Not hungry in the morning? Dietitian reveals how to reset your breakfast clock

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” isn’t a new saying, and there is a bit of truth to that statement. All meals are important, but breakfast helps set the tone for the entire day. However, what if you aren’t hungry right after you wake up?

Not to worry, it’s pretty common. It isn’t inherently a bad thing to not feel hungry in the morning, but if you struggle to eat balanced meals throughout the rest of the day, it may be worth it to rethink at your breakfast habits.

Why do people skip breakfast?

Breakfast is the most commonly skipped meal, and there’s several things that could explain this. If you wake up right before it’s time to rush out the door, you probably won’t feel like prioritizing breakfast until you settle in at work. If you’re a parent and rushing around to get the kids ready before school, that’s another practical reason.

Sometimes, it’s a bit deeper than that. If you find yourself binging or snacking a lot at night before bed, you might still feel full in the morning and not want to eat. Then, you’ll find your hunger cues are thrown off the rest of the day before the cycle repeats.

If you wake up really early for work or school, or work night shifts, your hunger and fullness hormones (ghrelin and leptin) may not be able to naturally settle. It’s fine to not feel hungry in the morning, but if you find that it negatively affects the rest of your day of eating, worsens energy levels, or impacts overall quality of life, then it might be time to make some habit changes. In other instances, a health issue like anxiety or depression, cold or flu, or thyroid problems could be part of it.

Woman in a hurry getting ready for work in the morning
Breakfast is the most commonly skipped meal, and there’s several things that can play into this. (© deagreez –

How do you reset your hunger cycles?

If you want to start eating in the morning, remember that it doesn’t actually need to be an entire meal the first thing. I encourage people to eat breakfast within an hour of waking up, but that might not always be feasible, either because of life circumstances or simply not having the desire.

Frequently, people who don’t eat breakfast end up feeling hungrier than usual later in the day. As such, they might not make the healthiest lunch or dinner choices. Eating a high-protein breakfast means you are more likely to maintain healthy blood sugar levels throughout the rest of the day, as well as make healthier food choices and have less cravings for things like sugar.

Try to eat something small or “snacky,” like a cheese stick or an apple to help you set the tone before eating an actual breakfast meal. If the problem is time, maybe look into easily meal-prepped breakfast ideas like ready-made pancakes, egg muffins, or overnight oats.

If you are a morning coffee drinker, try to wait longer than you usually would before grabbing your mug. Coffee can suppress appetite, making you more likely to not think about breakfast. Coffee isn’t a meal, but it can be a good accompaniment to a meal or included after eating one.

The last tip is to eat what sounds good! This sounds simple, but many people get stuck thinking that breakfast means one type of food or a big plate of pancakes and sausage. Breakfast doesn’t need to be a big deal, it can be a smoothie with a healthy mix of protein, healthy fats, and carbs. It could also be a simple yogurt bowl with various toppings, or just plain cereal.

Since the last option isn’t typically very protein rich, I frequently recommend using a high-protein milk, or mixing protein powder into your milk of choice (I use a milk frother). It also doesn’t need to be breakfast food-related at all, eating leftovers from last night’s dinner is perfectly okay too.

Child eating bacon and eggs for breakfast
Breakfast doesn’t need to be a big deal, it can be a smoothie with a healthy mix of protein, healthy fats, and carbs. (© Monkey Business –

Bottom Line

If you struggle to find an appetite in the morning, there isn’t automatically something wrong, although it can mean that. Sometimes, it can be a sign of illness. Other times, it could just be the result of a busy life or night shift body clock.

For a lot of people, skipping breakfast makes you experience certain things that hinder your health journey, such as make you hungrier later in the day which pushes you to make unhealthier food choices. People who binge and restrict their food often fall into this camp. If any of this sounds like you, try starting off with a small snack before eating something larger, dabbling in meal prep, and eating what sounds good, even if it isn’t actually “breakfast” food!

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About the Author

Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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