Is Skipping Meals Good For You?

Is ditching breakfast or forgetting lunch a fast track to weight loss, or do you just end up eating all those missed calories when your cravings kick in later?

Women grabbing Huel shaker


More people than you think are eating less than you'd expect. According to a 2019 survey, some 60 percent of adults skip at least one meal a day[1]. Sometimes, this is deliberate – diets such as intermittent fasting involve intentionally ditching certain meals in order to achieve specific weight loss goals – but here we focus on the people who skip meals due to a lack of time, prep, or because they simply forget to eat. Although skipping meals isn't necessarily bad for you, we're giving you both sides of the coin.

Is skipping meals a good way to lose weight?

This is a thorny issue. In our article on intermittent fasting (IF), we looked into the various types of eating patterns that revolve around periods of eating, followed by periods of not eating. There are certainly benefits to intermittent fasting, but typically, intermittent fasting follows a regulated pattern, as opposed to simply skipping meals which may lead to tiredness and an increased likelihood of snacking on high fat and sugar foods, causing weight gain[2].

Irregular meal times

We can all relate to irregular meal times. You may normally eat lunch at 1pm, but that unexpected meeting pops up so you quickly grab something to keep you going. It's these occasions of varying our eating times that we should keep to a minimum to support a healthier lifestyle[3].

Eating at irregular times, or skipping meals completely may cause some people to eat and snack more throughout the day[4]. With this, there's a possibility of not getting enough micronutrients[5], and an increased risk of developing certain health problems such as type-2 diabetes[3].    

What happens when you skip a meal?

Studies have shown that the effects of skipping a meal can differ between individuals and also depends on which meal is skipped. It may be that skipping breakfast leads to poorer blood glucose control after eating lunch later in the day, which could increase the risk of metabolic complications[6-8].

Snacking

In the same survey, 70 per cent of people chose convenience over nutrition, highlighting the importance of convenience. Skipping meals may also lead to snacking[9, 10]. If the snacks are high in sugar and/or fat then this can lead to an overall unhealthier diet. What is unclear is whether missing meals results in more snacking due to increased hunger, or feeling less hungry around meal times. Snacking isn’t necessarily bad though – it depends on the type of snack being consumed. There are plenty of healthy options available like fruit and vegetables, or a Huel Complete Protein Bar.

Micronutrients

Even if you find that you're not snacking, skipping meals may result in the intake of significantly fewer vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, iron, and folate[5]. This is because breakfast cereals (one of the most common breakfasts) are often fortified with these nutrients and it's been shown a meagre 24 percent of people know their nutritional requirements[1]. However, breakfast cereals can be high in sugar[11]. The good news for Hueligans is that with every serving, you know you’re getting all 26 essential vitamins and minerals, with barely any sugar.

Weight loss

Some people suggest that skipping meals can help with weight loss. There is evidence for both sides of this argument[12, 13]. A person’s calorie intake may be lower on a daily basis, however, the body may compensate by expending less energy if a meal is skipped, resulting in no weight loss[14].    

What is the best meal to skip to lose weight?

Simply put, there is no 'best meal' to skip. The idea of skipping meals is that instead of eating the classic three meals a day, at set times, you eat two. However, if you find that whenever you eat breakfast you’re rushing out the door and grabbing something on the unhealthier side like a coffee shop pastry, try to find ways to move towards a healthier breakfast, such as Huel. Alternatively, you could have the first meal a day at a later time when you’re more likely to choose a healthier option and you have more time.

Is it bad to skip meals to lose weight?

As discussed, randomly skipping meals is unhelpful as part of a structured weight loss regime. Intermittent fasting is a better option which gives structure to eating patterns. The restricted eating window as part of intermittent fasting can reduce the calories consumed and lead to weight loss.

Skipping meals for weight loss and Huel

If you find yourself missing out on a meal you feel like you should be having, or you're grabbing a convenient and unhealthy snack due to lack of time, then think: Huel. It's convenient, nutritionally complete, and probably cheaper than a pre-packaged alternative.

One of the most common reasons for people skipping meals is that busy lifestyles mean they can’t plan ahead as much as they’d like. Huel makes it easy to eat nutritious food without having to spend time prepping and planning.

Reference List

  1. Mortar London. Eating Habits and Attitudes Towards Food. 2019.
  2. 10 weight loss myths. Date Accessed: 29/04/22. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/managing-your-weight/ten-weight-loss-myths/
  3. St-Onge MP, et al. Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017; 135(9):e96-e121.
  4. Lopez-Minguez J, et al. Timing of Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Effects on Obesity and Metabolic Risk. Nutrients. 2019; 11(11):2624.
  5. Yoon SR, et al. Effect of Breakfast Consumption and Meal Time Regularity on Nutrient Intake and Cardiometabolic Health in Korean Adults. J Lipid Atheroscler. 2021; 10(2):240-50.
  6. Ogata H, et al. Effect of skipping breakfast for 6 days on energy metabolism and diurnal rhythm of blood glucose in young healthy Japanese males. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019; 110(1):41-52.
  7. Nas A, et al. Impact of breakfast skipping compared with dinner skipping on regulation of energy balance and metabolic risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017; 105(6):1351-61.
  8. Ogata H, et al. Association between breakfast skipping and postprandial hyperglycaemia after lunch in healthy young individuals. Br J Nutr. 2019; 122(4):431-40.
  9. Kelishadi R, et al. Is snack consumption associated with meal skipping in children and adolescents? The CASPIAN-IV study. Eating and weight disorders: EWD. 2017; 22(2):321-8.
  10. Savige G, et al. Snacking behaviours of adolescents and their association with skipping meals. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2007; 4:36.
  11. Pombo-Rodrigues S, et al. Salt and sugars content of breakfast cereals in the UK from 1992 to 2015. Public Health Nutr. 2017; 20(8):1500-12.
  12. Sievert K, et al. Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2019; 364:l42-l.
  13. Yamamoto R, et al. Associations of Skipping Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner with Weight Gain and Overweight/Obesity in University Students: A Retrospective Cohort Study. Nutrients. 2021; 13(1):271.
  14. Betts JA, et al. Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2016; 75(4):464-74.

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