What’s Wrong with this Breakfast?

Two common mistakes people make with the first meal of the day

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #183

Callie wrote to ask for suggestions for a healthy breakfast that would keep her going for at least 5 hours. Apparently, she finds herself getting hungry long before lunch time rolls around. Callie currently eats a bowl of high fiber cereal with skim milk—precisely the type of breakfast that you’ll see recommended in health magazines and diet books. But I’m not at all surprised that Callie is running on empty midway through her morning. 

Most of the so-called “healthy” breakfasts I see touted in popular books and magazines fall short on two major counts..

Mistake #1: Not Eating Enough Food

One common breakfast mistake is simply not eating enough. When you wake up in the morning, it’s been 8 to 10 hours since you’ve eaten, so you’re basically running on empty. Is it realistic to expect a 200-calorie breakfast to last 5 hours? Probably not.

The average person needs somewhere between 1,800 and 2,400 calories a day and most people are awake for 16 to 18 hours a day.    So, here’s a rule of thumb: a meal should provide at least 100 calories for every hour it will be until your next meal (or bedtime). If it’s going to be 5 hours until lunch time, you should be eating closer to 500 calories at breakfast.

Now, some of you will find that number shockingly large—but that’s because you’ve been brain-washed by magazines and food ads that promote low-calorie breakfasts as a good weight management strategy.  If you’re only going to eat 200 calories for breakfast, you’d better plan for a mid-morning snack—because you’re going to need it. And if you’re someone who doesn’t wake up with a big appetite, dividing that 500-calorie morning meal into a small breakfast and a mid-morning snack is certainly an acceptable alternative. 

See also: Tips for Healthy Snacking

See also: Is it Ever OK to Skip Breakfast?


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.