Is eating breakfast the answer to weight loss?   

Rebecca McPhee
Dietitian Member of the DAA

3 Minutes

If breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, does that mean it helps us lose weight? There are so many theories online about weight loss and breakfast and  of course, many are conflicting. It would be great to think that eating breakfast was the only solution to shedding those extra kilos. There is no strong evidence to support that breakfast directly leads to weight loss. However we do know that breakfast plays a part in managing a healthy weight and keeping healthy.  

There are so many benefits to 'breaking the fast'. To reap the health benefits, we need to think about what we eat, when we eat It, and how much we have.. Here are 5 facts about why we should start the day with a nutritious breakfast. 


1. Those who eat breakfast are less likely to be above a healthy weight   

Breakfast may not directly result in weight loss, but research suggest that people who eat breakfast are less likely to above a healthy weight. The National Weight Control Registry has been tracking the diet and lifestyle habits of over 10,000 people (80% being women). Participants have maintained a minimum of 14kg weight loss for at least 12 months (some have been in the study for years). It was found that 78% reported eating breakfast every day, and 90% reported eating breakfast at least five days a week. 


2. Eat breakfast like a king  

People who ate a large breakfast burned twice as many calories compared with those who eat a larger dinner. This is called diet-induced thermogenesis and is important for weight management and blood sugar control. Furthermore, people who eat their largest meal earlier in the day are more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who consumed their biggest meal toward the end of the day. It also reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

So, there is some truth in the saying 'eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. 


3. Breakfast is linked to improved mental performance, alertness, concentration, mood and memory 

Our brain needs energy to function. Depriving it of food in the morning by skipping breakfast has been linked to poorer concentration, alertness and mental performance. Just think of what it feels like to have a 'foggy head' when trying to carry out morning tasks! Research has also found that those who skip or delay breakfast were more likely to experience low mood compared to those with a scheduled eating pattern of breakfast, lunch and dinner. 


4. Make it protein rich  

Studies show that a protein rich breakfast, increases satiety (the feeling of fullness) and reduces hunger throughout the day. One study also found that including protein at breakfast reduces brain signals controlling food motivation and reward-driven eating behaviour.i This can really help if you are tempted to add a few Tim tams to your mid-morning cuppa! Good protein options include lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, yoghurt, milk, cottage cheese, tofu, legumes such as baked beans, nuts, seeds, nut butters.  


5. Go low GI 

Low GI carbs provide a steady flow of glucose to the brain, helping you to concentrate, providing you with sustained energy and making you feel fuller for longer. Feeling satisfied all morning after eating a low GI breakfast can curb those cravings to overeat. Adding low GI carbs to your breakfast, can improve heart health and weight management and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. ii Good low GI carbs for breakfast include: wholegrain bread, natural or Bircher muesli, porridge oats, yoghurt, milk, fruit, legumes such as baked beans, long grain rice or noodles. 

The basic formula for a balanced, healthy breakfast is protein and low GI carb combos: 

  • Protein veggie topper: Toast two slices of wholegrain bread, then add 2 poached eggs, mushrooms and tomato for breakfast packed with healthy goodness.  

  • Berry yoghurt crunch: Top 1/2 cup of natural muesli with 3 Tablespoons low fat Greek yoghurt and a handful of berries for a 'berrylicious' breakfast 

  • Super Smoothie: Blend one cup of reduced-fat milk or soymilk with 1/2 cup berries or 1 banana, 1/4 cup oats and 1 tablespoon nuts or seeds for a liquid breakfast on the go  


No time for breakfast or can stomach the thought of eating in the morning, consider quick, light options: 

  • Wholegrain cereals like microwavable porridge oats or natural/bircher style muesli are quick ways and nutritious ways to start the day. All you need to do is add milk or yoghurt! If you can't stomach a good portion, just go for half and eat the rest mid-morning when you have more of an appetite.  

  • Try preparing breakfast the night before so there is less to do in the morning e.g., boil some eggs or soak some muesli in yoghurt to make bircher muesli 

  • If you are working in an office, take some healthy choices with you such as yoghurt, milk, bread to toast, natural muesli, microwavable porridge oats, small tins of baked beans. 

  • Make a batch of these fruit based muffins on the weekend and freeze. All you need to do is microwave one for 30 seconds or thaw overnight. A grab and go healthy breakfast! 


In summary 

Whilst breakfast does not directly link to weight loss, it still is an important part of a managing a healthy weight and keeping healthy. The secret to breakfast is to opt for protein rich, low GI choices. Don't forget if you are too busy for breakfast or can't bear the thought of eating in the morning, there are many alternatives to suit your needs. It just takes a bit of planning. 

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