Breakfast Myths

Sometimes all you want for breakfast is a cup of coffee– and that’s ok

Everyone knows:  Always   eat Breakfast

There   are   a lot   of   variations   of   this   axiom.

“Breakfast   is   the   most   important   meal   of   the day.”

“Breakfast makes it so you won’t be hungry later.”

“Breakfast jump starts your metabolism”

“You need to eat a large breakfast”


All of those are FALSE.

Breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day- so don’t force it. The reality is that most people are not ready to eat breakfast when they first wake up.  So why does “everyone” say this? Some of this data was based on the Iowa Breakfast study- which was more than a single paper- but a group of observations made over a number of years and published. There have been a number of other studies showing that kids who eat breakfast do better in school than kids who do not. However, there are a lot of variables not accounted for in those studies.

In addition- a few other items were not taken into account: if you wake up at 4 am to do chores until 7 am, then have breakfast and go to school, you will do better in school than someone who wakes up at 4 am, does chores and doesn’t get breakfast.

Regarding most breakfast studies — funded by, and poor research  done, from cereal companies. Doesn’t mean they are bad studies- but they all fall into poor categories of evidenced based research.

“Breakfast makes it so you won’t be hungry later.”

A recent study showed that people who eat a large breakfast are not affected by how much they eat later in the day. Meaning that eating a large breakfast won’t keep you from snacking, or eating less the rest of the day.

You wonder where people come up with this idea– but when it is put to the scientific test- the breakfast you consume does not reduce food you consume later. Not one bit. No relation- no correlation.

Breafast buffet is not your friend

“Breakfast jump starts your metabolism”

They also found that eating less in the morning contributed to overall weight loss (if you eat less calories you will lose more weight).  There is a simple truth about weight loss – if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you eat big breakfasts and lots of other calories you will gain weight.  Breakfast does not jump start your metabolism- your body does that.

Again- how would you measure a “jump start” to metabolism? There are ways- but activity itself increases heart rate, breathing, and over all muscle activity. If you take comatose patients and measure their oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production- and cycle feeds – the feeds do not increase metabolism. Another study took college football players and put them into a hospital and fed them. They were allowed to do a few walks- but not much more.  It was activity that increased metabolism- not food. Any food will increase some metabolism – but a breaking of the fast does NOT do any sort of jump start.

“You need to eat a large breakfast”

Want to just have a smoothie or yogurt or some oatmeal to start your day? Go ahead. You want to wait for a couple of hours after you get up before having something to eat- that works too. But if you eat a large breakfast – you still need to work off those calories.

You think this is an important meal?

The great thing about breakfast foods: You can eat them anytime! Who doesn’t like eggs for dinner? And after a long day- nothing is more refreshing than a blueberry smoothie to take the edge off hunger, and let you relax for a bit.  We have recipes for smoothies containing micronutrients, fibers, and supplements – a simple smoothie can be a pleasant treat after a long day of work, taking the edge off hunger so you can make a great dinner.

For the smoothie and other recipes go to



Since most individuals find this hard to believe, here are some studies that help show what modern research shows us:


Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):284-91. Epub 2010 Nov 17. Pub Med ID # 21084650

This study showed “there was no significant main effect of breakfast condition on energy intake at lunch (P = 0.36) or throughout the remainder of the day (P = 0.85). There was a significant main effect of breakfast condition (P = 0.04) on total daily energy intake, which indicated that on the day when the subjects did not eat breakfast, they consumed 362 fewer calories over the course of the day than when they did eat breakfast. On the day when no breakfast was served, subjects indicated that they were significantly hungrier, less full, and could consume more food before lunch than on the day when they did eat breakfast (P < 0.001). Leading to the conclusion that omitting breakfast affected children’s appetite ratings but not their energy intake at subsequent meals. The dissonance between children’s subjective ratings of prospective consumption and their actual intake should be further examined.”  Proving – less intake means less calories consumed in the day.

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2012 Jan;33(1):9-16. Pub Med ID # 22218013

This study concluded that “among children who regularly consume breakfast, skipping breakfast once significantly decreased their perceived level of energy and cheerfulness, but it did not affect their cognitive performance throughout the morning.” 

Nutr J. 2011 Jan 17;10:5. Pub Med ID # 21241165

This study showed that consuming a larger breakfast is associated with higher calories overall that need to be burned. They state: “Reduced breakfast energy intake is associated with lower total daily intake. The influence of the ratio of breakfast to overall energy intake largely depends on the post-breakfast rather than breakfast intake pattern. Therefore, overweight and obese subjects should consider the reduction of breakfast calories as a simple option to improve their daily energy balance.”

