What To Eat For Breakfast When Trying To Lose Weight

To eat or not to eat breakfast? A lot of people don’t know what to eat for breakfast to lose weight, leading some to skip the meal entirely. There are studies looking at the impact of eating/skipping breakfast on weight loss, but the results are contradictory.

Some studies, for example, found that participants who eat breakfast every morning gain an average of 1.2 more pounds than those who choose to skip it. Others also reported that participants who ate breakfast took in 260 more calories than those who didn’t¹.

On the other hand, a meta-analysis found a connection between skipping breakfast and obesity. The researchers looked at 45 observational studies and concluded that skipping breakfast increases the risk of being overweight/obese, regardless of age, gender, or economic condition². 

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Should you skip breakfast if you’re trying to lose weight?

According to an interview with Texas Children’s Hospital’s senior clinical dietitian, Kristi King, you’re risking more than weight loss when you skip breakfast³.

King says that individuals who skip breakfast have a “higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, higher risk of obesity due to insulin resistance and hormone regulation, as well as increased risk for heart attacks and hypertension.”

The dietitian also noted that you take in fewer essential nutrients, are more vulnerable to unhealthy cravings, and alter your blood sugar levels. “Your mood will be affected [when your blood sugar drops],” King explains. What’s more, she adds, “Your energy levels will decrease as well as your cognitive function.”

Whether you eat breakfast or not ultimately depends on your preferences and lifestyle. Pay attention to your body’s signs to decide what works best for you. It’s important to note that while you may lose weight by skipping breakfast, it may also increase your health risks. Additional research is needed to explore this issue in-depth.

The best foods to eat for breakfast to lose weight

Breakfast can be a great opportunity to feed your body essential nutrients and boost your energy for the day. With the right breakfast foods, you can benefit from a healthier diet as well as positive weight loss results.

The best breakfast foods and drinks for losing weight include bananas, smoothies, eggs, yogurt, and coffee. Here’s why.

Bananas

Bananas are a great source of vitamin B6, fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and manganese⁴. Often considered a superfood, bananas have been linked to weight loss primarily due to their high fiber intake.

Since fiber has been shown in studies to reduce cravings and make you feel fuller⁵, a medium banana with just 100 calories with three grams of dietary fiber can be a great alternative to cereals and pancakes.

Additional studies also show that increasing your fiber intake via fruits and vegetables can improve your overall weight loss⁶.

Smoothies

Smoothies offer the perfect chance to jam-pack your breakfast with the right nutrients and ingredients. The best part? You can change the ingredients to fit your taste preferences and nutritional needs, and they are generally pretty quick and easy to make.

For best results, Keri Gans, RDN and author of The Small Change Diet, told Women’s Health⁷, “Make sure your breakfast smoothies are rich in protein, otherwise, you will most likely be hungry way before lunchtime. Also, a little fat and fiber [are] needed for satiety as well as overall nutrition.”

As shown in previously mentioned studies⁵, fiber is an excellent contributor to weight loss. In this case, you may even want to consider adding a banana into your morning protein smoothie to benefit from fiber and protein.

Additional studies support Gans’s advice to make your smoothies rich in protein. Drinking protein powder and eating seeds, nuts, and oats, among others, can improve your feelings of fullness longer and reduce cravings⁸.

Eggs

At only 78 calories, a medium egg is full of essential minerals and vitamins⁹, including:

  • Vitamin A, D, E, and B12

  • Iron

  • High-quality protein

  • Selenium

  • Lutein and zeaxanthin

  • Choline

In one study, a group of overweight and obese participants was prescribed to either eat bagels or a two-egg breakfast. After just eight weeks, the participants with an egg-based diet experienced a 61% greater reduction in body mass index (BMI), a 34% greater reduction in waist circumference, and a 16% greater reduction in body fat¹⁰.

Yogurt 

Just one cup of yogurt in the morning offers 12.86 grams of protein and 154.35 kilocalories of energy, in addition to calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins B6, B12, and more¹¹.

According to one study, yogurt regulates a healthy energy balance and positively influences appetite control via calcium and proteins¹². It has also been shown to influence several kilograms of weight loss in clinical and observational studies.

Additional research suggests that yogurt is positively linked to weight management, with some studies noticing a connection between eating yogurt and lower BMI, waist circumference, and body fat¹³.

However, while researchers concluded that yogurt could play a substantial role in weight management, they said that more research was needed due to the inability to determine a cause-effect relationship.

Coffee

If you were worried that your morning cup of coffee would have to go to lose weight, worry no more. Studies show that caffeine can increase energy expenditure (the calories you burn each day¹⁴) by about 13%, improve fat breakdown, and contribute to weight loss¹⁵.

Another study found that normal caffeine consumption can increase a lean individual’s daily energy expenditure by 5% and help post-obese patients maintain weight loss. Results also showed that the combination of exercise and caffeine burned more calories than exercise alone¹⁶.

Foods to avoid at breakfast when trying to lose weight

Having a healthy start to your day can be very beneficial for weight loss, just as starting your day with snacks, junk foods, and treats can be disastrous. More often than not, the problem is that most people don’t know that what they’re eating is not healthy.

“Education is an issue,” Marion Nestle, nutrition scholar at New York University, told NPR¹⁷. “But so is relentless food marketing.” In the same article, Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, also said that “The industry has people thinking that many of their items are healthy.”

