Could Eating a Second Breakfast Help You Lose Weight?

Updated: May 02, 2017

Two meals at a time may be the key to dropping pounds.

SewCream/ShutterstockBreakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? So why not have two? There’s a growing trend promoting a “second breakfast” as a weight-loss mechanism. The idea: If you eat more in the morning, you’ll be less likely to snack at night, when, according to research, it’s harder to burn off calories. Now there’s research adding weight to this claim.

A study conducted by researchers at Yale and the University of Connecticut suggests that eating something small to jump-start your metabolism followed by a slightly larger meal an hour or two later can keep you satiated until lunchtime and help prevent overeating throughout the rest of the day. The study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, tracked the weight and breakfast-eating patterns of students from 12 randomly selected urban area schools over the course of two years. The team looked at six different eating patterns: frequent breakfast skippers, inconsistent school eaters, inconsistent home eaters, frequent school eaters, frequent home eaters, and double-breakfast eaters. They found that it was the frequent breakfast skippers who showed increased odds of becoming overweight or obese compared to the double-breakfast eaters.

This approach to doubling up on breakfast allows you to get a small bite in before you hit the gym or leave for work, and then indulge a bit more once you’re settled into your chair or finished with your workout. “In my practice, I find a lot of people who end up over-snacking or ‘binging’ at night are not eating enough during the day,” says registered dietitian Nicole Osinga. “It’s that rush in the morning that causes us to grab a low-protein and high carb breakfast. We pack something light to bring for lunch such as a sandwich or salad. Then, when we get home and what happens? We want to rip the fridge door off because we haven’t eaten enough throughout the day. This is often the start of that nighttime snacking binge and leads to weight gain.”

Osinga suggests frontloading the beginning of your day with food to avoid this. “I think the idea of a second breakfast is a great idea. We are most active during the first two-thirds of our day anyway, and need more energy from food during this time.” She suggests having a banana with peanut butter or protein bar as your first breakfast, and then a mini veggie egg breakfast muffin or berry with oats over Greek yogurt for a second breakfast.

Registered dietitian Marisa Moore advises people to proceed with caution. “It’s important to eat when you’re hungry and the idea of a second breakfast is not very different than a mid-morning snack. If you choose to eat a breakfast and snack or ‘second breakfast,’ just keep the portions in check,” she says. “You might even simply split your usual breakfast in half to satisfy hunger when it strikes. Have half an egg sandwich upon waking and the other half mid-morning. Cut a nut butter or avocado toast in half and do the same.”