At a recent gathering, I heard someone mention the old weight loss adage ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper’ and alarm bells started ringing in my ears.
Here are a few reasons why the “eating like a king at breakfast” concept is flawed
- The interpretation of “breakfast like a king” varies from person to person. I recall when someone once observed my Sunday brunch plate featuring two streaky bacon rashers, one back bacon rasher, one sausage, two eggs, and two slices of bread. She asked, “Is this all you eat? It looks like what I would snack on before breakfast”. My nearly 1000-calorie breakfast was equivalent to her pre-breakfast snack. This highlights that in many instances, particularly in my home country Nigeria, adopting a “breakfast like a king” approach could exceed daily calorie allowances for some individuals.
- The rationale for front-loading calories in the morning is to give our bodies sufficient time to burn them off throughout the day. When observing the lifestyle of the affluent 1% in Nigeria, which often lacks substantial non-exercise activity thermogenesis, there is limited energy expenditure throughout the day. On the other hand, in cases where one’s occupation involves manual labor, implementing this concept could prove beneficial.
- At over 50, our bodies don’t burn as much energy as they did in our 20s. It’s crucial to recognise that people can easily overestimate their exertion levels. For instance, a job that requires a significant amount of movement but lacks heavy lifting might not result in substantial calorie burn. It’s important to note that consuming a calorie laden big breakfast takes mere minutes. Unless your BMR is fast, it’ll take you quite a few workouts to burn the excess off.
The history of the eating like a king at breakfast quote
Let’s take a look at where the quote came from. The quote “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” is attributed to controversial American nutritionist Adele Davis in 1954. As with everything that travels from mouth to mouth, this quote has been misinterpreted over the years. In the concluding chapter of her book, Davis proposed that breakfast should prioritise nutritional content rather than being the largest meal of the day. Though Davis advocated that “breakfasts need not be large”, she emphasised the importance of consuming a significant amount of protein during breakfast. This protein intake was seen as essential to regulate blood sugar levels, preventing hunger and fatigue later in the day.
Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the effectiveness of the eating your largest meal at breakfast, and as of today, the evidence remains inconclusive. I believe the reason is straightforward: weight loss fundamentally revolves around overall calorie intake. If the calories consumed surpass the calories expended, weight loss will not occur. Conversely, if the calories burned exceed those ingested, weight loss will happen, regardless of whether the largest meal is consumed at breakfast or dinner.
There are some benefits to eating a hearty breakfast.
Displayed before a king should be a nutritious meal made with the finest quality ingredients. The saying “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” emphasises the importance of consuming a nutritious breakfast to kickstart your metabolism and provide energy for the day ahead. While individual responses to meal timing and size can vary, there is some evidence supporting the benefits of a hearty breakfast.
Eating a reasonable sized breakfast may help control hunger and prevent overeating later in the day. It can also contribute to better concentration, improved mood, and enhanced overall well-being. However, it’s essential to consider the quality of the breakfast; opting for a reasonable sized balanced meal with a mix of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates is crucial.
In summary, while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to meal timing, incorporating a nourishing breakfast can be a positive habit for many people. Listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues and choosing lower calorie nutrient-dense foods throughout the day are key components of a healthy eating routine.