Breakfast: Most Important Meal of the Day?

Note to my dear husband: I am right and you are wrong.

According to my quick and dirty google search, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Study after study — pick your source, WebMD, KidsHealth.org, About.com — has shown that children do indeed perform better in school, are less likely to be tardy and have less issues with their weight if they eat breakfast in the morning.

As you can tell, MotherTalkers, this is a sore spot between us. Part of this stems from the fact my husband is a night owl and I am a morning person. I wake up hungry, eating the breakfast of champions — eggs, pancakes, french toast, you name it — which I was told as a kid was “brain food.” “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” my father would tell us, “because you spend all those hours at night without eating.”

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I was the best student in my household and the only one who sat with my father in the mornings to eat breakfast. My siblings slept in and left without eating a thing. Not surprisingly, they were asleep by C period.

My husband, on the other hand, does not have much of an appetite, especially not for breakfast. He’ll get around to eating a bowl of cereal alright — like around noon. Of course, it doesn’t help my case that, as he points out, turned out just fine without eating breakfast.

Still, his words and essays like this one in Wonder time insisting that eating breakfast “isn’t quite the make-or-break deal people say it is,” makes me want to cry — especially in the morning. I know how I feel without breakfast in the morning. I don’t know what my reaction will be the day if and when my children decide to sleep in with Papi instead.

What do you think? Does your family eat breakfast in the morning?

By the way, the Wonder time writer Ann Hodgman did say that breakfast was the “most delicious meal of the day,” and she actually serves it once a week for dinner. I loved this idea as Ari is a pancake fein and I do let him order a stack for lunch when we go to restaurants.

42 thoughts on “Breakfast: Most Important Meal of the Day?

  1. Not a breakfast eater.

    Never have been.  For the past several years, morning has been my most difficult part of the day.  I have nausea very like morning sickness until I’ve been awake a few hours.  So, I get up, stagger to the refrigerator, and get a drink and often I’ll cram a couple of crackers down to fight it.  However, while its worse now, I’ve never eaten breakfast.  As a child,  I sent my mother into fits over this…she is one who must get something on her stomach soon after rising.  Me?  Nope.  As I got older, she’d settle for me drinking a glass of juice before I went to school.  She should have been forewarned, though…my dad never ate breakfast and neither did either of my brothers.  And….we’re all night owls.  That’s an interesting connection.

    I’ve always been the mother who bought very easy things for my kids for breakfast.  Yup.  Cereal, toaster waffles or pop-tarts.  Never in my life have I had the urge to get up and cook a meal in the morning…well, except on Christmas morning.  We do have a Christmas brunch…but I think that’s because the kids used to get us up at 5:00 AM on Christmas morning, so by 10:00 AM it felt as if we should be eating lunch.

    Crazy as it is, though, there are breakfast foods I like.  At least once or twice a month, we do a dinner that’s “breakfast” foods…I love omelettes, and breakfast-type casseroles.  And I love going to restaurants that serve “breakfast all day”.  Two of my daughters and I ate at one just a week and a half ago.  

  2. My mom used to make me eat breakfast every AM.

    And every morning, I’d eat breakfast, and promptly throw up. She knew this, but she still insisted, for years. I was never able to keep any food down ’til about 11am. I’m just not a morning person – even making it into school, which was 5 minutes walk away, and started at 9am, was a struggle.
    I wonder if this is a case where correlation is being confused with causation. Those kids who eat breakfast do better in school, which in most countries starts pretty darn early. Sure, those facts may be accurate, but maybe those kids who would do well in school in the morning are the kids who’re able to eat breakfast. There’s also plenty of evidence that if you want to increase performance at school, you should be starting at 10am, not 8am or 7:30.

    Oh, and now I make a bagel when I get up at 6:30, walk the dog, go to work, then finally eat it after I’ve had coffee and it’s 8:30 or 9:00.

    • That’s a very interesting point.

      Ofcourse, I’ve always thought that kids should have a “brunch” time…a time in which they could at least have a drink and a small snack.  My kids have attended extended day schools in which they started early and had the bad luck to have later lunch periods.  In these schools, the teachers often allowed the kids to bring in such snacks for the later morning.

      • in Australia

        you have a morning break, around 11 a.m., at school. Kids get “morning tea” and a run around the playground. Sounds just about perfect.

        • I love

          morning tea and afternoon tea! Being the hypoglycemic snacking person that I am…this culture suits me just fine! And I love that the kids get a morning snack. And that you can count on it, even if you’re going to someone’s house for a play.

          • yeah

            it suits children well, I think. Getting Jess to sit down and eat a big meal 3 times a day is a real struggle; she’s good to sit and eat for about 15 minutes, 20 if she’s absolutely starving, and then she’s just done. But breakfast, morning tea, decent lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and a glass of milk before bed really suit her well. She gets variety and it’s never like it’s too much of an ask.

