Skipping breakfast won't wreck your diet, after all

A close up view of a bowl full of granola on a chequered green towel.
For the early-bird who awakens ready for a morning meal, a healthy, calorie-controlled breakfast is a definite plus.Today
By Madelyn Fernstrom, Diet and nutrition editor

If hectic mornings leave you no time for breakfast, don't worry. Skipping the morning meal won't wreck your weight loss plan or cause you to gain weight, surprising new research suggests. 

While eating breakfast is widely thought to be a key factor in both preventing obesity and weight loss, scientific evidence doesn't support "eating by the clock," according to a recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Researcher Dr. David Allison and colleagues compared the results of nearly 100 studies examining weight change and breakfast consumption. They found the scientific data lacking to definitively support a link between eating breakfast and weight loss, or skipping breakfast and weight gain. There was no clear "cause and effect."

The bottom line is, let your stomach be your guide. Eating breakfast is just one positive habit that can support, but not replace, an overall weight loss effort. It’s the total effort that counts most for weight loss, including daily modest calorie reductions, daily walking, adequate sleep, and stress management. The timing and calorie and nutrient content is also important, as well as an individual’s personal daily schedule.

In other words, you don’t need to wake up, bleary-eyed to prepare a breakfast of scrambled eggs, especially if you are not hungry. A simple breakfast can be as easy as a large skim-milk latte sometime in the morning.  

For the early-bird who awakens ready for a morning meal, a healthy, calorie-controlled breakfast is a definite plus. And many people successfully balance the breakfast issue by skipping it altogether, or having a small meal of around 100 calories (a fruit, a small low-fat plain yogurt, a small latte) and then an early lunch to avoid being overhungry (that often leads to overeating).

An individual’s daily personal schedule should determine both the time of breakfast consumption, and the type and size of the meal selected. You have more flexibility about what to eat, selecting options that can be prepared at home, eaten in transit, or purchased at a restaurant.  

And breakfast can serve several purposes for people trying to lose weight, ranging from a mental commitment to a calorie-controlled day, to preventing overeating during lunch.

For dieters and non-dieters alike, make smart choices when it comes to choosing a breakfast meal. Listen to your body, and pace your eating to optimize your own efforts.