Is "The Most Important Meal Of The Day" Actually That Necessary?



How important is breakfast really? We're told all our lives that it's the most important meal of the day, but is it? And if it really is super necessary, what should we be eating?

Ah, the age old brekkie question with an answer that might frustrate you; it’s not a simple "yes" or "no." It's like this: If you already eat breakfast, then continue to do so. And if you do not eat breakfast, you don’t necessarily need to start.

In other words, nothing bad will happen to you if you simply keep on keeping on with your breakfast routine. That said, let’s breakdown some common breakfast misconceptions, with a few truths that'll help see you through breakfast decision-making that works for you.

Eating breakfast does not boost your metabolism  

Nope, eating breakfast in the morning doesn’t kick start or supercharge your metabolism and doesn’t make you healthier. Breaking down food only accounts for 10 to 15 percent of your total metabolism activity and there’s no clear evidence breakfast has a strong effect.

However, it does help with improved concentration early in the morning in kids. Yes, research shows that when children younger than 13 who eat breakfast pay more attention in class and do better on school tasks. So for all you parents, out there make sure your kiddos grab something to eat before running off to class, no question.

Eating breakfast leads to better habits during the day

This is only true on an individual basis. If you eat breakfast, then start skipping breakfast, this increases the chances of eating less healthy stuff later in the day. It’s definitely okay to be hungry every now and again if you’re busy, but Level 5 Hangry is not ideal and does not create an enjoyable meal experience.

This hunger can also carry into dinner for some folks. Dinner is usually pretty close to when the body’s natural circadian rhythm is preparing for rest for the night. So shifting your meals to later in the day is not beneficial. Think of it this way; you are fueling your body to get ready for bed, which is an ineffective use of fuel.

There isn’t a perfect breakfast food and skipping it doesn’t make you a bad person

There is an entire sector of the food industry dedicated to breakfast foods like cereal, eggs, pastries, meal replacement shakes/bars, etc. But breakfast has been heavily advertised as the most important meal of the day as a way to increase sales of products.

It is clearly seen in cereal, especially since it was first fortified with vitamins and minerals. But later on, it seems that the push for breakfast was most successful when it was tied to a bacon campaign. Yes, a bacon company wanted to boost sales, and the infamous PR king, Edward Bernays, had THOUSANDS of doctors sign a petition to agree that a high protein breakfast was more beneficial than a light breakfast.

All of this was done in a completely unethical manner, since Bernays started the petition with a biased doctor already working for the company. As a result, Bernays has the doctor’s endorsements released to countless media outlets, promoting the high protein bacon as a key component of a “healthy” breakfast. And he did the same thing with eggs, reportedly. Yup.

Next time you hear “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” take notice of who is sending the message. And of course, eat whatever, whenever it feels right.

Alexandra Reed is a registered dietician and nutrition coach.

Before making any changes to your diet or nutrition plan, be sure to personally consult with your doctor or a registered dietician/healthcare provider first. 

Words: Alexandra Reed
Photo: Daria Kobayashi Ritch