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egg and tomato on toast

Is it okay to skip breakfast?

Many of us make no secret of the fact we skip breakfast.

During the week, do you rush out the door and into your first meeting or class before loud belly rumbles give away your empty stomach? Maybe you end up with poor concentration, eating bags of lollies to try to boost your low blood glucose, and an unproductive start to the day.

Is this anecdotal or is it really a problem when we skip breakfast? Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) PhD research candidate Rebecca Leech has analysed a large number of diet research papers looking at adults’ meal consumption and found an association between skipping breakfast and having a poor diet. Rebecca’s research is supervised by Associate Professor Sarah McNaughton.

What happens when you skip breakfast?

Evidence suggests when you skip breakfast you may be less likely to meet recommendations for key vitamins and minerals, and more likely to be overweight. ‘You may even have more risk factors for cardiovascular disease,’ Ms Leech adds.

‘Skipping breakfast has also been associated with other poor lifestyle habits such as smoking, higher alcohol consumption and physical inactivity – and these all may further increase risks to your health,’ she says. ‘Eating breakfast regularly should be encouraged to promote a healthful diet and to protect against chronic disease.’

'Try to avoid breakfast cereals with added sugar and processed meats such as bacon and sausages, which can be high in salt and saturated fat.'

Rebecca Leech,
Deakin University

What’s a good breakfast?

While there’s little research about specific foods that should be eaten at breakfast, choosing foods from the five food groups in the Australian Dietary Guidelines is recommended.

‘If choosing cereals, think wholegrain and high fibre breads and cereals,’ Assoc. Prof. McNaughton suggests. ‘Look for opportunities to add vegetables and legumes such as baked beans, tomatoes and mushrooms on wholegrain toast.’

Breakfast is also a good time to meet your daily dairy quota, Assoc. Prof. McNaughton adds. Milk and yoghurt are easy to eat as part of breakfast. ‘It’s also good to consider adding some protein sources to breakfast, such as eggs, lean meats, or alternatives such as nuts and legumes.’

As for what to avoid? Ms Leech advises staying away from sweetened cereals and greasy fry-ups. ‘Try to avoid breakfast cereals with added sugar and processed meats such as bacon and sausages, which can be high in salt and saturated fat,’ she says.

Making a meal of it

The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide fantastic advice on the types and amounts of foods to eat for health and wellbeing in the context of an overall day. But Ms Leech says people might find it easier to meet dietary recommendations if they were given specific advice on each meal to complement these guidelines. That’s because ‘we tend to eat combinations of foods as meals and snacks rather than foods in isolation,’ she explains.

Ms Leech’s research is helping underline the importance of regular meals, especially breakfast. So next time you rush out the door, make sure it’s not before a nutritious and productive start to the day – have a healthy breakfast, and skip those ten o’clock junk-food cravings.

Interested in a career in nutrition? Check out our range of courses in food, nutrition and dietetics.

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Rebecca Leech
Rebecca Leech

PhD candidate, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Deakin University

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Sarah McNaughton
Sarah McNaughton

Associate Professor, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Deakin University

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