That Sugar Movement


Let’s talk breakfast

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

We have long been encouraged to fuel up at breakfast. Yet, research sits on both sides of the fence as to whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or whether we ‘need’ to eat anything at all.

Have you taken notice of how you feel when you skip on the morning feed?

Do you feel more energised? Do you reach for an extra coffee, some chocolate, or slice of cake before midday? Maybe it varies and sometimes you skip breakfast and feel clear-headed, when other times you suddenly realise you cannot focus and the local 7-Eleven beckons you to buy something sweet for a quick energy fix.

The need for breakfast can vary day-to-day, person-to-person. Whether you eat or not, and the quality of what you eat, can dramatically impact the rest of your day, your sleep that night, and the days to follow.

If I don’t wake hungry, why would I eat?

For some, eating not long after waking can seem a trial, and forcing something down can go against what your body is telling you.

It is important to listen to your body and do not eat if you are not hungry.

But why is it some of us do not wake up with a growling belly? There could be many factors, and here are a few to consider:

  • How late did you eat the night before?
    We want to allow at least 12 hours between yesterday’s supper and today’s breaking of the fast. Eating late can disrupt sleep, and leave you completely un-hungry come morning.
  • How much did you eat the day and night before?
    So, dinner was a big one! Ideally, we should be eating any meal until 80% full. Aim for this and offer the digestive tract time and space to process your food.
  • Do you think skipping breakfast means skipping kJs, therefore weight loss?
    One does consume fewer kilojoules when skipping breakfast, obviously. According to some research, it is apparently quite hard to make up the kilojoules over the rest of the day, despite what is eaten.1 But other research claims that eating breakfast regularly is helpful in maintaining a healthy weight (more on this below).

It is important to consider what factors can lead you to not feel the need to feed within the first hour or so of waking. 

Why? Skipping breakfast can contribute to a slump in energy later in the day. In this state, poor food choices can be made, such as reaching for something sugary at morning tea for a quick energy hit; or eating way more at lunch than you need because you are ‘starving’ (which is often followed by a strong desire to nap).

In theory, if we can increase our desire to eat breakfast, we are more likely to fill our fuel tank with good quality food choices, and not overeat cheap, quick sources of energy later in the day. 

Eating well in the morning can also have a significant effect on the management of blood glucose levels and weight.

Managing blood glucose
Stabilising blood sugar levels is important – short and long term. Fluctuations lead to simple sugar cravings, mood swings, lack of clarity, focus and patience, weight gain, and inflammation. Ongoing the damage internally is rife, contributing to issues with the liver, heart, and brain.

There are three things to consider here:

  1. Not eating for an extended period can result in low levels of glucose available for brain and body cells. Cravings for an instant energy hit may prevail. Research has shown that afternoon and evening blood glucose is more stable with breakfast than without.However, not eating when you are not hungry is okay – just not to the point where you feel light-headed!
  2. Eating foods like toast and jam, cornflakes and honey, or a Maccas blueberry muffin will cause blood glucose to rapidly rise, then dramatically drop. This leaves us reaching for another sugary hit, and can totally negate the point of why breakfast is considered by many the most important meal of the day! Therefore, when eating breakfast, make sure it is good quality and consists of real, whole foods to minimise the fluctuations of blood glucose.
  3. Skipping meals can impact mood, decision making, and cognition. This can be related to the variations in blood glucose levels, though it depends on who you are, your energy expenditure, and what you have eaten previously. Learning and school performance improves in children who are on the breakfast eating trend. But the quality of the food consumed matters.3-4

Weight management
Some studies have shown that skipping or eating breakfast mightn’t make a difference in weight gain or loss.1

There are also plenty of observational studies that have drawn the skipping-breakfast-will-lead-to-weight-gain correlation. (Though correlation needn’t mean causation!) Intervention trials have also shown to impact metabolic and hormonal activity and appetite without the morning meal.5-6

Keep in mind, any weight gain seen in breakfast skippers may be because those who eat breakfast are more likely to eat better overall.7-8 Interestingly, individuals who regularly eat breakfast may have lower levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.6

What you eat matters

When eating breakfast, choose real whole foods that will release energy slowly. This means including sources of fibre, quality protein, and healthy fats. 

And if you aren’t an early morning muncher, do not make yourself ill by smashing back food at 7am because you think you have to! Just prepare yourself with good options – whether a large meal or something small like a banana or boiled egg – for when you are ready to eat.

But if you have issues with energy, focus, and cravings for all things sweet and caffeinated, you may wish to consider adjusting what you do, even the night before, in order to encourage morning hungriness.

Breakfast swap ideas for you!

When eating breakfast, try swapping out conventional breakfast options for those that will better nourish and support you throughout your day! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Margarine for an avocado
  • Juice for a smoothie with a banana, veg, seeds & nuts
  • Cereal for whole oats, buckwheat or quinoa
  • Pastry for a slice of sourdough & nut butter
  • Flavoured yoghurt for plain Greek or coconut yoghurt & fresh fruit
  • Jam for smashed berries, cinnamon, chia & vanilla
  • Store-bought muesli bar for a homemade banana, oat & nut butter bar
  • Fried eggs, hash brown & cheap sausage for poached eggs, avo, greens & salmon

Think good quality, real whole foods. As suggested above, focus on including sources of fibre, quality protein, and healthy fats, and get creative!

Check out our quick no-added sugar breakfast suggestions as well as our library of recipes on our website and books and e-books. Each offer ideas that you can easily incorporate into your morning routine. Better yet, prep the day before or a few days ahead!

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)



  1. Dhurandhar, EJ, Dawson, J, Alcorn, A, Larsen, LH, Thomas, EA, Cardel, M, Bourland, AC, Astrup, A, St-Onge, M, Hill, JO, Apovian, CM, Shikany, JM, & Allison, DB 2014, ‘The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 100, no. 2, pp. 507-513.
  2. Chowdhury, EA, Richardson, JD, Holman, GD, Tsintzas, K, Thompson, D, & Betts, JA 2016, ‘The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in obese adults’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 103, no. 3, pp. 747-756.

  3. Adolphus, K, Lawton, CL, Champ, CL, & Dye, L 2016, ‘The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review’, Advances In Nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 590S-612S.
  4. Giovannini, M, Agostoni, C, & Shamir, R 2010, ‘Symposium overview: Do we all eat breakfast and is it important?’, Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 97-99 3p.
  5. Astbury, NM, Taylor, MA, & Macdonald, IA 2011, ‘Breakfast consumption affects appetite, energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters’, The Journal of Nutrition, no. 7, p. 1381.
  6. Jakubowicz, D, Barnea, M, Wainstein, J, & Froy, O 2013, ‘High caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women’, Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), vol. 21, no. 12, pp. 2504-2512

  7. Chowdhury, EA, Richardson, JD, Holman, GD, Tsintzas, K, Thompson, D, & Betts, JA 2016, ‘The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in obese adults’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 103, no. 3, pp. 747-756.

  8. Geliebter, A, Astbury, NM, Aviram-Friedman, R, Yahav, E, & Hashim, S 2014, ‘Skipping breakfast leads to weight loss but also elevated cholesterol compared with consuming daily breakfasts of oat porridge or frosted cornflakes in overweight individuals: a randomised controlled trial’, Journal Of Nutritional Science, vol. 3, p. e56.
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