How often do you eat breakfast simply because you think you should? You eat it because, if you don’t your metabolism will crash or it will cause you to overeat the rest of the day. So you grab something quick–a bar, a shake, or a microwavable sandwich–because something is better than nothing, right? You do this even if you aren’t hungry. Because eating breakfast is healthy and you need to fuel up for the day. Right?
In truth, the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” belief mostly benefits cereal manufacturers. Daily large breakfast is pretty much a North American tradition. Many people in France, for example, skip breakfast in favor of coffee. If they do eat breakfast it is called petit déjeuner, or “little lunch,” and it is kept small, usually mid-morning–like our brunch, but with a bowl of fruit or a tiny pastry enjoyed with friends instead of an all you can eat buffet or a donut smashed in the car on the way to work.
While healthy habits in the morning set you up for a healthier day, there is actually no conclusive scientific data to back up breakfast’s VIP status. The National Weight Control Registry–which monitors people who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for more than a year–offers up that 78% of their participants eat breakfast. (1) Which has been interpreted by those with an interest in such things to mean that breakfast is important to maintaining weight loss. However, nothing is being said about how many people who didn’t lose weight ate breakfast. We don’t know that number, so we can’t draw firm conclusions. Anyway, the National Weight Control Registry isn’t exactly representative of the population as a whole–77% are women, 82% are college educated, and 95% are Caucasian. (2)
In his book The Obesity Code, Dr. Jason Fung cites a 2013 systematic review (3) saying, “Authors who previously believed that breakfast protected against obesity interpreted the evidence as supportive. In fact, there are few controlled trials, and most of those show no protective effect from eating breakfast.”
But, wait, don’t we need to jump-start our metabolism early in the day to burn more calories? Actually, Mother Nature has that figured out with something called the “Dawn Phenomenon.” As part of our natural circadian rhythm, our bodies wake us up with a morning cocktail of growth hormone, cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine (that’s adrenalin, btw). This mix gives us a kick in the booty and stimulates the liver to make new glucose, giving us what we need to start our day. Furthermore, studies show that metabolism stays steady whether we eat breakfast or not. (4) (5)
Ok, but I need to eat breakfast so that I don’t overeat later in the day. How many times have you eaten breakfast even though you weren’t hungry? You do it because you are afraid of being hungry later or because you thought you should because it’s healthy to do so. We do it all the time, right? Now, how often have you observed that you weren’t hungry until you ate after which you actually became hungry? I know that happens to me. I’ve always been baffled by it until I understood the effects of hormones on hunger and satiety. Studies show that increased breakfast consumption is associated with greater overall intake in normal weight and obese subjects. (6) Eating a big breakfast does not change how much you will eat for lunch or dinner or the myriad of snacks you consume during the day. Therefore, people who eat breakfast end up consuming more calories during the day. Unfortunately, because breakfast doesn’t amp up metabolism all that much, these calories aren’t burned off. (4)
But I am so hungry in the morning. If you are truly hungry in the morning, not just conditioned to eat something, then eat. Hunger is your body telling you that it needs nutrients. However, if you are just eating because you think it’s healthy, please understand that this isn’t true. Ask yourself: Are you really hungry or just in the habit of eating at this time? If you eat now will you be more hungry later? If eating is a habit or it makes you more hungry, don’t do it. It will be okay!
If you do decide to eat in the morning, use some common sense. Choose to start your day with whole foods. Skip the highly refined carbohydrates, processed bars, and sugary breakfast cereals in favor of higher protein and fat in the morning. Don’t fall into the bacon trap. The dangers of processed foods don’t only apply to carbohydrates. Anything processed with chemicals or industrial machinery isn’t a good choice. This goes for smoothies, too. Check out the ingredients on that smoothie packet before you slurp it down in the name of health. Since breakfast is the most highly processed meal of the day for most Americans, skipping it may actually improve your health.
Fun Fact: Eggs, which have been villainized due to concerns about cholesterol, may actually improve your cholesterol by changing dangerous small LDL particles into larger, safer particles. (7) For a quick breakfast you can grab on the go, hardboil some eggs ahead of time or try this breakfast muffin recipe.
Egg Muffins (aka Quick and Dirty Keto Breakfast)
- 12 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon sea, Celtic or Himalayan salt
- Black pepper (optional)
- About 2 cups total of add-ins (choose two or three)
- diced mushrooms
- diced ham
- diced tomatoes
- green onions
- crumbled bacon
- diced bell pepper
- shredded cheese
- crumbled feta or bleu cheese
- herbs and spices (your choice; garlic, cayenne, oregano, or cilantro are nice)
- anything else you can think of
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Use a silicone muffin pan or grease a regular pan with coconut oil or olive oil spray. You can also use muffin tin liners.
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs well. Mix in your choice of ingredients.
Scoop 1/3 cup for each muffin. Make sure your add-ins are evenly distributed between muffins.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Serve warm with plain Greek yogurt and sugar-free salsa, or keep in the fridge for up to a week. Grab a couple on your way out the door. I used to eat these cold before yoga class all of the time.
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