Dr. Phelan By General Practitioner Published:

It’s often credited as the most important meal of the day – but did you know that skipping breakfast can have real health implications? 

Breakfast is when we feed our bodies with vital nutrients and fuel, literally breaking the overnight fast we’ve had while we’ve been asleep. For our bodies, skipping breakfast is like trying to drive to work with no petrol in the car.

Having breakfast means you are less likely to reach for a high-calorie snack mid-morning, and you may end up eating less at lunchtime too. Skipping meals may make us feel like we’re doing the right thing and cutting down on our intake of calories, but our bodies actually interpret missing meals as a signal to prepare for a prolonged fast. 

When we skip meals, our bodies slow down our metabolic rate and as a result, skipping meals can actually hinder weight loss goals. When we do eat after a fasting period, we often end up eating more and may even gain weight. 

Studies have shown that skipping breakfast not only increases our risk of obesity, but also puts us at risk of developing diabetes and heart problems. One study demonstrated how those who missed breakfast were less physically active over the course of the morning, suggesting that when we skip breakfast we may subconsciously reduce our activity levels. 

Of course, choosing a healthy option gives you the best start. Try switching from sugary cereals to those with little or no sugar. Choose porridge or muesli for an energy-boosting start and add fruit so you are also getting some of your five a day.

Protein-rich breakfasts such as scrambled eggs or baked beans on wholemeal toast are other good options to start your morning and will help to keep you fuller for longer. Even if you don’t normally have an appetite in the morning, making breakfast a habit means it will naturally grow, resulting in fewer cravings throughout the day.

Dr. Alex Phelan is a GP with the NHS and Pharmacy2U, an online service which provides free, fast and convenient delivery of NHS repeat prescriptions.