Some people believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that eating breakfast increases weight loss. Why? Because it’s best to front-load your caloric intake by eating more food in the first half of your day. This way, you have plenty of time to burn off some of those calories before hitting the hay (your metabolism slows down while you sleep). Skipping breakfast also ups your chances of snacking later in the day to make up for those missed morning calories.
There is little evidence to support the idea that eating breakfast can increase weight loss. Breakfast is just another meal. That said, eating breakfast can give a person energy for the day. This may reduce the risk of overeating and, in this way, support weight loss efforts.
This article explores the best breakfast foods to eat to aid weight loss. It also discusses breakfast options to suit vegetarian, vegan, and restricted diets. Read on to learn all there is to know about eating breakfast and losing weight.
Breakfast Food Tips
To get the most out of breakfast, it is best to eat nutrient-dense foods. These foods offer more nutritional value per calorie, which may help a person feel fuller longer.
Here are some breakfast food tips that may support weight loss:
Eat Fiber-rich Foods
People trying to lose weight may benefit from eating fiber-rich foods for breakfast and throughout the day. A 2015 study found that diets rich in fiber helped people lose more weight and improved symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for diabetes.
Protein-rich foods are generally rich in other nutrients, allowing a person to get a wide range of nutrients without consuming lots of calories.
Other studies link fiber to better health and more weight loss. For example, a 2012 study found that adolescents who ate more fiber had less visceral fat and less inflammation. Some breakfast-friendly high fiber foods are:
Eat More Protein
Eating more protein for breakfast or at any other time of day may support weight loss.
Numerous studies link higher protein diets to more weight loss. A 2014 analysis suggests that protein may help people feel fuller, reducing overeating. People may also burn more calories when they eat protein.
Protein-rich foods are generally rich in other nutrients, allowing a person to get a wide range of nutrients without consuming lots of calories. Good choices for a high-protein breakfast include:
- nut and seed butters
- quinoa porridge
- Chicken breasts
Avoid High-Calorie Options
Try to avoid foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Reducing calorie intake at breakfast time and throughout the day may help a person lose weight.
To cut down on calories, avoid adding sugar to breakfast foods. A healthy oatmeal breakfast can become a sugar-laden, high-calorie meal when a person adds lots of brown sugar. Select cereals that contain less sugar and avoid pancakes and pastries that contain lots of sugar.
Avoid Sugary Drinks
Be mindful of the role of drinks in calorie content. A glass of orange juice typically contains more than 100 calories but offers little nutritional value. Opt for eating the whole fruit rather than drinking juices.
Eat Whole Foods
Eating whole foods instead of processed foods may help a person lose weight. Try replacing white bread, pasta, and bagels with whole-grain options.
Whole grain offers more nutritional value and may reduce the risk of some types of heart disease. Because whole grains are rich in fiber, they may support weight loss and reduce constipation.
Should You Eat Breakfast?
With interest in intermittent fasting increasing, some people are now opting to skip breakfast altogether. But does skipping breakfast support weight loss?
Not eating breakfast may support weight loss because it means a person goes longer without consuming calories, which may lead to a lower total calorie intake throughout the day.
However, skipping breakfast may not support weight loss for everyone. For some people, skipping breakfast leads to overeating at lunchtime. In this way, skipping breakfast may lead to higher overall calorie consumption, undermining weight loss.
Research around breakfast and weight loss is inconclusive. A 2019 BMJ meta-analysis and systematic review suggests that skipping breakfast may support weight loss. Examining 13 trials, researchers found that not eating breakfast offered modest decreases in weight.
However, the study’s authors also note that the data is not strong. Other factors might account for the difference. Scientists need to do more research to fully understand whether avoiding breakfast is an effective weight loss strategy.
Breakfast Foods for Vegetarians
Vegetarians can choose from a wide variety of delicious breakfast foods. Adding dairy products makes it easy to get plenty of protein to support weight loss.
A 2011 study compared the diet of vegetarians to nonvegetarians. Researchers found that vegetarian diets were more nutritionally dense. This may be because vegetarians eat more fruits and vegetables than meat-eaters. The study’s authors also suggest that a vegetarian diet may support weight loss.
Here are some vegetarian breakfast ideas:
- whole-grain cereal with 1% milk
- Greek yogurt with berries
- plain vanilla yogurt with bananas
- two slices of white cheddar cheese with a handful of mixed nuts
- hard-boiled egg sprinkled with salt
- avocado with cottage cheese and hot sauce
- poached eggs on whole-grain toast
- scrambled eggs with hot sauce instead of cheese or salt
Breakfast Foods for Meat Eaters
While meat is high in many nutrients, it is also a high-calorie food due to its fat content. Lean meats and poultry contain less fat and calories than red meats, so choosing these types of meat is a good option for meat-eaters hoping to lose weight.
Reducing the amount of meat in each meal and replacing it with nutrient-rich, high fiber vegetables may also help.
The following meals can support healthy weight loss:
- grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce on whole grain bread
- sausage scramble with lots of vegetables
Breakfast for People with Dietary Restrictions
Having allergies or an underlying health condition need not affect a person’s enjoyment of breakfast. There are plenty of alternatives available.
Here are some breakfast options for people with dietary restrictions:
Many people have food allergies or sensitivities to lactose, nuts, and eggs, which many breakfast foods contain. Fortunately, there are many substitute options available:
Lactose intolerance: Lactose-free milk and milk substitutes, such as almond milk, can be good options for people with lactose intolerance.
Nut allergies: Lentils, chia seeds, and quinoa can be healthful options for people with nut allergies.
Egg allergies: People who cannot eat eggs should consider lean meats, nut butter, and nuts instead.
Many food stores sell gluten-free versions of common breakfast items, including:
Another gluten-free breakfast idea involves serving high protein foods, such as eggs or lean meats, with wilted spinach and cooked tomatoes.
People with diabetes must keep their blood sugar levels consistent. Skipping breakfast may not be healthful for people with diabetes, particularly if they take medication for their condition. People who take medication for their diabetes typically need to consume some carbohydrates to manage their blood sugar levels.
Here are some breakfast options for people with diabetes:
- scrambled eggs with wilted spinach
- hard-boiled eggs
- a handful of nuts
- lean meats with spinach or kale
Read more: Understanding portion sizes for weight loss
Losing weight requires a person to burn fewer calories than they eat. To sustain weight loss, a person must stick to a reduced-calorie diet and pair this diet with more activity. To make sustainable dietary changes, it is vital that a person finds healthful foods they enjoy eating.
Highly restrictive diets are often difficult to follow. Instead, incorporate a few treats and find nourishing, low-calorie foods that taste good. A dietitian or doctor can help a person develop the right meal plan for their needs.