A New Way to Approach Breakfast

Sarah Woehler
by Sarah Woehler
Share it:
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.

About the Author

Sarah Woehler
Sarah Woehler
Sarah is a writer with a food and wellness focus based in San Francisco, California. She’s a regular contributor to MyFitnessPal, mindbodygreen, and Career Contessa, and has written for The Muse, Thought Catalog, among others. Connect with Sarah on her website or on social at InstagramFacebook, or Twitter.


24 responses to “A New Way to Approach Breakfast”

  1. Avatar rcymozart says:

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

    • Avatar Jon says:

      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.

      • Avatar Jon says:

        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.

        • Avatar Bob Jones says:

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

          • Avatar Tam Tillman Owen says:

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

          • Avatar Bob Jones says:

            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.

  2. Avatar Tim Greig says:

    ‘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?

    • Avatar Tony Lopes says:

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

    • Avatar Una says:

      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!’

  3. Avatar EchoDeltaEcho says:

    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.

  4. Avatar Greg & Huan of Old says:

    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?!

    • Avatar #MyHouse says:

      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.

      • Avatar Greg & Huan of Old says:

        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.)

          • Avatar Greg & Huan of Old says:

            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!

        • Avatar Una says:

          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!

    • Avatar Una says:

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

  5. 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.

  6. Avatar Denise Simonis Burroughs says:

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

  7. Avatar Nic says:

    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.

  8. Avatar Mark Crawford says:

    stop eating muffins everyday!

  9. Avatar Fleur Williamson says:

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

  10. Avatar Nadja Devantier Stengaard says:

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MyFitnessPal desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest health and fitness advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.