Nutritionists have preached the importance of eating breakfast for years, but now we know they’re really serious.
New research from the US has found eating two early meals may be better than none for combatting obesity – a tasty prospect for the breakfast devotees among us.
The study, published in Pediatric Obesity, focussed on school-aged children, but experts told The New Daily the principles of breakfast apply equally to adults.
Short of raining on our parade, Associate Professor and nutrition expert at the University of Adelaide Leonie Heilbronn said it wasn’t as simple as doubling our cereal serving each morning.
The science behind eating early
While the study found children who skipped breakfast were twice as likely to be obese, Associate Professor Heilbronn said simply shifting our calories to earlier in the day was not the answer.
“When we test large portions of the population and ask them to provide us with a food diary, we find people who eat earlier in the day and less in the evening are less likely to have obesity or diabetes,” she said.
“But when we test in the lab, we don’t really see any difference between eating early or late for obesity.”
Associate Professor Heilbronn said it’s not the actual time of day that’s affecting our weight, it’s the bad decision we make as a result of skipping breakfast.
Qualified nutritionist Tracie Hyam Connor agrees: “When we wake up, we’re hungry.
“If we don’t eat within that two-hour frame our blood sugar levels go into havoc and you might reach for that coffee and muffin rather than something healthier.”
And it’s not only our weight that’s at risk. Ms Connor said low blood sugar affects our ability to concentrate at work, while Associate Professor Heilbronn said there was scientific evidence to suggest eating more later in the day increases our risk of diabetes.
How to eat two breakfasts
So if eating early is king then what should be on our plates?
Ms Connor said Australians were often doing themselves a disservice in the morning with sugary breakfast cereals.
“You want to eat a balance of macronutrients – that means a combination of complex carbs, protein and fat.”
She suggested an egg on wholemeal toast with spinach on the side, a vegetable omelette or porridge with a dollop of yoghurt for an extra protein hit.
“Obesity isn’t just when you eat and how much you eat, it’s what you eat as well,” Ms Connor said.
It might take practise
For those insisting they’re not hungry in the morning, Ms Connor says eating breakfast is all about habit.
“You have to train yourself,” she says, noting that there’s no evidence to say feeling sick when you eat in the morning has anything to do with genetics.
“You might not be feeling hungry because you’ve eaten a lot at dinner the night before, or you simply might not be used to it.”
However, for many of us, eating two breakfasts doesn’t sound like too much of a hardship.