Opinion: Why Breakfast?

Breakfast is just that – breaking the fast – the first meal of the day after several hours of sleep, without food.

By Jeremy Ryland


It is said – and is probably true – that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, as it provides energy for the day ahead. Breakfast boosts our metabolic rate, which increases energy use; it renews energy and reduces fatigue; it increases alertness, mood, memory and concentration; it improves nutrition; it gets the bowels moving; it invigorates the immune system; and it regulates blood sugar and insulin levels. No wonder it is important!

Breakfast is also the new way of getting the family together and is becoming the new “lunch”, popular for early morning meetings as well as social occasions. Breakfast is one of the fastest growing food service sectors – especially on Sundays. It is the new get-together for family and friends. 

Breakfast is now such a familiar part of the daily routine that we assume it's something people have always enjoyed. But breakfast was once frowned upon, being necessary only for those that worked early. Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century theologian, said that it was a sin to eat too early in the day as fasting was a religious observation and breakfast literally means breaking one's fast.

In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution moved people from farms to factories, and the need for an early meal to provide sustenance for long workdays became more popular. In fact, it is our modern 9–5 work life that has invented breakfast!

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. 
– John Gunther

So what do we eat for breakfast?? In Medieval England, breakfast consisted of meat, beer and bread. For the convicts on the First Fleet, breakfast was cornmeal bread and porridge. 

Breakfast varies around the world. In France, one generally enjoys a croissant, chocolate brioche or a baguette with coffee. In Greece, it’s olives, feta, onion, tomato and bread with strong coffee. In China, the choices might include sweet and salty pancakes, dim sum or congee. In Scandinavia, they have soft-boiled eggs, fish and muesli. In Fiji, cassava cooked in coconut milk served with fish is popular.

In Australia, we have many choices – from the full English breakfast of bacon, eggs and assorted fried accompaniments to the trendy smashed avocado with feta cheese. Breakfast cereal was invented in the early 20th century, originally as a health food, and is now a popular option. Australia has the third largest consumption of cereals in the world. Breakfast cereal is the most popular option: 85% of Australians consume cereals at least once a week and 50% consume cereals every day.

Toast, often with Vegemite, is a keen contender as the most popular item; 91% have milk or milk-based drinks with breakfast; 18% have yoghurt; 79% drink tea or coffee; and 49% eat fruit or vegetables. Eggs are popular – 36% fried, 23% scrambled, 20% boiled, 16% poached and 5% other egg variations. But less than 10% of us have the traditional cooked breakfast.

Yet while breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day and very popular, one in four people don’t have breakfast. They skip it due to time pressures or lack of opportunity. Sadly, many students go to school without breakfast, reducing mental alertness. Moreover, people who miss breakfast are generally more likely to be overweight and listless. So, like most meals, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and start the day well.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said. 
– A.A.Milne