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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Chow Line: A healthy breakfast really is a good idea (2/17/12)

February 23, 2012

I’ve always heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but to be honest, I hardly ever eat breakfast and I do OK. Why do the “experts” say we should always eat breakfast? 

You might be skeptical, but there’s quite a bit of evidence to back up the notion that eating a healthy breakfast is a wise idea. But you’re not alone. According to "Morning MealScape 2011,” a survey conducted by NPD Group, nearly 1 out of 10 of the 27,000 respondents -- which suggests an estimated 31 million Americans overall -- reported skipping breakfast the day before. Most said they simply weren’t hungry or didn’t feel like eating breakfast; others said they were too busy or didn’t have time.

So -- with all these non-breakfast-eating-people (like you) walking around -- why do the experts still insist on eating a healthy breakfast? Lots of reasons, apparently, including:

  • Weight control. Study after study indicates that people who eat a nutritious breakfast tend to have a healthier weight than people who don’t. This is especially true for children and teens, but there’s ample evidence for adults, as well. It’s not crystal-clear what’s at work here, but experts think that people who eat a solid breakfast, especially one that contains lean protein (think eggs), feel more satisfied and tend to eat less throughout the rest of the day. Others say it has to do with kick-starting the metabolism first thing in the morning.
  • Better overall nutrition. Studies show that people who eat breakfast tend to have an overall healthier diet than those who don’t. This could be because there are so many healthy foods readily available for breakfast: fruit; eggs; low-sugar, high-fiber cereals; whole-grain breads; low-fat yogurt are just a few examples. Obviously, less-healthy choices are abundant as well, but choosing a healthy foods in the morning doesn’t take a lot of effort.
  • Improved health. Various studies reveal that eating a healthy breakfast is linked with better health outcomes. For example, in 2007 the ongoing Physicians Health Study found that regularly eating whole-grain, high-fiber cereal was linked with a lower risk of heart failure.

Children especially need a good breakfast. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), children who eat breakfast are more able to focus and concentrate at school, and tend to do better in math and reading and on standardized tests.

The evidence is strong, and that’s why experts encourage people like you to wake up -- both figuratively and literally -- and enjoy a healthy breakfast.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Linnette Goard, assistant professor and field specialist in Food Safety, Selection and Management, for Ohio State University Extension.


Martha Filipic
Linnette Goard