First off, I feel that it’s important for me to say …
ANY BREAKFAST IS BETTER THAN NO BREAKFAST!
Of course, there’s always qualifiers… but the point is that you really should not skip breakfast.
There are lots of reasons, but here are a few of the things that we have evidence for, regarding the benefits of breakfast:
- From this 2009 review article in the Cambridge Journals: “The evidence indicates that breakfast consumption is more beneficial than skipping breakfast, but this effect is more apparent in children whose nutritional status is compromised.” 
- This study, from Nutrition Journal, compared two different breakfast meals consumed by adolescent girls. I find two of the conclusions interesting. 1. both types of breakfast reduced after meal (post prandial) cravings. 2. The higher protein breakfast (35g) tended to decrease cravings more than the control breakfast (13g). Other than protein, the meals were matched for calories, fat content, dietary fiber, and sugar content. 
- A similar study, by the same authors but published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was also done in adolescents (must be where all the research money is!!!), concluded that “breakfast led to beneficial alterations in the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals that control food intake regulation.”
- The Journal of Epidemiology published a study showing that eating breakfast can prevent weight gain. 
- This Tufts report states in can help with cognitive function (never bad for anyone battling “CancerBrain” or “ChemoBrain”!). Granted, the study was funded by Quaker Oats Company, but I don’t think that skewed too much! 
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, this study, from way back in (gasp!) 1999, shows that with breakfast and coffee, we are HAPPIER people!  (NOTE: if you missed my last article, it’s a brief Q&A about why coffee can be a cancer fighting food.)
For a less scientific look at breakfast, you can always read about: What Nutritionists Eat For Breakfast! Great ideas there, and also you can see a theme of what nutrition experts agree on! HINT: it does not involve eliminating entire food groups (ahem… Paleo…). 😛
What’s in the Bowl?
Ok, so since we’ve established that breaking the fast of your overnight rest is important, now it’s time to focus on how to build the best breakfast that you can, given your circumstances.
Two posts ago, I discussed the basics on building a breakfast.
The goal is to have:
- a fruit or vegetable (1 cup is ideal)
- a carbohydrate source to help replenish the stores that were used up overnight while you slept (Fruit can fill this role if you want. Also, remember that dairy foods have some healthy carbs too. For you counters… I would aim for 30 – 45g of carbs).
- a protein source to help fill you up and get the day started. See discussion below on goals!
In addition, if you have some kind of fat mixed in with breakfast, it will help the meal last a bit longer.
Last year about this time, I shared about a discussion regarding how much protein to have at breakfast. You can read that post here: How much protein should you have at breakfast? Essentially, it talked about aiming for 30g of protein at breakfast, and spreading protein out throughout the day.
This thinking is evidenced through this study, published January 2014, in The Journal of Nutrition.  Their conclusion was “the consumption of a moderate amount of protein at each meal stimulated 24-h muscle protein synthesis more effectively
than skewing protein intake toward the evening meal.” They compared diets of people who consumed 10g at breakfast (15g at lunch and 65g at dinner) to people who consumed 30g at each meal.
I can attest that reaching 30g at breakfast can be a challenge, but I would say 20 would be a realistic goal.
You Don’t Need to Count!!
In case you don’t know, I’m not one to suggest that you obsessively count calories, protein, carbs, salt, fat, or anything else about your food, unless it’s medically necessary. I find that some people can cross into disordered eating behavior if they obsess too much about the numbers.
However, when you’re trying to take an objective look at something, or considering a change to make, it can be helpful to “evaluate the data.” When it comes to your breakfast, I would suggest you do a bit of evaluating. Do you have at least 15g of protein, 1 cup of fruit (or vegetable) and some kind of fat to fill you up?
If you need some ideas, you can check out this practical article from Business Insider. I like the point they make about eggs:
“Before you toss the yolk, remember that the yellowish center is where most of the nutrients are found.”
And for a list of how much protein is in various food items, check this article out: http://cancerdietitian.com/2013/08/amount-of-protein-in-various-foods-charts-and-lists.html
- Alexa Hoyland, Louise Dye and Clare L. Lawton (2009). A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition Research Reviews, 22, pp 220-243. doi:10.1017/S0954422409990175.
- Heather A Hoertel, Matthew J Will and Heather J Leidy (2014). A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping”, late-adolescent girls. Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:80 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-80.
- Heather J Leidy, Laura C Ortinau, Steve M Douglas, and Heather A Hoertel (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr April 2013 vol. 97 no. 4 677-688.
- Yunsheng Ma1, Elizabeth R. Bertone2, Edward J. Stanek III2, George W. Reed1, James R. Hebert3, Nancy L. Cohen4, Philip A. Merriam1 and Ira S. Ockene. Association between Eating Patterns and Obesity in a Free-living US Adult Population. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2003) 158 (1): 85-92. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwg117.
- Caroline R. Mahoney, Holly A. Taylor, Robin B. Kanarek, Priscilla Samuel (2005). Effect of breakfast composition on cognitive processes in elementary school children. Physiology & Behavior 85 (2005) 635 – 645.
- Andrew P Smitha, Rachel Clarka, John Gallaghera. Breakfast Cereal and Caffeinated Coffee: Effects on Working Memory, Attention, Mood, and Cardiovascular Function. Physiology & Behavior: Volume 67, Issue 1, 1 August 1999, Pages 9-17. DOI: 10.1016/S0031-9384(99)00025-6.
- Madonna M. Mamerow4, Joni A. Mettler4, Kirk L. English4, Shanon L. Casperson6, Emily Arentson-Lantz4, Melinda Sheffield-Moore6, Donald K. Layman7, and Douglas Paddon-Jones. Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. J. Nutr. June 1, 2014 vol. 144 no. 6 876-880.