You’ve heard it before. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” but what does that really mean?
Although it is hard to argue its importance over other meals and snacks (nourishing your body is always important!), breakfast is an essential meal that helps keep energy levels stable, reduce brain fog, and increase the amount of nutrients you are able to consume in a day.
When your body wakes it is in a fasted state, meaning you likely have not eaten in the past 8-12 hours and your figurative tank is running on empty. Although bodies can get accustomed to running on empty when in a starved state, similar to your car, your body is able to run more efficiently when it has regular fuel. We can also think about your energy levels and your metabolism as a fire. When a fire is not being fed regularly it will dwindle down to embers, however, when you throw a piece of newspaper into it, the fire is able to increase in size and burn more efficiently. Your metabolism works in a similar way, when you are not eating on a consistent basis, restricting/dieting, or going long periods without food, your metabolism will slow down to conserve energy. This is a protective mechanism your body employs and is actually a beneficial way your body works to protect you and keep you functioning.
But should you eat breakfast if you don’t feel hungry in the morning?
Some individuals report lack of hunger and even the presence of nausea in the morning which is often mistaken as a sign to not eat. Although it may seem counterintuitive, nausea can be a hunger cue. Nausea is your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t quite right and having it in the morning can be a sign of low blood sugar and unidentified hunger. If you find yourself not feeling hungry in the morning, it may be helpful to note again that your body can become accustomed to skipping breakfast and going long periods of time without food. Lack of hunger first thing in the morning isn’t a sign from your body to skip eating.
Yes, that’s right. If you are practicing or exploring intuitive eating it may sound strange to not take a hunger/fullness cue into account but intuitive eating is about more than eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. It also involves supporting your body’s needs, eating consistently, and honoring different types of hunger.
What if you don’t like breakfast food?
Well then I have great news, you don’t have to eat it! One of the beautiful parts of improving your relationship with food is that you learn to ditch any and all food rules. You do not have to eat traditional breakfast foods in the morning just because that is what most people do. You have full permission to eat the foods that sound good to you and feel good in your body. Leftover spaghetti for breakfast? Why not. Tuna salad on a whole wheat roll at 7am? Honestly, it sounds delicious. You are not under the self imposed restraint of eating only “normal” breakfast foods. If we can have “breakfast for dinner” why can’t we have “dinner for breakfast”? These rules, like many rules based around food and eating, are arbitrary.
While you by no means need to eat traditional breakfast food, there is a wide variety that you can try. Here are a few examples:
- Overnight oatmeal – Although it involves some prep the night before, this is a great option that can be tailored to whatever you have on hand. Feel free to throw in additions like protein powder, frozen berries, nut butter, chia seeds, and more.
- Avocado toast – A great combination of fat and carbohydrates, add a fried egg on top for additional protein!
- Built up yogurt bowl – Spice up a carton of yogurt by adding granola, berries, banana slices, or whatever else you have on hand!
- Simple breakfast sandwich – Throw together a quick breakfast on the go with your favorite carb (try an english muffin, bagel, even a wrap) and add a fried egg and your favorite additions.
- Smoothie – A breakfast classic, beef up the nutrient content by adding in frozen spinach, protein powder, frozen berries, yogurt/kefir, and more!
Although there are benefits, the choice to eat or skip breakfast is always yours, you have full body autonomy to choose what works best for you.
A note on coffee:
While coffee is a WONDERFUL beverage and perfect addition to breakfast (or really any time of day) it does not contain calories, protein, or fiber and will likely not provide long term satiety. For some, drinking coffee on an empty stomach can increase anxiety, prevalence of headaches in the morning, and even GI issues. It may be helpful to consider having your morning cup of joe alongside a nourishing breakfast to ensure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to function properly.
Written by Emily Adkisson, RDN