Breakfast is important for setting priorities. It’s very likely that someone, somewhere, at some point, told you one unbreakable rule: never skip breakfast. The morning meal is often touted as “the most important,” and everyone from your mother to your coach tends to preach this weighty statement.
But while this wisdom seems timeless and has been passed down from generation to generation, does it really make sense?
Overwhelmingly, they agreed that breakfast is essential for prioritization and you shouldn’t give it up if you can, but there are exceptions to this rule. And in some cases, it’s okay to skip breakfast in the morning.
What you eat is more important than when you eat it
“It’s important to speed up your metabolism in the morning by putting something in your stomach,” says cardiologist Steven Sinatra, MD. “But what’s more important is that you choose the right food for this.
There’s a big difference between a bowl of sugary cereal and a balanced plate of lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich fruits. Indeed, your goal in the morning is to choose nutritious foods that will help you feel full and satisfied so that you don’t starve to death by lunchtime.
“When foods with a low glycemic index are consumed, your insulin response is automatically controlled and your body absorbs nutrients over a longer period of time,” explains Dr. Sinatra.
Think about what happens when you drink a glass of wine on an empty stomach. The alcohol hits you fast, right? But if you combine that wine with nuts and cheese or even a full meal, it will have less of an effect because it is absorbed more slowly. “The same thing happens when you combine fatty and fiber-rich foods for breakfast, such as organic butter and oatmeal. The insulin response is slightly reduced,” he says.
Skipping breakfast can trigger cravings for junk food
Do you know the feeling when it’s been too long since your last meal? You’re tired, maybe a little nervous, and your head starts pounding.
According to certified nutrition counselor Jane Williams, if you don’t follow a specific, consistent eating pattern, skipping breakfast can create a negative cycle of food cravings that will continue throughout the day.
As soon as you satisfy your need for a snack once, you will continue to crave other foods, most of which are not good for you. “Not eating leads to a drop in blood sugar levels, causing you to ride a roller coaster, which in 90% of cases leads to excessive sugar intake. This affects insulin levels and can lead to weight gain, which creates serious health problems if it becomes a regular practice,” she warns.
If you’re not hungry, you shouldn’t eat breakfast
Many people aren’t exactly big on breakfast. In fact, according to Williams, you shouldn’t do it. However, you should also figure out why you’re not ready to eat from the moment you wake up. Do you often have big meals late at night? Or is your sleep schedule out of whack, disrupting your circadian rhythm that regulates hunger and appetite?
“It’s okay not to run to the kitchen right after the alarm goes off,” says Kate Thomas-Ayoub, MD, an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City who specializes in obesity. But it’s important to eat something within two to three hours of starting the day. This paves the way for stable gut health by getting your digestive system moving and also signals your metabolism to get going.
However, if you find that you’re never in the mood for a morning meal – and you’ve ruled out the reasons described above – it’s worth talking to your doctor or nutritionist, as there may be a hormonal imbalance that requires your attention.