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Turning breakfast excuses into breakfast reality

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Apr 12, 2019

Are you someone who leaves your home in the morning without doing something very important like eating breakfast?  What’s your excuse?  I’ve counseled nearly a thousand patients and roughly about 20-30% admits to not eating breakfast.

Because curiosity gets the best of me, I often ask them why.  Of course the answers I get vary but generally they boil down to 4 common reasons. Before we address their rationale and ways to make breakfast excuses into breakfast reality, let’s take a brief moment to review why that morning meal is a good idea to be eating instead of skipping.

What’s so special about breakfast?

There will always be differences of opinion on whether breakfast deserves the unofficial title as “the most important meal of the day.” Nonetheless, there are several reasons why eating some food upon rising is a good idea.

To put it into perspective, you’ve been sleeping all night without eating, likely totaling several hours (maybe as many as 8 hours or more).  Once you wake up, your body and brain need to be refueled. However, no one says you have to eat a big breakfast of sausage, pancakes, and eggs – I don’t!  Oftentimes, simple is best – a couple of pieces of whole grain toast with margarine and a glass of milk or an individual carton of Greek yogurt with added fresh fruit and chopped nuts are perfect. Starting your day with nourishing food supplies needed energy for your body and likely sets a positive tone for greeting the day ahead.  Besides, you’ll also avoid the “mid-morning slump,” having better concentration, thinking skills and alertness.

Another way to look at why breakfast is important is this – eating breakfast is sort of like stoking a fire that’s about to burn out.  In order to get the embers burning again for the day, you have to add some wood – aka food.  Same thing applies to your body and especially your metabolism, the rate at which you burn calories. Skipping breakfast means your “fire” will eventually burn out leaving you sluggish, fatigued and overly hungry, the perfect setup for overeating later on in the day.  By eating breakfast, it’s like a shot of adrenaline revving up your metabolism right from the get-go, turning you into an efficient calorie-burning machine. It’s also a boost to better regulation of your blood glucose (sugar) levels, resulting in less blood glucose highs and lows.

One other important reason to consider eating breakfast – research shows people who eat breakfast are more likely to meet the daily nutrients requirements for essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. That can translate into better overall health and well-being for now and in the future.

Top 4 excuses for not eating breakfast

  1. “I’m not hungry in the morning”

This is probably the most common excuse I hear.  No one says you have to wake up with a ravenous appetite. You don’t even have to eat the minute you get up out of bed.  A good strategy to aim for is eating within an hour or so upon waking. If you want to eat a little later, that’s ok too as long as it doesn’t turn into completely skipping the meal. Maybe turn your breakfast into more of a mid-morning brunch by having a light snack with some protein (string cheese), complex carb (apple), and a healthy fat (almonds or walnuts). This simple trick is amazing for blunting the urge for sugary treats co-workers bring to work or not-so-healthy foods at home.

One thought on why some people may not have an appetite to eat breakfast in the morning – too much late night snacking.

  1. “I’m trying to lose weight”

I’ve heard many a person say they skip breakfast to “save” calories. Yet, there is strong evidence that avoiding that morning meal only leads to eating more calories later on. For example, the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks more than 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year, have found that almost 80% of members eat breakfast daily.

  1. “No time to eat breakfast”

This is actually an easy fix called meal prepping. Begin the night before – set out utensils, bowls, plates, any pots/pans that may be used, even the cereal box, just to eliminate any inconvenience of time.  Or, meal prep on weekends by making “breakfast” food to last for several mornings – a big pot of oatmeal, high protein breakfast muffins, or grab and go breakfast mini casseroles. Even simply grabbing a banana with peanut butter or blending a smoothie right before you leave eliminates excuses.

  1. “If I eat breakfast, I feel sick to my stomach”

Feeling puny after eating breakfast is no fun.  Figuring out why is not easy as there are several possibilities. One possibility could be linked to your sleep cycles, especially if you’ve tossed and turned all night or had irregular sleep. Lack of sleep can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms – or body clock – which may be affecting your digestive system. Hormones like ghrelin and leptin control our appetite – if you are eating or sleeping at irregular times this can disrupt these hormones normal patterns having a negative effect on digestion.

Another possibility is your food choices. For example, if you eat a big meal right before bedtime, this might cause acid reflux.  Low blood sugar is another factor to consider.  If this is the case, try to eat a little of something, to help bring blood sugar back to normal. Even nasal congestion could be a culprit. A blocked nose or sinus congestion can put pressure on your inner ear, leading to an upset stomach and nausea. Also, anxiety or stress may be reasons for early morning nausea.

Some suggestions to try before eating food first thing in the morning are sipping on peppermint or green tea, cold water with a few squeezes of fresh lemon or lime juice, or eating a small amount of food very slowly in a relaxed setting. These tricks can help soothe tummy troubles allowing you to try to eat some breakfast.

Food for thought

If you try each of the suggestions above and still find yourself skipping breakfast, take heart.  At the very least, do not skip lunch or dinner and make the most of your food choices count by eating healthy at least 80-90% of the time. Even if you can squeeze in breakfast a couple of times a week, is better than none at all!

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

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