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Why a big breakfast can be unhealthy

Rhea Claire Madarang
Is breakfast overrated? We debunk the big myths.

BREAKFAST MISCONCEPTION. Eating the typical heavy breakfast may actually do your health more harm than good. Photo by Mabel Leaf via Flickr Creative Commons

MANILA, Philippines – There’s a saying that goes: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”

Breakfast is widely believed to be the most important meal of the day. 

But medical doctor Jason Peñaranda, who also advocates healthy living and natural treatments, begs to disagree. 

“Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all important. They all should be taken,” he says emphatically. 

He particularly warns against the belief that breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day. “Breakfast” literally means “break the fast,” so breakfast is your first meal after a whole night of sleeping — where your body detoxes and repairs itself — and fasting. Thus, a heavy meal upon waking is not advisable. 

In fact, fasting protocols caution against eating a heavy meal after ending a fast. People who break a fast are advised to eat light, easy-to-digest meals.

In addition, Dr. Peñaranda explains that our digestive ability is lowest at morning and at night. So if you eat a heavy, difficult-to-digest breakfast — for example, the typical meal of fried rice, fried eggs and fried meat like hotdogs or tocino — you “place a burden on your body’s physiology.”

Our digestive ability actually peaks around noon, making lunch a better time for a heavier meal.

The weight loss myth

THE BEST TIME TO EAT HEAVY. Your digestive system’s power peaks at noon, so lunch should be your heaviest meal of the day. Chart from Dr. Jason Peñaranda

There is a belief among weight watchers that a big breakfast will make you feel less hungry throughout the day, and thus lessen your food intake. 

Dr. Peñaranda says this is not the case. 

“No matter how heavy your breakfast is, you will still feel the need to eat by lunchtime because your body is designed to be hungry again after around 4 hours,” he points out. “At that time, all the excess food you had for breakfast will have been converted and stored as fats in your body.”

A German study on the meal intake of 280 obese and 100 normal-weight adults found that how heavy or light your breakfast is does not influence your calorie intake afterwards. The study actually recommends cutting down on breakfast calories to lose weight.

The breakfast you should be eating

HEALTHY ENERGY. For a light breakfast, bananas and sweet potatoes pack a powerful punch of energy. Photo by Rhea Claire Madarang

If the typical Filipino breakfast of fried rice and ulam (viand) puts a strain on your digestive system, what should you be eating?

Dr. Peñaranda suggests the following:

1. Fresh fruit, especially energy-giving ones like bananas and avocados (boiled saba is also fine)

2. Boiled root crops like sweet potato

3. Complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, dark bread and whole-wheat bread (but not from refined flour)

4. Hard-boiled — not fried — eggs (oil is difficult to digest)

5. Nuts. They are packed with energy and are relatively easy to digest.

6. Fresh juice (best if it comes from the juicer, and not from the can or tetrapack)

A fun and delicious way to eat fresh fruits is by blending them into a smoothie. You can blend different kinds of fruits every day for variety. Blending your food makes it even easier to digest!

Here are some breakfast smoothie recipes: 

What about the people who say they need a big breakfast to get through the morning, those who are always out on fieldwork or have labor-intensive work? 

Dr. Peñaranda says they can have a big breakfast, but of easy-to-digest food. They should just eat a greater quantity of the food listed above.

So, the keys to a healthy breakfast are:

1. Eat easy-to-digest food

2. Eat only what you need for energy. Do not overeat. –


Should you have health and wellness questions for Dr. Jason Peñaranda, you may reach him at or send him a tweet at @JasPenMD.

Claire Madarang

Claire Madarang is a writer, traveler, and seeker. Her wanderlust takes her on adventures like backpacking for 7 weeks straight. Her seeking leads her to different wellness practices like meditation and healthy (mostly vegetarian) eating. Follow her adventures, tips, and epiphanies at her blog, Traveling Light.