So You Want to Start Eating Breakfast

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
by Trinh Le, MPH, RD
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So You Want to Start Eating Breakfast

If you’ve sought professional weight loss advice you’ve likely heard that breakfast skipping is a big no-no, so is it? When it comes to losing weight it’s useful to establish habits that are helpful to you–eating breakfast may be one of them.

Breakfast is no magic weight loss pill, but eating breakfast daily (even if it’s just a small bowl of oatmeal) may help you feel more energized and committed to making healthy choices throughout the day simply because you got a healthy head start! The actual science is shaky on whether skipping breakfast will put a dent in your weight loss, but there are some valid reasons why it might not be a good idea:

  • Hungry at the wrong time and place  Hunger is a huge weight loss hurdle, and skipping breakfast may make it hard to resist those free donuts in the break room or tempting vending machine snacks.
  • Making not-so-healthy choices  Hunger can cloud your judgment making you more likely to chow down on whatever is within arms reach. Unfortunately sugary, high calorie snacks make up a big part of our eating environment which can really add up if you’re not careful.
  • Overcompensating at other meals  You think you’re saving yourself some calories until lunch rolls ‘round and suddenly you feel like you can eat for two.
  • Missing out on healthier choices  If you’re not eating breakfast you’re missing out on an opportunity to sneak some important nutrients into your diet, like fiber and B vitamins from whole grains, calcium and protein from dairy and non-dairy milks, vitamin C and potassium from fruits–all of which are are commonly eaten in the morning.

Not all of us are born breakfast eaters but here are some key takeaways for those of us who want to start making breakfast a morning ritual:

1. Make breakfast the night before. Convenience is key especially if you like to hit the snooze button. Look for recipes that can be made the night before like delicious slow-cooker apple oatmeal, overnight chia seed pudding, oatmeal chocolate chip breakfast cookies, and so forth.

2. Rethink variety in your strategy. A healthy diet is a varied diet, but it’s okay to eat the same healthy foods for breakfast everyday if it’s more convenient for you. Just strive to get variety into lunch and dinner.

3. Don’t treat breakfast as the king of meals. The typical continental breakfast (think pancake, eggs, sausage, muffins, fruits) is elaborate and can cut into your time and calories. Save the more elaborate breakfasts for weekends or special occasions, and treat your everyday breakfast more like a nutritious morning snack.

4. Grocery shop for grab and go. Some days you just don’t have the energy to make breakfast the night before or the day of. Plan to pick up 2-3 options for whole grains, lean protein and fruit from the grocery store. Then, leave them in plain sight so that you can easily grab them as you’re flying out the door.

  • GRAINS: whole grain tortilla, bagel, pita, crackers, instant oatmeal (just watch out for those with lots of added sugar), whole grain bread
  • PROTEIN: a small carton of reduced-fat milk (dairy and non-dairy), hard boiled egg, reduced-fat string cheese, cottage cheese, Greek or regular yogurt, individual packets of nut butters for spreading on whole grain toast, nuts, hummus, sliced turkey and ham
  • FRUIT: banana, apple, orange, raisins, grapes, berries

5. Don’t beat yourself up about breakfast. It’s great that you want to make breakfast a healthy habit, but all habits take time to form, so don’t stress! If you did skip, tracking your calories throughout the day can help you eat your other meals without overcompensating for the calories that you didn’t eat at breakfast.

Have other suggestions for fitting breakfast into your busy day? Share in the comments below.

About the Author

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh is a registered dietitian by day, blogger at Fearless Food RD by night. She loves helping folks develop a better relationship with food, which includes lots of cooking, eating and learning about nutrition. When she’s not snapping mouthwatering shots of (mostly) healthy food, you can find Trinh HIIT-ing it at her local gym. For more, connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.


12 responses to “So You Want to Start Eating Breakfast”

  1. Avatar Jwhited71 says:

    Meal timing is about personal preference and what you can adhere to. Have lost 127 lbs without eating breakfast. The science isn’t sketchy you just might need to do more research, but that goes for most MFP blogs.

