Why You Shouldn't Skip Breakfast, Even If You're Not Hungry

It might not seem worth it to make a morning meal, but there can be payoffs later in the day.
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It’s always said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But what if you’re never hungry in the morning and don’t like eating breakfast? Should you eat something anyway?

Some nutritionists say yes.

“For most people, there is a benefit to eating breakfast even when not hungry,” Rahaf Al Bochi, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition, told HuffPost. “Breakfast helps to break the overnight fast and helps to kickstart and fuel your day.”

Eating breakfast also helps you feel less “hangry” later on and inspires you to make more mindful food choices at other mealtimes, she explained.

Even though the benefits of eating breakfast have been well documented, not everyone eats a morning meal. More than 25% don’t eat breakfast regularly, and almost 70% say they’re not willing to wake up before 8 a.m. to make something to eat, according to a survey by OnePoll on behalf of Evolution Fresh.

Skipping breakfast from time to time is fine, but if you do it regularly, nutritionists say you should dig deeper into your daily eating habits to better understand your hunger cues and what affects your morning-time hunger.

Why You Should Try Eating Something In The Morning

It’s best to eat something within two hours of waking up, said Christina Meyer-Jax, standard process nutrition chair and assistant professor at Northwestern Health Sciences University.

Research shows eating within this timeframe provides energy, supports the metabolism, keeps blood sugar in check, maintains a healthy weight, promotes heart health and improves cognitive function and mental health.

“But most of these benefits are ultimately dependent on choosing the right foods,” Meyer-Jax said. That means protein, like lean meats and eggs; healthy fats, like nuts and seeds; complex carbohydrates, like berries and other high-fiber fruits; and whole grains with no added sugar.

“These foods work together to help refuel, maintain energy throughout the day, and reduce hunger and cravings,” she said, adding that drinking a glass of water first thing will hydrate the body and prevent overeating. Too much caffeine from coffee or tea without eating or drinking water could make you feel jittery.

Avoid eating sugar and refined carbs for breakfast, which can cause your blood sugar to spike and your energy levels to crash. Long term, Meyer-Jax said these habits could boost inflammation in the body.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be a complex meal, though. Al Bochi said eating a banana and nut butter, Greek yogurt and berries, or a protein shake will keep you satisfied and give you energy.

If you work out in the morning, try to eat a complex carb-rich snack about 30 minutes before exercising, said Anna Smith, a registered dietician at food tracking app Lose It. The carbs provide your body with a boost of energy to get through your routine.

Why You Should Better Understand Your Hunger Signals

Skipping breakfast occasionally if you’re not hungry is fine, Smith said. But, if it happens often, she recommends examining your eating habits to understand why you’re not hungry in the morning.

“If you find yourself feeling sluggish mid-morning or with increased hunger as the day goes on, it might be a better idea to eat a balanced breakfast as this meal could keep you feeling more nourished and energized throughout the day,” she explained.

Instead of forcing yourself to eat when you’re not hungry, Meyer-Jax encourages mindful eating and learning to recognize your body’s needs and hunger cues, like a growling stomach, shakiness, headaches or low energy levels.

Hunger pangs might actually make some people’s stomachs feel unsettled so they don’t want to eat. But, Meyer-Jax said eating something small can ease digestion and boost your metabolic enzymes and hormones to make you feel satiated.

Conditions like acid reflux, heartburn, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) might affect someone’s desire to eat, too. Smith said certain medications, having a cold, or pregnancy-related nausea may decrease appetite, especially in the morning.

If you have other symptoms, along with not wanting to eat breakfast, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about it all, she recommended.

How Your Nighttime Habits Influence Your Morning Hunger

Not wanting to eat breakfast could be related to other aspects of your daily life, including your busy schedule and nighttime routine.

“Make sure you’re building in time into your morning routine so you actually allow yourself the opportunity to eat an enjoyable breakfast,” Smith said.

Preparing your breakfast the night before, such as adding smoothie ingredients to the blender and storing everything in the fridge, will save you time in the morning, Meyer-Jax said. Or eat dinner leftovers for breakfast — evening meals tend to be more balanced with protein, high-fiber carbs, and vegetables, which are better than some typical breakfast foods like sugary cereals or granola bars.

Eating a lighter dinner at least two hours before bedtime increases the likelihood that you’ll wake up hungry, Meyer-Jax said, “Overeating at night can affect hunger cues the next morning, and sleeping on a full stomach can lead to sleep disturbance and an increase in fat storage.”

Getting plenty of sleep a night ensures that you’re rested and helps regulate the hormones that cause cravings for foods higher in fat and sugar, she added.

“We all make better choices with a restful night’s sleep so aiming for seven to nine hours per night is usually a good idea,” Smith said.

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