In many cases, your breakfast options may not be healthy, despite common beliefs. Here’s what to avoid if you want to lose weight.

Packaged oatmeal

Oats are considered one of the healthiest grains you can eat, which is why so many people look to pre-packaged oatmeal as a quick, easy, and presumably healthy option. The problem with packaged oatmeal is you add in a lot of calories and sugar for flavor, making the risks outweigh the benefits of adding it to your breakfast routine.

Take, for instance, the difference in sugar and carbs in a packet of Maple Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal versus homemade oatmeal:

  • Quaker oats, pre-packaged (1 packet): 12 grams of sugar, 33 grams of carbohydrates¹⁸

  • Homemade Quaker oats (1/3 cup): 0.37 grams of sugar, 18 grams of carbohydrates¹⁹

Instead of packaged oatmeal, enjoy a bowl of homemade oatmeal with your favorite fresh fruits.

Fruit juice

Many people don’t realize that juice is one of the worst drinks you can drink; yes, that includes 100% fruit juice. Not only does drinking fruit juice in the morning keep you from consuming healthier beverages like water or a cup of coffee, but it’s also full of sugar and calories that lead to weight gain and contribute to obesity.

CNN Health reported a 2019 study that found that when you drink too much fruit juice, you increase the odds of dying prematurely from 9% to 42%. Their report found that individuals whose calorie count is made up of 10% or more of fruit juice or other sugary beverages have a 44% greater risk of dying due to coronary heart disease. They also have a 14% greater risk of early death from any cause than those who kept their percentages at 5% or lower²⁰.

Instead of fruit juice, have a glass of water first thing in the morning. A study on 173 overweight female participants found that increases in drinking water resulted in substantial loss of body weight and fat²¹. A mini-review also observed a potential link between increased hydration and weight loss by evaluating several studies and publications²².

Protein bars

Depending on the protein bar you choose to replace your breakfast meal with, you may be looking at more calories than a candy bar and nearly as much sugar. The problem with today’s food marketing is that all protein bars are presumed to be healthy despite most of them being filled with too much sugar and too many calories.

For instance, the popular Gatorade Whey Protein Bar has 350 calories and 13 grams of fat²³. Compared to a normal-sized Snickers, you’re taking in an additional gram of fat and at least 100 more calories when eating the protein bar. This makes it an ideal solution for individuals looking to gain weight but a breakfast food to avoid if you want to lose the pounds.

Instead of protein bars, consider eating raw nuts and seeds for more protein. According to one study, eating nuts over an extended period of time can contribute to weight loss and reduce the risk of becoming overweight/obese²⁴.

Another study noted the additional health benefits of eating nuts, including lowering the risk for sudden cardiac death, heart disease, hypertension, gallstone disease, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure²⁵.

The lowdown

While the debate about whether to skip or eat breakfast when trying to lose weight continues to be relevant, there are a lot of benefits to consider with a healthy, well-balanced meal in the morning.

Instead of skipping breakfast — which may lead to positive weight loss results but will not add nutritional value to your body — eat a healthy meal with smoothies, yogurt, eggs, banana, or coffee. Avoid food items that are marketed as “healthy” but are actually not, including packaged oatmeal, fruit juice, and protein bars.

By knowing what to eat for breakfast when trying to lose weight, you’ll rest assured that you start your day, every day, with meals that help you have a healthy and well-balanced diet.

  1. Eating breakfast won't help you lose weight, but skipping it might not either | Harvard Health Publishing

  2. Skipping breakfast is associated with overweight and obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysis (2020)

  3. 21 Things that happen to your body when you skip breakfast | Eat This, Not That!

  4. The nutritional source — bananas | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

  5. The impact of soluble dietary fibre on gastric emptying, postprandial blood glucose and insulin in patients with type 2 diabetes (2014)

  6. The effect of fiber on satiety and food intake: A systematic review (2013)

  7. 40 Healthy breakfast smoothie recipes for weight loss | Women’s Health

  8. Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response (2006)

  9. The impact of egg nutrient composition and its consumption on cholesterol homeostasis (2018)

  10. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss (2009)

  11. Nutrition facts — yogurt | University of Rochester Medical Center

  12. Impact of yogurt on appetite control, energy balance, and body composition (2015)

  13. Is consuming yogurt associated with weight management outcomes? Results from a systematic review (2016)

  14. Control of energy expenditure in humans (2016)

  15. Metabolic effects of caffeine in humans: Lipid oxidation or futile cycling? (2004)

  16. Caffeine intake is related to successful weight loss maintenance (2016)

  17. 75 Percent of Americans say they eat healthy — despite evidence to the contrary | NPR

  18. Quaker® instant oatmeal maple and brown sugar | Quaker

  19. Quaker® oats old fashioned | Quaker

  20. It’s not just soda: Drinking too much fruit juice (or any sugary drink) linked to premature death risk | CNN Health

  21. Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity (2008)

  22. Increased hydration can be associated with weight loss (2016)

  23. Gatorade recover® whey protein bar | Gatorade

  24. Long-term associations of nut consumption with body weight and obesity (2014)

  25. Health benefits of nut consumption (2010)

Have you considered clinical trials for Weight management?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Weight management, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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