How Many Calories Should You Eat for Breakfast?

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You've probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but do you know how many calories your breakfast should offer? Daily calorie needs and goals are different for everyone, but this article can help you determine a personalized range to inform your breakfast choices. If weight loss is among your goals, counting calories might be part of your plan. In that case, making a plan for breakfast calories may help you reach your goals.

Daily Calorie Goals

Before you can figure out how many calories to eat for breakfast, you should determine how many calories you need each day on average. Every person has slightly different caloric needs. Your total daily calorie intake is based on your resting metabolic rate (RMR) and your daily activity level. If you're trying to lose weight, you then reduce your calorie needs to reach the negative energy balance necessary for weight loss.

Calories Per Meal

According to the USDA, the average calorie needs for women are about 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day. For men, estimated calorie needs are a bit higher—from 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day. If you're aiming to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week (the recommended goal for healthy, sustainable weight loss), experts recommend reducing your daily calorie intake by about 500 to 750 calories per day.

Many people simply divide their total daily calories evenly between their three main meals to keep their breakfast, lunch, and dinner calorie counts simple.

If you have followed any popular commercial diets before, you may know that calories are usually divided fairly evenly between three meals and one or two daily snacks.

That means that a person aiming for 1,500 calories a day might eat around 400 calories at each meal and then eat two 150-calorie snacks in the late morning and afternoon. Another person might consume about 500 calories at breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then enjoy two 250-calorie snacks during the day to reach a total of 2,000 calories each day. 

But you don't have to follow a specific plan when you divide calories for your meals. You can instead evaluate when you need your calories most and then divide them up to meet your needs. 

Calories for Breakfast

To get an idea of how you can divide your calories to accommodate your lifestyle and schedule, here are some example scenarios.

In this first example, a person who consumes 1,600 calories each day needs a few more calories in the morning because of an early workout. Their calories might be divided like this:

  • Pre-workout snack: 150 calories
  • Post-workout breakfast: 500 calories
  • Lunch: 400 calories
  • Dinner 400 calories
  • Snack: 150 calories

The early snack provides a quick burst of energy before the workout. And then the post-workout breakfast calories help to refuel the body. Because of the morning workout, it's reasonable to consume more calories at breakfast. 

But if a big family dinner is part of your daily ritual, you may want to eat fewer calories in the morning. If you eat a healthy light breakfast, you'll have more room to eat a larger dinner and still reach a negative energy balance needed for weight loss, if that's your goal. You might divide your calories like this to reach a 1,600 calorie target:

  • Breakfast: 300
  • Snack: 150
  • Lunch: 400
  • Snack: 150
  • Dinner: 600

Research has shown that it may be beneficial to eat a larger breakfast rather than a larger dinner. Metabolism may be more active in the morning, and a higher-calorie breakfast has been linked with fewer hunger pangs and sugar cravings later in the day.

What to Eat for Breakfast

If you typically get late morning hunger pangs, you should probably consume more calories first thing in the morning. A meal that contains filling foods like protein-rich eggs or fiber-rich oatmeal might help you skip the high-calorie snacks and make nutritious choices throughout the day.

Breakfast is an important meal because it helps some people maintain more balanced eating habits throughout the day. But this isn't the case for everyone. Breakfast calories count just as much as lunch calories, dinner calories, and the calories you should consume from snacks. If you eat too many, no matter what time of day, you won't lose weight.

Consuming a balanced meal at breakfast time is just as—if not more—important than meeting a certain calorie count. In addition to complex carbohydrates rich in fiber, a balance of protein and fat will be satiating and help you meet daily nutritional needs.

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4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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