September is here, the month when we say a nostalgic goodbye to summer while saying hello to Better Breakfast Month.
Yes, a full 30 days to commemorate the tradition of eating a healthful breakfast!
Today we are going to discover the fascinating history of breakfast and discuss whether or not breakfast really is the ‘most important meal of the day.’
The History of Breakfast
The history of breakfast is long and somewhat surprising.
The word ‘breakfast’ first appeared in written English in the 15th century; it literally means to ‘break’ a ‘fast’ (i.e., the fasting period of the night before).
In Homer’s The Iliad, the ritual of breakfast (which he named ariston) appears several times. Later, in classical Greece, the tradition continued with a meal called akratisma. It consisted of barley bread dipped in wine and sometimes complemented with olives or an early form of a pancake.
In Ancient Rome, breakfast included staples like bread, olives, salad, nuts, and raisins as well as a wine-based drink. Roman soldiers ate porridge made of wheat or barley.
Fast forward to Europe in the early Middle Ages. At this time, breakfast was considered unnecessary and was virtually nonexistent.
In fact, many were ashamed to eat a morning meal because the Catholic church saw eating breakfast as a sign of gluttony.
Only two formal meals were consumed daily—the first at midday (around 10:30-11:00 am) and the other in the evening, served about five hours later.
Breakfast—a basic meal, often consisting of nothing more than bread and ale—was only eaten when absolutely necessary. It was a ritual reserved for early risers (like travelers and monks), manual workers (men who harvested the fields) or the ‘weak’ (children and the elderly).
By the 16th century, that had all changed.
Breakfast became the norm rather than the exception.
This change was in large part due to patterns of employment.
In the earlier Middle Ages, the majority of workers were not classically ‘employed’ and could organize their own time.
However, in the 16th century, men started to work fixed hours. As a result, both lunch and supper were served later, and a solid breakfast was needed to keep them going.
Since then, breakfast has become a staple of everyday life, not just in Europe but across the globe.
Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?
We have heard the adage a million times before: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
But is this true?
The answer is that it depends.
For children as well as adults who enjoy breakfast or really need the energy that it provides, breakfast is great. Eat it and remember to choose the most healthful foods possible. (Just like with all your other meals!)
When you are just starting to transition to a new way of eating (like a whole food, plant-based diet), a healthful breakfast can be beneficial to set the stage for a successful day by reinforcing good habits from the get go.
However, if you are simply not hungry in the morning and you plan to eat a nutritious lunch later in the day, it may be okay to skip breakfast.
Some people just have a hard time eating when they first get up. In fact, I happen to be one of those; I rarely eat breakfast.
In this case, your first meal would be consumed at midday, and that is perfectly acceptable as long as you select healthful foods.
Even eating a great breakfast cannot ‘make up’ for poor choices throughout the rest of the day.
The bottom line is that every meal is important.
What is crucial is for each meal that you eat to be made up of a wholesome blend of plant-based foods that supply you with the complete nourishment and energy you need to live a full life.
The Best Way to Celebrate Better Breakfast Month
The best way to celebrate Better Breakfast Month is to eat a healthful breakfast, of course!
Even if you are typically not hungry when you wake up, maybe you can set aside a couple September mornings to experiment. Also, healthful breakfast fare can be eaten for any meal; it is not restricted to the morning hours!
For ideas, check out our blog post 10 Hot Breakfasts to Warm Up Your Day.
Also, try out this great breakfast option we featured in the 2016 21-Day Food Day Challenge: Chef Stefen Janke’s Creamy Steel-Cut Oatmeal.
Wherever you are on the ‘breakfast spectrum,’ enjoy Better Breakfast Month!