    • Avatar Peasnsoup says:

      I prefer not to eat breakfast, never have, and have never been overweight. I highly doubt that there’s a correlation between breakfast and maintaining a healthy weight, and if there is, then I guess I’m just an outlier. Congrats on your weight loss, I agree it’s really just a matter of preference.

      • Avatar anddarling1 says:

        You guys might just be outliers, or maybe I’m the outlier. If I don’t eat breakfast I’m almost guaranteed to get hungry and snack on something (which tends to be unhealthy snacks since they’re easier to come by) or choosing an unhealthy lunch or just eating more than I need at lunch. If I don’t eat breakfast there is a 95% chance I’ll end up eating more calories than I should.

  2. Avatar MFP User says:

    I’m so glad to see MFP’s Hello Healthy blog posts are finally shifting away from derp and getting more sensible and balanced; this is a good article with sensible advice. However, you might want to look up the definition of “continental breakfast” — it doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.

  3. Avatar Kevin Timmons says:

    Continental breakfasts consist of fruits grains pastries tea and coffee. Normally. But for all you article knit pickers I have seen many hotel breakfasts with sausage and eggs, still under the setting of continental. It really doesn’t friggen matter. As for the person who lost 127 lbs, first off great for you. However, you will hit a plateau, and depending on what type of body composition you are going for, long term, eating in the morning will be important in regulating your weight. This article was also written for those that wanted to start eating breakfast, not for those who choose not to.

    • Avatar MFP User says:

      The correct phrase is “nit-picker.” As in, one who insists on the meticulous and vigilant eradication of errors, as one who picks nits (flea/lice eggs) must if they are to be rid of pests. 😛

      But also, just because a hotel uses a term incorrectly doesn’t mean everyone else should too. While I agree that most continental Europeans may indeed eat grains + fruit + pastry and coffee for breakfast, that doesn’t mean that’s what the phrase “continental breakfast” means. It’s a phrase with a specific definition, not simply a description of what continental Europeans do for their morning meal. And by definition, a “continental breakfast” is a light breakfast of coffee and bread. Check with any reputable reference book.

      Anyone who uses it otherwise — including hotels — doesn’t know what the phrase actually means.

      • Avatar KevinTimmons says:

        I know what a nitpicker is, its a phone auto correct problem. As it also nitpicker or is it nit-picker, cause Google’s word dictionary recognized is without. Point being, nobody cares about the misuse of the term continental breakfast. If you do, well your life must be quite dull. I’m sure it started out as a coffee and bread, light breakfast thing, as it was cost effective for hotel chains. However, overtime they added options, but most still fall under a light breakfast. So what the problem? They gave eggs as a choice? The point she was getting across was still made, as Continental style breakfasts have been given a different meaning here in the states. Much like most things Americans have destroyed culturally. So get over it, this is america, we take things pervert them and make them our own. You could head on down to Texas and get yourself a clear coke. Or celebrate pretty much any american recognized holiday and you would be partaking in a perverted mess of what were originally, something completely different. You would blow your brains out if only you realized all of the things we get completely wrong, but hey Americans know exactly what a friggen continental breakfast is, and when we go down stairs in the morning it sure as heck better not be only bread and coffee.

  4. Avatar Mike P. says:

    My fast but mostly healthy breakfat during the week is two eggo nutri grain waffles, two fully cooked turkey breakfast sausage and a cup of coffee with a small amount of half and half and sugar. Low calorie and works pretty well as far as weight loss. As the article statesvI save higher calorie breakfasts for weekends only.

  5. Avatar lwright311 says:

    I have a breakfast sandwich maker and LOVE it for making convenient healthy breakfasts. In about 5 min, I can make a egg white, ham, spinach and low fat cheese on a whole grain english muffin.

  6. Avatar Rchelle says:

    My problem is I am barely ever hungry for breakfast. As I am typing now it’s 10 am and still can’t. I am a SF distributor and I take it myself. I have never been a breakfast person so now it’s even worse. Going to start juicing if it doesn’t get better. Tried oatmeal, egg w/ avocado…..only can do thos a few days then back to my old habit.

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