Sandwich with avocado and poached egg

The new healthy breakfast rules

The latest science may surprise you — and shake up your approach to the morning meal.

Forget what you thought you knew. These days, breakfast options have expanded and the timing of the morning meal is open to interpretation. Here’s the latest.

Not hungry? No problem

There’s no scientific research to prove breakfast is “the most important meal of the day” — any more than the other meals. You can still have a healthy diet even if you skip breakfast, since there’s no one diet plan that works for everyone.

A quick overview of the science shows that:

  • Eating breakfast is associated with lower body weight over time in some studies, but other studies show breakfast has no effect on weight loss
  • People who eat breakfast may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, both risk factors for heart disease and stroke
  • Breakfast eaters tend to get more vitamins, minerals and fibre compared to breakfast skippers.

If you eat breakfast, that’s great. But if you skip it and still have a healthy diet, that’s OK too.

Only about 55 per cent of us eat breakfast daily, according to the Tracking Nutrition Trends report from the Canadian Foundation of Dietetic Research. That means there are a lot of breakfast skippers!

And that “most important meal of the day” line? It usually comes from ads by food marketers instead of nutrition research. And you shouldn’t rely on ads to decide what’s best to eat.


Think savoury, not sweet

In our world of toaster pastries and breakfast cookies, the morning meal is often fuelled by sweetness. Made with added sugar, these breakfasts can put you over the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s recommended maximum of 12 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Now savoury breakfasts are gaining momentum. From avocado toast to vegetable-inspired yogurt flavours, breakfast items made with herbs, spices and— dare I say — hot chili sauce are becoming common. Savoury breakfasts are not new, especially around the globe. In Japan, you may sit down to fish, rice and miso soup for breakfast. In India, you might try dosas with a spicy potato filling. Congee, a rice-based porridge, is common in China.

Tomorrow morning, tuck into whole grain toast topped with scrambled eggs and sriracha, or zip up your oatmeal with parmesan and fresh basil. 


Focus on protein in the morning

A recent study showed that people who ate breakfast with 20-30 grams of protein and seven or more grams of fibre felt full for longer and had better post-meal blood sugar levels compared to people who ate breakfast with 10 g protein and low fibre.

If your morning meal is still buttered toast, it’s time to amp up your choice. Aim for high protein foods such as Greek yogurt or eggs, and pair them with a source of fibre, such as fruit, nuts, seeds or bran cereal. My go-to breakfast combination is plain Greek yogurt with berries, almond butter, bran cereal and chia seeds. 


Fast food is popular, but homemade is better

Fast food breakfast sales are exploding; one recent Canadian news report showed revenues jumping by one-third in just a year. But at what cost? Most take-out “breakfast sandwiches” come with about 800 mg sodium (half a day’s worth), no fibre, and lots of saturated or trans fat. It’s better to whip something up at home.

Statistics show that 80 per cent of all homemade breakfast take less than five minutes to make. It can take longer to wait at the drive-thru. Try rolling peanut butter and a banana in a whole grain tortilla — it’s a better breakfast sandwich.



6 Responses

    1. Caroline Connell

      Hi Ann
      For more breakfast recipes with full nutrient info, check out our recipe collection at
      Caroline at the Heart and Stroke Foundation

    1. Sharon Hollingsworth

      Hi Jennifer,
      A very interesting question and one that it seems where the research is not conclusive as yet. Here is what Registered Dietitian, Carol Dombrow suggested I share with you:

      It is not known if circadian rhythms of dietary triggers drive an individuals desire to eat or skip breakfast or whether the act of skipping breakfast shifts the circadian rhythms of dietary and hunger triggers. This is certainly an area that needs further research.

      Hope this answers your question and thanks for your interest in the Heart & Stroke blog! Sincerely, Sharon at Heart & Stroke

      Studies have been done showing those who eat the same number of calories in a day but have a larger breakfast and smaller dinner have improved weight loss, insulin sensitivity and hunger suppression as compared to those who skip breakfast and have a large dinner.


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    In all the years have never receive such a demanding call from Heart and Stroke. Would hate for other people to have to go through this torture.

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    1. Sharon Hollingsworth

      Hi Blanche – I’m very sorry to hear that this happened to you and can assure you that this is definitely not Heart & Stroke’s usual practice. We value and are very grateful to each and every one of our donors and thank you so much for your support. Rest assured that I will forward your note to the appropriate department. Once again, I apologize for this – thank you for bringing it to our attention. Sincerely, Sharon at Heart & Stroke

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