Is there a meal more divisive than breakfast? Well, there are really only two other options, not including brunch, so the answer is no. You've probably heard since the time you were 5 years old that it's the most important meal of the day, but you also heard that Cookie Crisp could be part of a healthy, complete breakfast.
So what's true, and what's a bald-faced lie? These are some of the more common breakfast myths you can go ahead and stop believing.
It's the most important meal of the day
While your mom may have been right about so many things in life, if she told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, she got that one wrong. Two registered dietitians, Maika Escandon and Laury Ellingson, both made it pretty clear that all meals are of equal value.
That isn’t an excuse to give up your morning meal, however. A study that came out this spring indicates that eating breakfast may put women at a lower risk of heart disease, the same conclusion as a study done on men.
“I would never suggest skipping breakfast,” Maika says. “I’m not saying you have to roll out of bed and immediately eat something -- you can wait a couple of hours. But breakfast is really helpful. It can prevent mindless morning snacking, as well as overeating at lunch.”
Juice is great for you
“The serving size for juice is 4oz,” says Maika. To put that in human terms, imagine a little more than two shot glasses full. That seems like... an elf’s ration of juice, not a human’s. But there are reasons for this.
“I would recommend eating an actual piece of fruit, because you’ll have a better sense of satiety -- it takes longer to chew a piece of fruit than to drink 4oz of juice. Plus, fruit has more fiber,” Maika tells us.
So a piece of actual fruit will make you fuller... but isn’t fiber one of those things you kind of get enough of during the normal course of a day?
“Fiber’s a necessary nutrient that people don’t think about that much,” Laury says. “We think ‘Oh, it helps you go,’ but it does a lot of other things. Fiber contributes to regulating your GI tract, it can lower cholesterol, and it can slow the absorption of sugar. We need about 25-30g of fiber a day, but most people only get 10-15.”
If you’re not into eating a piece of fruit in the morning, it’s a better idea to throw it in the blender, Laury tells us. “In a smoothie, you can mix the fruit up with Greek yogurt, which provides you with protein, and you end up with a pretty nutritious breakfast.” And if you can throw a vegetable in there, so much the better.
Carbs are the devil, and toast is a thing of the past
“Over time, different nutrients can be seen as evil like that, and right now, carbohydrates are viewed that way,” Laury says. She explains that this just isn’t true -- carbs aren’t inherently bad for you. Not that she would offer a ringing endorsement for giving up your morning smoothie in favor of a toaster strudel.
“Some carbs are definitely better for you than others. Whole grains are good: 100% whole-wheat bread, English muffins, and bagels, paired with some natural peanut butter, that’s a good breakfast. But the bread needs to say ‘whole wheat’ or preferably, ‘100% whole wheat’ on the packaging,” she adds.
Breakfast cereal is just empty calories
That’s just another part of the carb-loathing craze, Maika reassures us. “Cereals can definitely be part of a good breakfast. Just make sure they’ve got plenty of fiber in there to keep you fuller longer... You’re looking for something that has more than 3g of fiber per serving. And stay away from those cereals that contain a lot of sugar. You want 8g of sugar or less per serving.”
Coffee is bad for you
“I don’t think coffee is bad for you. It can definitely be incorporated into your breakfast, but limit the amount of stuff that you are putting in it,” Maika says, referring to sugary, fatty fillers like, you know, literal packets of sugar and cylinders of half-and-half.
She suggests switching up your coffee add-ins by adding some unsweetened almond milk or 1% milk, and if you absolutely need to add some sugar, just limiting it to half a packet.
Laury agrees. “Most things in moderation are OK,” she says. “If you’re having one cup of coffee a day, that’s cool, but you have to be more careful because coffee has a lot of caffeine. There’s this myth floating around that tea actually has more caffeine than coffee, and it’s just not true. Coffee has a lot more caffeine.”
And caffeine isn’t a great thing to pump into your system unregulated. It can create anxiety, and stresses your heart out if you overdo it. “Don’t make your heart work too hard for no reason,” Laury tells us.
Coffee alone counts as breakfast, especially if you're trying to lose weight
“A lot of people think breakfast is coffee,” Maika says. “That’s a beverage, not a meal.”
“You have to really watch the beverages -- with those Starbucks drinks, you can drink a lot of sugar very quickly, and just get a bunch of calories,” Laury tells us. “Most people know breakfast is important, but they’ll want to skip it to lose weight.”
But since no breakfast means no morning calories, wouldn’t that mean a better bet at weight loss? Not necessarily, Laury explains. “Skipping breakfast can set you up to want to overeat at other meals.”
Eggs are unhealthy
“Eggs are an excellent source of protein,” Laury says. And now that we know cholesterol in food doesn't raise cholesterol in the blood, there's no need to separate the yolks from the whites.
It’s important to have a full breakfast before your morning workout
“Having a meal before working out is absolutely not necessary,” Maika says. “Some people just can’t tolerate something really heavy before a workout, and they really don’t have to.”
That’s not to say it’s a great idea to show up to the gym without having eaten anything at all.
“If you’re crunched on time, eat something small to give you some energy for your workout, like a little plain Greek yogurt with some banana slices, or whole-grain toast with peanut butter.”
Laury suggests going hobbit-style on gym days. “Have a first breakfast and second breakfast -- split it up. You can have a little 8oz smoothie before the gym, and then after you’re done working out, you can eat breakfast. Besides, your body tends to absorb protein better if it’s eaten over several meals rather than at one or two meals.”
A healthy breakfast takes a lot of time to prepare
More lies! “It can be done in less than 10 minutes,” Maika says. “You can prepare something really simple the night before, like overnight oats. If you bring your lunch to work, also just pack a small breakfast.”
A lot of good breakfasts are also readily available at the bodega down the street from your work. You can snag a Greek yogurt or hardboiled eggs at most places, or you can add them to your regular shopping list so you have something on hand to grab before you leave in the morning.
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Jess Novak eats avocado toast every morning, but she will not subject you to pictures of that on either Twitter @jesstothenovak or Instagram @jtothenovak.