11/01/2013 11:01 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why You Should Eat Breakfast

I love to myth bust. If you bring up "calories in vs. calories out" or sound giddy about a "fat-free" product, we're going to have a chat. However, what drives me (and weight-conscious people everywhere) crazy is when one expert or study comes out saying "sugar is good" or "exercise is useless" or some other sweeping conclusion that puts common sense health information on its head. While I read through many nutrition research studies each day, I know the difference between research and reality.

Recently, The New York Times printed a story questioning whether breakfast eating is beneficial for weight loss. Dr. Allison, an obesity researcher out of Birmingham, would say it isn't. He found fault with the studies used to make the pro-breakfast claim. He then dismisses The National Weight Control Registry, which is widely respected and cited, because over 10,000 participants have not only lost over 30 pounds each but also kept it off. His feeling was that conclusions from this group aren't causal or based on studies. First, I'll point out that 80 percent of National Weight Control registry members eat breakfast. Second, having been in obesity research, I will add that being a "study participant" isn't without its glitches in terms of accuracy.

I've been counseling for 15 years and seen thousands of clients. Here are some breakfast tips the article excluded:

  • It depends what we eat for breakfast. If it's a sugar or grain fest it may not be beneficial for your weight or your health. Higher protein breakfasts decrease ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone) while high carb breakfasts can do the opposite.
  • The article didn't address the "when" question. You don't have to eat breakfast the second you wake up at 5, 6 or 7 a.m. However, your blood sugar is lower after a night of sleep and it will continue to drop. Have something within a couple of hours. I've also written about a period of fasting overnight; aim for 12 hours food-free between your last bite at night and breakfast.
  • The piece also ignored the behavioral side of meal selections. Skipping breakfast feeds in to the "saving up" syndrome; I promise what is consumed mid-afternoon or after dinner carries more risk than that smoothie ever will.
  • With regard to eating and exercise, you don't have to eat pre working out, and if it doesn't leave you feeling poorly exercising on empty may be beneficial for your weight. Just be sure you eat ASAP after your workout.

I've written about smoothies, chia pudding and yogurt, which all make appropriate breakfast choices. Breakfast, to me, is not the most important meal of the day. It doesn't have to be large and shouldn't be overly grainy, but if you eat breakfast the right way weight loss will come your way.