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Healthy Breakfast for Adults

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

Get helpful tips to create and maintain a healthy breakfast for adults.

Breakfast has long been described as the most important meal of the day. Yet, with the rise of trendy eating styles such as intermittent fasting, many people are abandoning the morning meal and breaking their fast later in the day. With conflicting advice, it can be difficult to know whether or not breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a style of eating that has been suggested by some to help manage weight loss, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and sleep problems. The most popular version of intermittent fasting is time-restricted fasting, where a person limits caloric intake to a specific window of time every day, typically eight to 12 hours. Essentially, a person would eat breakfast closer to a traditional lunchtime and stop eating after dinner. Since most Americans eat continuously over a span of 15 hours per day, it logically follows that reducing the number of eating opportunities may be an effective way to lose weight. One study found that participants with metabolic syndrome who combined eating during a 10-hour window with medications had the ability to better manage their disease. 

Many claims about intermittent fasting are based on anecdotal evidence; however, early research on the efficacy of intermittent fasting as a treatment for weight loss or other health conditions is emerging. More research is needed to determine whether fasting has long-term side effects such as nutrient deficiencies or health risks for certain populations. 

Benefits of Eating Breakfast

The importance of nutritious breakfast habits for weight management and chronic disease prevention continues to be supported by science: 

  • Weight loss: Recent research suggests that breakfast eaters experience a decrease in their body mass index compared with breakfast skippers, and that diet quality over time is associated positively with breakfast and family meal frequency. 
  • Weight maintenance: The habit of eating breakfast is strongly associated with weight loss maintenance. The National Weight Control Registry reports that 78% of people that lose weight and keep it off eat breakfast every day. 
  • Diet quality and a pattern of healthy eating support health and may be a factor in weight loss and disease prevention. Incorporating whole, minimally processed foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs and healthy fats and oils into a morning meal can help reduce cravings later in the day and lay the foundation for a day of healthy eating.  

Healthy Eating Starts with Families 

While the evidence for or against breakfast continues to be studied and debated, one thing is clear: breakfast positively impacts the academic success and cognitive development of children. Parents and adult figures can support the long-term health of children by role modeling healthy eating behaviors. Serving nutritious foods at regular mealtimes helps children grow into healthy eaters. Adults may choose to eat earlier or later in the morning, but encouraging breakfast for children can and should be prioritized for their long-term health and well-being. 

10-hour eating window may be key to better health. Institute of Food Technologists website. https://www.ift.org/iftnext/2020/january/10-hour-eating-window-may-be-key-to-better-health. Accessed February 26, 2020. 
Kahleova H, Lloren JI, Mashchak A, Hill M, Fraser GE. Meal frequency and timing are associated with changes in body mass index in Adventist health study 2. J Nutr. 2017:147(9);1722-1728. 
Lipsky LM, Nansel TR, Haynie DL, et al. Diet quality of US adolescents during the transition to adulthood: changes and predictors. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017:105(6);1424-1432. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.150029 
NWCR facts. The National Weight Control Registry website. http://www.nwcr.ws/research/. Accessed March 2, 2020. 
What is intermittent fasting? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/what-is-intermittent-fasting. Accessed February 26, 2020.