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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Latest Comments

  1. Sharron says:

    I agree with this article. You don’t need a huge breakfast, you really don’t need breakfast. On SAT tests, the teachers say, “You should have a good breakfast so it could give you energy.”, I think that if you are nervous for a big test, then you might feel sick and throw up that food. It’s good to fast in the morning and drink lots of water (the human body usually mistakes dehydration for hunger), and then workout on a empty stomach, you will feel really good. Trust me, you will.

  2. Ron says:

    The reason breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, is because it was a scam by a person a few hundred years ago or so I think (can’t remember his name though, sorry, look it up) who convinced a large number of doctors to start supporting and spreading around this myth.

  3. thedoc says:

    Kellog- inventor of Corn Flakes. And the studies that are used to support this claim are funded by cereal companies. No conflict there, I’m sure

  4. Rayca says:

    Have you ever tried eating a big breakfast and not filling your face at night? I have just as much data that proves a big breakfast does boost your metabolism (look it up) and that dieters are successful with it and don’t eat the same amount for lunch and dinner. Obviously there needs to be a little self control, i.e., if you eat a big breakfast, you need to have a smaller lunch and even smaller dinner. You only want a cup of coffee cuz you just ate before you went to bed! Learn to stop eating early, say a late lunch and that’s it. After a couple of weeks of that, you’ll be hungry for breakfast. It doesn’t make sense to sleep all night and continue to not eat until mid-morning or lunchtime. THAT’s what slows metabolism and it’s the American way and now we’re all fat. That’s part of the reason.

  5. thedoc says:

    The data is pretty clear – and there is no metabolic effect of breakfast. I’d be happy to see any data you have in a peer reviewed publication.
    Here is a reference for you:
    Breakfast myths are among the most common today. A great study was done in Germany to see the effect on people, and contrary to what most people are told, breakfast is another meal, and if you eat more for breakfast you still have to use those calories. Overweight and obese people should consider reducing breakfast calories.
    Nutritional Journal 2011
    Pub Med ID 21241465

  6. Rayca says:

    “The data is pretty clear”, yet the first line of your reference is “The role of breakfast energy in total daily energy intake is a matter of debate”. And why would that be? Because the whole notion of nutrition is subjective. That pub. also states that it goes both ways. Breakfast for some leads to more overall intake and for others it doesn’t. Anyway, here’s a couple of mine: and then there’s: Ironically, I’m not much for data on the subject of nutrition. I think we both know that studies can be/are skewed depending on who’s funding the project. It’s one of the few areas in our lives where we can test ourselves, be our own guinea pigs. I know a huge breakfast keeps me from eating excess calories throughout the day. I know it conquers cravings and I know you can lose weight from it by eating more calories than the typical amount usually ingested by dieters. I know….because I’ve done it. And like anything in the nutrition field, it’s completely subjective, so what works for me doesn’t for the next person. Obviously if you’re very obese, you need to severely cut calories and seek medical attention and I guess breakfast would be included in that. But to say that breakfast is a myth or invented by some mad scientist trying to sell cereal is completely absurd.

  7. thedoc says:

    It is a matter of perspective, and if something works for you then there is no reason to change it. The field of nutrition is advancing, although slower than we think it should be. Glad you like breakfast, and are a breakfast person. The breakfast studies were done, quite subjectively, and with a lot of bias from those who did them. As a weight loss surgeon, I have patients that skip breakfast and patients that eat large breakfasts in the hope that it will keep them from eating later in the day. It is a lot more complicated than that- but the bottom line is this: you can’t skip meals for weight loss, but your body will either store food (if you eat too much) or burn it – best to be on the burn cycle

  8. Riiah says:

    Good for you! Beginning a new way of healthy ating is NOT easy, I do know this, but the experts have been saying for years that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Fruit is great and most important, but so is fiber, protein and dairy. Remember, by the time your day ends, no matter what you’ve eaten for your morning fuel,(within reason) it will most likely be burned off by the end of the day.

  9. RJ says:

    I suspect that one reason so many breakfast foods are fatty, salty and sugary is because many people have no appetite that early unless the food is very flavourful/smells great.

  10. thedoc says:

    I suspect it is because it is easy, we have been conditioned, and the stuff appeals to our tastes – and engineered to do so. Arg

  11. Anastasia says:

    Doctors and my hard core dieting friends always told me that 1) eating breakfast would increase my metabolism, and 2) eating breakfast (even when I wasn’t hungry) would make me less hungry later on. That sounded absolutely wonky to me! There was no way that eating could boost my metabolism enough to negate all the calories I had just consumed. Also, why would eating when I wasn’t hungry make me less hungry later? I really wish people would check to see if what they say has any logical basis. I appreciate your post (even if it seems counter-intuitive based on what we’ve been told so many times).

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