. Toward the bottom you will see the meal titles, which you can change to what you want to call them.

      • Jon

        Correction….the section is about half way down. There are 6 text boxes, so you can have up to 6 meals a day with MFP. It just defaults to the 4 (Bkft/Lunch/Dinner/Snacks), since that is how most break up their eating during the day.

        • Bob Jones

          Is this just for Gold members? I’m not seeing this either online or or the app on my tablet.

          • Tam Tillman Owen

            Go to Settings, Diary Settings, and then Customize Meal Names.

          • Bob Jones

            Hmmm…I’m not seeing Diary settings, or a diary at all for that matter…seems there used to be one?? We are talking the myplate area on the livestrong site…right? I track everything I eat there and/or the myplate app on my tablet which syncs to the site so both are up to date.

  • Tim Greig

    ‘Breakfast’ does not mean you have to eat it at a particular time either. Just as breakfast will break your fast so will meal 1. Are people really this superficial?

    • Tony Lopes

      Trying to figure out if you’re trying to be helpful or sarcastic, not getting it… people being superficial?

    • Una

      You’re either a bit to clever or sarcastic for comfort! Superficial? What a dreadful word to use for folk who may not have had your ‘education!’

  • EchoDeltaEcho

    I like the suggestion of using Meal 1, Meal 2, and etc. This idea changed how I think of meal planning. My new ‘Settings’ are: Meals 1, 2, & 3; Snacks 1 & 2; and one Beverages. Before, my Meal setting had included ‘times’ and I had not thought of how this was regimenting me to eat at particular times of day, rather than when I am hungry.

  • Greg & Huan of Old

    Listen to your mother. She was right when she told you to sit up straight, and she was right when she said eat your damn breakfast. Why is everyone trying to “reinvent” what we have been doing since we started walking upright?!

    • #MyHouse

      Actually…Uh…We were not eating three meals a day when we started “walking upright.” We weren’t that lucky/plush with food. We ate when we found it, or killed it, and that was sometimes not for days.

      • Greg & Huan of Old

        Yup, your absolutely right. And many doctors now believe the rising levels of diabetes are due to the fact that we never “fast” any more when we are young. But I am an old guy (who is still in really great shape), and I grew up on a farm where we really did work all day. And in my experience, Mom was right – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Period. Not really that complicated.

        • I believe it, Greg. Farm work is no effing joke! But perhaps that breakfast was your most important meal of the day BECAUSE you spent the day busting your a** with physical labor. Perhaps for people like me, who spend most of the day in front of the CPU, breakfast isn’t that important? Dunno. Remains to be seen! (I also have a crazy schedule–I’m a full-time DJ. So I’m in some weird category to begin with.)

          • Greg & Huan of Old

            Sounds like you go hard too! In the end, I think fasting is great, and the evidence suggests it has many benefits. And of course people have been fasting for thousands of years too. I know philosophers and spiritual leaders – like Jesus – fasted to clear their minds. So I guess the meal 1, 2, 3 plan certainly works, especially for “unconventional” schedules!

        • Una

          You would if you were either Catholic, Jewish or Muslim as it’s inherent in those faiths- and give what you save to charity for those with no good at all!

    • Una

      We never ate breakfast as a family – so middle class – and we weighed less and were never ill – and never hungry!

  • This is very timely for me. I recently tried intermittent fasting, and I loved it. It’s made me realize how much I overeat, and how little calories I actually need to get me through the day. My first day trying it, I didn’t eat breakfast, didn’t eat lunch, didn’t put a thing in my mouth (other than a toothbrush…and water) until 5pm, and I felt fantastic. I noticed that, on days when not fasting, if I had breakfast when I woke, then every few hours I was hungry. It was almost as if…pushing my metabolism forward first thing in the morning meant it would let me know when it needed another push, and that was frequently throughout the day. Not-to-mention the fact that I’m on my CPU doing marketing all day. Doesn’t take many calories to rev that engine.

  • Denise Simonis Burroughs

    What about working out. 2 of my weekly workouts are at 8:30 am. Do you recommend eating before working out?

    • Chris Harden

      Fasted morning workouts are the best☺

  • Nic

    Finally! I’m never hungry first thing in the morning. I like to feel hungry before I eat. Whenever I eat breakfast because I “should,” I always end up eating too much for the day over all. I prefer a hearty meal when I am hungry rather than a bunch of little meals, that I don’t enjoy, when I am not.

  • Mark Crawford

    stop eating muffins everyday!

  • Fleur Williamson

    The paid version allows you to re-name your meal titles to anything you want. eg: Meal 1, Meal 2, Meal 3.

  • Nadja Devantier Stengaard

    You Can change the names of your meals in the diary evne in the free version