Historically, many people have considered breakfast to be the most important meal of the day for maintaining a healthy weight — despite a lack of evidence.
In reality, everyone is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition or weight loss.
No specific foods will make you lose weight. But certain foods are better at nourishing your body, preventing cravings, and keeping you satisfied for longer.
And in this way, they can help support efforts to lose weight.
In this article, we look at healthy breakfast ideas that might help you move toward your weight goals.
How can foods support weight loss?
A healthy breakfast might look different for everyone.
If you’re working to lose weight, it can help to incorporate foods that keep you fuller for longer, reduce your appetite, and support your gut microbiome.
Below, we’ll explore some breakfast ideas that include these types of foods.
1. Foods with fiber
Fiber works in different ways to keep hunger in check.
First, some types can absorb a lot of water, and they form a gel when they reach the gut.
For example, oats are naturally rich in beta-glucans, which are gel-forming fibers.
These can slow digestion and nutrient absorption in the small intestine. This includes slowing the absorption of sugars, which in turn lowers the risk of blood sugar spikes.
And ZOE’s own research has shown that people with significant blood sugar spikes and dips are more likely to feel hungry sooner after eating and consume more calories throughout the day.
We’ve also found that blood sugar responses vary a lot from person to person. If you’d like to learn how your blood sugar levels respond to food, you can start by taking our free quiz.
Another way that fiber might help manage your weight involves its interaction with your gut microbiome.
When your gut bacteria ferment fiber, they release beneficial compounds called short-chain fatty acids. These may influence the release of appetite hormones that make you feel full.
Plus, fiber-rich foods often require more chewing, and chewing more can release gut hormones that reduce feelings of hunger.
Here are some tasty, high-fiber breakfast options that can keep you feeling fuller for longer:
porridge or overnight oats with cinnamon or nutmeg, topped with a handful of nuts or seeds for extra fiber, crunch, high-quality fat, and protein
plain, or natural, yogurt with berries
avocado on wholemeal seeded sourdough toast, maybe with mushrooms, tomatoes, or spinach for even more fiber
homemade granola, maybe topped with chunks of dark chocolate, which is high in fiber
high-fiber fruits, like apples or pears
2. Foods with protein
Research has shown that protein may reduce appetite for some people. This is partly because protein intake seems to suppress hunger hormones like ghrelin and prompt feelings of fullness.
So, try to include a source of protein in your breakfast. Some ideas include:
homemade baked beans
Greek yogurt with a handful of nuts and seeds
an egg dish — maybe scrambled eggs with wholemeal toast or something fancier, like braised eggs with courgette and feta
salmon and hummus on wholemeal seeded sourdough
3. Gut-friendly foods
Studies have identified links between the gut microbiome and body weight.
For example, people with obesity have different — and often fewer — gut bacteria than people with moderate weights.
This is why changing the balance of your gut microbiome to include more “good” bugs may help with weight loss.
And there are plenty of ways to support your “good” gut bugs. For example, you can focus on creating a diverse diet that includes plenty of plants.
Plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, are packed with fiber and phytochemicals, which feed your gut bugs.
And many fermented foods — like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and miso — also contain fiber, phytochemicals, and live bacteria to support your gut microbiome.
At ZOE, we know that a thriving, diverse gut microbiome is linked with better health outcomes. When you join ZOE, we’ll analyze your poop and show you which bacteria are living in your gut. We’ll also measure how your blood sugar and blood fat levels respond to food.
Using this information, we’ll help you choose the best foods for your body and provide ongoing support from our expert nutritionists. You can start by taking our free quiz.
4. Complex carbohydrates
There are three types of carbohydrates — simple carbs, starches, and fiber.
Starches and fiber are “complex” carbs, which means that they have a more complicated structure than simple carbs.
It takes your body longer to break down complex carbs into smaller sugars and absorb them. And the time this takes can mean that you feel fuller for longer.
Whole grains contain complex carbs, and they’re naturally rich in fiber.
Look for “whole grain,” “whole wheat,” or “whole meal” on labels. And if bread contains 6 grams of fiber per 100 g, it’s considered a high-fiber food.
You can include complex carbs in your breakfast by having:
wholegrain toast topped with avocado, nut butter, hummus, egg, kimchi, spinach, or tomatoes
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5. Healthy fats
Looking beyond fiber, fats can also affect how hungry you feel.
Fats can delay food food from leaving your stomach and entering your intestines. Because your stomach stays fuller for longer, this may reduce your appetite.
However, the research to date is mixed.
And many other factors are involved in appetite. Fats can also trigger the pleasure centers of our brains, encouraging us to eat more.
That said, fats are an essential nutrient, and each meal should contain some healthy fat.
It’s just important to know that where you get your fat matters.
Healthy fats come from foods like avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish, and eggs. For breakfast, you might have:
toast with avocado, nut butter, hummus, egg, or tahini
scrambled eggs and smoked salmon
Greek yogurt with seeds and nuts
homemade granola with plenty of seeds and nuts
chia seed pudding with berries
a cheese, tomato, and spinach omelet
Will skipping breakfast help you lose weight? So far, the findings are unclear.
For instance, some studies have shown that missing breakfast may be linked to overweight and obesity. But others have found the opposite — missing breakfast might aid weight loss.
One study concluded that a high-calorie, big breakfast is more likely to support weight loss than a low-calorie, small breakfast.
Another study compared having a big breakfast with having a big dinner and found no difference in weight loss. But the participants who ate the big breakfasts were less hungry during the day.
Meanwhile, over the last few years, intermittent fasting (IF) has become popular.
Some studies have shown that IF might lead to weight loss. Specifically, some have shown that it’s more likely to lead to weight loss than standard calorie restriction.
However, the results have been mixed.
Other studies have compared IF with calorie restriction and found no difference in weight loss after 12 months. Some have also found greater hunger levels in people who were doing IF, compared with continuous calorie restriction.
Time-restricted eating (TRE) is a form of IF that involves only eating during a certain time frame each day.
For instance, you might decide on a 10-hour window. This might mean only eating between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Or, you might have a later window and only eat between midday and 10 p.m.
Scientists are currently investigating whether an early TRE eating window is better for weight loss than a later window. There’s some evidence that early TRE may be best, but the research has a long way to go.
Also, the long-term effects of IF have not been well-studied.
One of ZOE’s latest studies — The Big IF Study — aims to answer some key questions about IF.
We should note that IF may not be healthy for certain people, such as people who are pregnant or have diabetes. If you’re considering trying IF but are unsure, ask a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian.
No specific foods will make you lose weight. But certain foods can help support your weight loss efforts.
For instance, some foods can keep you fuller for longer, support the health of your gut microbiome, and help keep your blood sugar responses in check.
So, for breakfast, try to include foods that are gut-friendly and rich sources of fiber, protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats.
If you’re trying TRE, you might not eat in the mornings. TRE may aid weight loss for some people, but scientists are still looking into it.
Overall, building a varied diet rich in plant foods is the best way to move toward your long-term weight and health goals.
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