Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or so generations of American Moms told us. But even they might be surprised at how wise that was.
Many studies have been conducted that support Mom’s idea. Technomic tells us a full 63 percent of Americans agree that skipping breakfast is unhealthy. A nutritious breakfast provides many health benefits, including better weight control, improved concentration, and increased strength and endurance. And even more persuasive is a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health found that missing even one breakfast each week increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 20 percent. Mom probably didn’t know that.
An increasingly hectic and multitasking lifestyle makes eating a good breakfast even more important – and more difficult – than ever. No matter in which activities we’re engaged, fueling the brain and body in the morning is crucial for the best performance and health throughout the day. Without it, we play catch-up until we go to bed, grabbing whatever may be at hand. And we seldom find protein or complex carbohydrates in a snack machine.
Interestingly, while foodservice traffic for most dayparts fell in 2013, Technomic says Americans continued to increase their morning visits. Traffic was up 3 percent over 2012 year-end numbers, making it the third consecutive year of growth for the breakfast daypart. Does that mean we all finally embrace Mom’s message? Do we admit that she knew best after all?
No, we don’t. The fact is that a quick run through a drive-thru and a warm handheld meal make the morning just a little more civilized. Limited service restaurants (LSR) account for approximately 80 percent of morning meal visits, and a 2013 Mintel report tells us the most popular ordering method is drive-thru, at 46 percent, followed by to-go at 41 percent. Bottom line: these grab and go meals smooth our transitions into the day’s challenges and we like that.
That brings us to a tiny history lesson:
In 1975 consumers could order one simple breakfast sandwich made with egg, meat and cheese on an English muffin from one hamburger chain’s drive-thru. Today tens of thousands of major Mexican (e.g., Taco Bell), hamburger (e.g., Burger King) and sandwich chain (e.g., Subway) locations open early in the morning to serve a wide array of sandwiches, frittatas, omelettes and other egg-based dishes made with an endless variety of meats, veggies, cheeses and sauces.
Given these recent representative examples, Mom wouldn’t recognize her idea of a good breakfast today:
The flavors and ingredients that excite our 2014 sophisticated palates would likely make our mothers shake their heads in wonder. But they would certainly recognize the good nutrition they had in mind when they told us to sit down and eat our eggs. Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day, and it seems it hasn’t changed that much after all.