The Importance of Breakfast
Breakfast is considered an important meal because it breaks the overnight
fasting period, replenishes your supply of glucose and provides other
essential nutrients to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
Glucose, your body's energy source, is broken down and absorbed from the
carbohydrates you eat. In the morning, after you have gone without food
for as long as 12 hours, your glucose levels have drop. When this happens,
your body compensates by releasing the glucose that has been stored in
your muscle tissue and liver, called glycogen. Once all of the energy from
the glycogen stores is used up, the body breaks down fatty acids to produce
energy. Without carbohydrate, fatty acids are only partially oxidised, which can cause reduced energy
Essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients
Breakfast provides a significant proportion of the day's total nutrient intake and offers the opportunity
to eat nutrient-fortified foods, such as folate, iron, B vitamins and fibre. Essential vitamins, minerals and
other nutrients can only be gained from food. So even though your body can usually find enough
energy to make it to the next meal, you still need to top up your vitamin and mineral levels to maintain
health and vitality.
Extensive research in Australia and overseas has found:
Many children who skip breakfast are significantly heavier than those who eat breakfast.
Skipping breakfast can diminish mental performance. Breakfast helps learning, as you are better able to
pay attention and are more interested in learning.
Eating high fibre breakfast cereals reduces fatigue.
Children who eat an inadequate breakfast are more likely to make poor food choices for the rest of the
day and in the long-term.
People who eat breakfast have more nutritious diets than people who skip breakfast and have better
eating habits as they are less likely to be hungry for snacks during the day.
'Going without' becomes more common with advancing age-approximately 15 per cent of teenagers
and one third of adults don't eat breakfast.
Why we skip breakfast
Some common reasons for skipping breakfast include:
Not enough time
Too tired to bother
Wanting to spend the extra time dozing in bed
No readily available breakfast foods in the house.
A healthy breakfast may reduce risk of developing obesity, heart disease and diabetes
Compared to children who regularly eat breakfast, those who skip breakfast tend to consume less
calories overall and yet they experience the same rates of overweight and obesity. There are a number
of theories for this. For instance, there is some evidence that large meals are more likely to lead to
weight gain than smaller, more frequent meals. This is because excess kilojoules eaten during one sitting
are stored as body fat, once the glycogen storage areas are full. People who skip breakfast are usually
ravenous by lunchtime and tend to eat more to compensate.
The Australian Consumers Association analysed 188 breakfast cereals, of which 65 were found to be
nutritionally acceptable according to salt, fat, carbohydrate, sugar and fibre contents. These are listed
in May 2003 issue of CHOICE magazine.
People who skip breakfast tend to nibble on snacks during the mid-morning. This can be a problem if
those snacks are low in fibre, vitamins and minerals but high in fat and salt. Without the extra energy
that breakfast can offer, some breakfast skippers feel lethargic and turn to coffee to get them through
the morning. To help you through that mid-morning hunger, try a nutritious snack - such as fresh fruit,
yoghurt, a low fat muffin or a wholemeal sandwich.
Breakfast is not considered a staple meal in all parts of the world. People in some cultures consume only
two meals per day instead of three, and breakfast isn't traditionally always one of them. Research is
ongoing, but there doesn't seem to be any harm in skipping breakfast if that has always been your
preference. However, the nutritional content of your lunch and dinner must be sufficient to make up for
the loss of breakfast.
Research has shown that schoolchildren are more likely to eat breakfast if easy-to-prepare breakfast
foods are readily available at home. Some suggestions include:
Commercially prepared whole wheat breakfast cereals
Wholemeal or multigrain bread to toast
Muffins or crumpets
Toast toppings, such as baked beans, eggs, cheese or spreads
Fresh fruit juices
Low fat milk.
Some people find that the thought of food first thing in the morning turns their stomach. If this is the
case, switch your breakfast to morning tea time instead.
Things to remember
A healthy breakfast has health benefits in areas such as mental and physical performance,
cardiovascular risk and diabetic and weight control.
Skipping breakfast becomes more common with age, with around one third of adults going without.
Children who skip breakfast lack sufficient vitamins and minerals - including iron, calcium, zinc and
Reasons for skipping breakfast include lack of time, lack of motivation and lack of available breakfast