Breakfast is quite literally the meal meant to “break the fast” from all the hours you spend sleeping, and skipping it is known to cause a slew of bad chain reactions throughout the body. And yet, 31 million Americans (28 percent of which are men ages 18-34) don't eat a morning meal, according to a study conducted by NPD Group, a leading marketing research company.
One of the most common reasons people skip breakfast is because they're just not hungry in the morning, says Josh Axe, DNM, a board certified doctor of natural medicine and nutrition specialist. If you can relate, Axe suggests trying to start small with a liquid shake or healthy smoothie, keeping your dinner smaller, and cutting back on alcohol or snacks right before bed.
"For a healthy breakfast, most people will do best eating a combination of protein and good fats first-thing in the morning—like eggs and avocado, both of which keep you satisfied for longer and help prevent low blood sugar fluctuations," Axe says. Most experts, he adds, suggest eating between 300-500 calories for breakfast, ideally within an hour or two after waking up. Avoid the drive-through, though—homemade breakfasts tend to be healthier.
Research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found meals eaten in restaurants are usually significantly higher in total calories and hydrogenated fats, but lower in percentage of calories from protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber than those eaten at home.
"Watch the liquid calories, which include fruit juices or sweetened coffee drinks," Axe says. "These are usually packed with sugar but provide little to no fiber, protein and complex carbs to keep you fueled. If you are going to include carbohydrates with your breakfast, make it a low-glycemic kind like berries, plain rolled oats, sprouted whole grain bread, or sweet potato hash browns," he suggests. And for the most part, avoid muffins, bagels, scones, and some packaged granola bars. They may seem healthy, but they're more like dessert than breakfast.
Need more inspiration to make a habit of eating a morning meal? Just click through to find out exactly what happens in your body when you skip breakfast.