Breakfast – it’s probably the most debated meal of the day. What to have, whether to have it and the best options for a healthy weight and longevity. Perhaps the reason the debate continues is that the studies on breakfast are often conflicting. As soon as one study tells you it should be the largest meal of the day, another will tell you to consider skipping it. Some evidence is stronger than others, however. Here are my top tips in creating a perfect breakfast.

  1. Wait a while, but not too long

Studies have found that prolonging breakfast by 90 minutes (and eating dinner 90 minutes earlier) can help with improving your metabolic profile and weight. They key is to not wait so long that your hunger increases and you find yourself with a sleeve of cookies at 2:00 in the afternoon. Prolonging breakfast, even for a short amount of time, can help to keep your body in a fasting state which in turn can help reduce the risk of chronic disease and prolong life.

  1. Focus on protein and healthy fats as the base

Far too many of us focus on orange juice, bagels, pastries, and doughnuts first thing in the morning. This deluge of carbs puts your body on a blood sugar roller coaster and so can put on belly fat and sap energy. Instead, focus on foods that are harder to digest, like protein and fat. Consider a protein shake, scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese, or a full fat yogurt with a handful of berries. If you do want to have a healthy carb, consider a sprouted grain bread with nut butter or avocado, or steel cut oats with chopped nuts. I often advise my patients to add a spoonful of protein powder to their oats.

  1. Consider waiting until after a workout
    Recent studies have shown that working out on an empty stomach can help your body tap into fat, not glycogen, which can push you towards becoming a fat burning machine. Obviously, this method does not work with all workouts. Some workouts, like long runs or hikes or even high intensity workouts, require stored glycogen to get you through, but if you’re heading out for a shorter run, walk or even short weight training session, getting good quality protein afterward may be a better approach!
  1. ENJOY IT!

Every Sunday, my kids and I head out early to our favorite doughnut shop. It happens once a week, and I really enjoy my old-fashioned doughnut. The point is, this once a week indulgence is so infrequent that I’m not worried that my health will suffer. If you still want the big breakfast sandwich or pile high plate of bacon, do it, and enjoy it – just don’t make it a regular habit. It’s not the foods we indulge in every once in a while that impact our health, it’s what we do every single day that makes a difference.