How many calories should you eat for breakfast?
It has long been known that breakfast is an important meal because it is a source of fuel after a lengthy period of fasting. Studies have suggested that eating breakfast can assist with weight management, reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and improve memory & concentration.
The number of calories that a person should have at breakfast will largely depend on what their goals are, how many calories they consume per day and how often they eat. On average however, the recommended number of calories for breakfast would be roughly 400 – 700.
If you want to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than what your body burns. This is known as a caloric deficit and forces your body to use its fat stores as a source of energy.
On the other hand, if you want to gain weight, you need to consume more calories than what your body burns (and combine this with exercise so as to build muscle and not just store fat).
Everyone is different and your daily calorie requirement will depend on your weight, height, gender, age and how active you are. You can use the calculator below to get an estimate of how many calories you should be consuming.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 35 year old man who weighs 60 kg, is 170 cm tall and exercises 4 times a week will need to consume approximately 2300 calories per day in order to maintain his weight, 1850 calories to lose weight and 1400 calories to lose weight fast.
There are a variety of ways of having meals. Some people prefer to have 3 large meals per day, others have 3 meals with 2 snacks in between and others have 5 or 6 smaller meals per day.
A simple way to break this up in terms of calories is to think of a main meal as 1 unit and a snack as 1/2 a unit. Divide 1 by the sum of all the units and multiply this number with your total daily calorie intake. This number will tell you how many calories you should have for breakfast.
In the example above, if the man wants to maintain his weight and has 3 meals + 2 snacks per day, he should have: 1/4 * 2300 = 575 calories for breakfast. On the other hand, if he has 6 meals per day, he should have: 1/6 * 2300 = 380 calories for breakfast.
There have been studies suggesting that eating a larger number of calories for breakfast could be beneficial for weight loss. In this study, 93 obese women were split into 2 groups, where they consumed 1400 calories per day for a period of 12 weeks. One group (“big breakfast”) had 700 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch and 200 at dinner. The other group (“big dinner”) had 200 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch and 700 at dinner.
Because they consumed a diet with restricted calories, the women in both groups ended up losing weight. However the big breakfast group ended up losing 10.5 pounds more on average and also 1.6 inches more from their waist. Additionally, the women in the big breakfast group had larger decreases in insulin, glucose and triglyceride levels.
A large breakfast is beneficial, but it is also important to balance out meals well throughout the day in order to prevent hunger, energy loss and large dips in blood sugar. Aiming for 400 – 700 calories at breakfast seems to be ideal.
What you eat for breakfast matters
Even though two breakfasts may have the same number of calories, they may differ drastically in terms of how well they satisfy you and affect energy levels.
For example, 2 medium sized croissants have around 460 calories. 2 cups of oatmeal and a large banana has the same number of calories. However the oatmeal and bananas will provide a slower release of energy and keep you satisfied for longer than the croissants will. It is often a good idea to replace refined carbohydrates with whole ones.
You should aim to get adequate amounts of all 3 macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) as they each serve a different purpose. The Institute of Medicine recommends 45 – 65% of daily calories come from carbohydrates, 10 – 35% from protein and 20 – 35% from fat. Protein has the highest satiety of all three, so it is a good idea to eat a breakfast that is made up of 25 – 30% protein in order to make it filling.
Sources of carbohydrates include various types of fruits, grains, lentils and seeds. Sources of protein include nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, fish and beans. And sources of fat include nuts, seeds, avocados and eggs.
Because of the wide range of foods, there are also a large number of healthy breakfast options available. Here are a few:
Smoothies – they are quick & easy to prepare and taste delicious. A good rule of thumb is to use one cup of fruits, one cup of vegetables and one cup of liquid. You can then add in other ingredients to make it more filling.
An example of ingredients for a breakfast smoothie would be a medium sized banana, half a cup of frozen mango, half an avocado, a cup of spinach, a cup of coconut water, half a cup of Greek yogurt, a scoop of oats and a tablespoon of chia seeds. This smoothie would provide around 650 calories and would be very filling.
Eggs – thanks to their versatility, eggs can be eaten in a wide variety of ways. They can be boiled, scrambled, fried, poached and also be used to prepare omelettes, quiches and breakfast burritos. Because eggs are mainly made up of protein, it is a good idea to eat them with other carb and fat rich foods. For example you could have 2 boiled eggs, an avocado and a large banana, thereby providing you with generous amounts of all 3 macronutrients.
Oats – oatmeal is a source of complex carbohydrates and also provides protein. You can cook it in milk or water and use all sorts of toppings such as dried & fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and honey.
For more healthy breakfast ideas, go here.
You should aim to have 400 – 700 calories for breakfast; the exact number will depend on how many meals you have per day and your total daily calorie intake. Breakfast should contain adequate amounts of good carbs, protein and healthy fats.