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What you've always been told about breakfast may be wrong
We've always been told to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. But NPR now tell us it's not when we eat, but what we eat that matters. - photo by Jennifer Graham
Conventional wisdom says to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

Conventional wisdom may be wrong.

So says NPR in a report on whether it's really important to eat breakfast at all. Correspondent Allison Aubrey said the prevailing idea that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" came from a mix of science, tradition and shrewd marketing by cereal manufacturers.

An oft-cited study from Alameda County, California, in the 1960s suggested that breakfast eaters were healthier and lived longer than those who skipped the morning meal.

But more recent research has found no evidence that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, which was long thought to be the case. That's good news to the nearly half of Twitter users who responded to NPR's informal poll and said they either skip breakfast altogether or just have a yogurt or energy bar.

There is evidence, however, that if we do eat breakfast, what we eat matters more than when we eat it.

People who eat mostly protein in the morning avoid spikes in blood sugar and insulin that come from other standard breakfast fare, and they're more likely to eat less during the day.

"If breakfast is based on highly processed carbohydrates [such as sugary cereals or sweet rolls], it may be as bad [as], or worse than, skipping breakfast," David Ludwig, a nutrition professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, told NPR.

An ideal breakfast, Columbia University psychiatrist Drew Ramsey said, would be eggs, mixed greens and pumpkin seeds. (Pumpkin seeds, Aubrey wrote, may help ease anxiety because of their magnesium content.)

NPR noted that people who don't eat breakfast aren't unusual, because mealtimes are no longer as rigid as they used to be. And some people are trying to improve their health with mini-fasts, going 14 to 18 hours without eating. And others say we can be healthy on one meal a day, not two or three.

In its report on breakfast skippers, the UK's Daily Mail suggested that eliminating the morning meal could help people lose or maintain weight.

The newspaper quoted Bristol University psychology professor Peter Rogers, who said, "Most of us could do with eating less. Given that it's probably the easiest meal to skip, maybe skipping breakfast occasionally could be that opportunity."

But if you choose not to eat in the morning, you don't have to stop eating breakfast food, which, as fast-food companies have recently learned, is important to Americans.

McDonald's has reversed two years of slumping sales by offering all-day breakfast, and other fast-food restaurants are ramping up their offerings, USA Today says.
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