You’ve heard this mantra over and over again, “Eat your breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day!” Is there any truth to it, or are we blindly complying with an inaccurate proverb? According to an NPR article, eating habits have changed, most significantly with the millennial generation. In previous years, breakfast, lunch, and dinner times were highly regimented and the idea of a “family meal” was imbedded in societal norms. Now, however, it seems that millenials are more irregular in their meal times and actually skip eating breakfast more often than older generations. This is an interesting finding. I think that eating behaviors can give insight as to what the values are for a particular time period. Family values were much more stressed back then. They aren’t completely gone now, but there is definitely a noticeable change in how the family unit is appreciated. Although an average job requires the employee to work five days a week starting at 9 a.m. and leaving at 5 p.m., there is an increasing demand to work beyond that five day, eight hour period. Because of this growing mentality that one must work beyond the set hours or days, meals are often skipped and they do not have the same importance or emphasis as they once had. This change is quite alarming to nutritionists and scientists alike. The motto of eating breakfast does not seem to apply to the younger generation, which goes against not only scientific research but also what they’ve grown up being told. And, naturally, anything that goes against a societal norm is “wrong.” Or is it?
Numerous studies have tried to show a correlation between not eating breakfast and being obese. The Huffington Post cited a 2013 study that analyzed the scientific backing behind such claims, and found that skipping breakfast did not cause obesity. David Ludwig, obesity researcher at Harvard School of Public Health, had said that the emphasis shouldn’t be on what time you eat, but rather, what you eat. For instance, if you are a habitual breakfast eater, but your breakfast consists of sugary foods such as donuts or cereals, you aren’t benefitting your body in the slightest. Simple sugars found in foods like these don’t satisfy your hunger for a long period of time. Instead, those foods actually induce fat storage in your body and can make you hungrier, faster. Drew Ramsey, a Columbia University psychiatrist, weighs in on what makes a “good” breakfast. Anything high in protein (such as eggs) wards off hunger pangs by making you feel more full because it slows down your digestive system. So, circling back to the original question of is breakfast the most important meal of the day, I would have to side with no. I think the importance of eating breakfast comes from the nutritional value of the food you’re consuming, and not the timeframe in which you are consuming it. Also, it depends on how hungry you are when you wake up. If you find yourself not being hungry, then don’t consume the extra calories. However, do not deprive yourself of a meal if you are hungry, because that could lead to over-eating later in the day.