            • I’ve always thought

              that cultures and societies older than that in the United States had it right.  I don’t think human beings were ever meant to get all of their nutrition through three big-ish meals a day.  I think we’re trying to make our eating habits fit into what we’ve come to determine what we assume to be a “normal” schedule…maybe this has something to do with all of the metabolic and eating disorders we seem so prone to.  Not a stretch, really, as we know that people who are already suffering from these problems do much better with several small meals a day.  

              • yeah

                I actually had a talk with my MIL about this last week. She’s been diagnosed with diabetes and is trying to sort out how she eats to (hopefully) avoid injections. She and my FIL have a bizarre eating schedule. Breakfast, no lunch, cheese and crackers and wine around 4 or 5 and then a large dinner after. Unsurprisingly, she has a massively high blood sugar reading in the mornings. I’m trying to gently nudge her down the path of small meals throughout the day. I think she’s somewhat receptive, certainly scared of becoming dependent on insulin injections.

  3. We all eat

    breakfast, not necessarily all together but we all do eat it.

    Lots of times it is quick and easy [cereal, yogurt & fruit, the kids love those Clif Kids' Z Bars] but other times it’s the big production. We always have something more than cereal on Saturdays — french toast, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, pigs in a blanket, that type of thing.

    I am a big believer in eating something before school, just so you don’t end up so very hungry before lunchtime. I also think it’s important to have some protein with breakfast.

    Of course, we don’t have any family members who are repulsed by the idea of breakfast, so I don’t really know what that would be like.

    I will say that one of the saddest things I ever saw was a kid in my son’s kindergarten class who came to school without having had breakfast. He told the teacher he brought breakfast and needed to eat it, and it turned out to be one of those little tubes [like go-gurt] of pudding. The teacher had a look that told me this was probably not the first time this had happened with this kid. I cannot imagine an adult thinking that is breakfast.

    • I don’t know.

      The elementary school my youngest three children attended started at 8:00 AM.  They were the first kids on their bus route.  This meant that we had to be at the bus stop at 6:30 in the morning.  I will say that there were plenty of times my kids were bringing “breakfast” to the bus stop and quite possibly, sneaking it on the bus.  

      • but not pudding

        right? That was the part that was sad to me, that a tube of chocolate pudding was this child’s breakfast.

        I saw lots of kids walk in with granola bars, bagels, etc, which all seemed fine to me, but pudding?

        • but really, what is

          “breakfast food”?  A “tube” of pudding just sounds really gross to me anytime…food just shouldn’t come in tubes.  Yuck.  However, my kids have eaten some pretty unorthodox things in the morning…why is a regular taco less acceptable than a breakfast burrito?  I guess I’m asking this because if I were to eat something in the morning, it wouldn’t be breakfast-type food…I’d probably want left-overs from the previous night’s dinner.

          That said, I’m not crazy about a bunch of sugar in the morning.  Nothing like that to make one starving again in an hour and a half.

          • Yeah

            I am with you on a tube of pudding sounding gross — I wonder what it is even made of? I would just guess there is no nutritional value in a tube of pudding, plus a bunch of HFCS and probably transfats. Leftovers from the night before have nutritional value.

            I don’t know, there was just something very sad to me about a tube of pudding for breakfast.

            • I’m with you

              Something that in our house is considered a sugary treat just doesn’t cut it for breakfast.  
              My mom has instilled in me that cold pizza makes the best breakfast!  There has to be some kind of substance, nutritive value.

              • I’m not a big breakfast person as said above,

                which is kind of not an issue for me, but if I have something sugary – cinnamon rolls, donuts, pancakes or sugary cereal just lead me to a crash mid morning. Like, a real, body shakes, can’t concentrate, dry mouth, I need to eat 3 candy bars in a row to stop feeling like I’m about to fall over sort of crash.
                Sugar in the morning = bad.

  4. quick and easy

    Never anything elaborate, but Alex and I eat breakfast every day. Nick used to before he was on his own for meals and now chooses not to for the most part…but he is also more a night owl by nature. On the weekends I’ll make eggs and toast but not much else. I wake up hungry like you do, but then I cannot eat too much. I do need something though and Alex is the same way.

    I think though, that it is a very personal thing just like sleep patterns and other things where you just have to listen to your body. I am not sure there is a definitive right/wrong here.

  5. Big, but lazy breakfast people

    My kids definitely wake up with food on the brain.  I don’t function very well in the morning, so breakfast is usually yogurt, fruit, cereal, instant grits, oatmeal, and maybe if I’ve managed to suck down enough caffeine, an egg.  I’m not usually too into the breakfast idea for myself, but I know I do better as the day goes on, so I usually have a granola bar or a smoothie in the morning.

    I save all the really good breakfast treats for evenings when my husband isn’t home for dinner.  I make HUGE batches of waffles and pancakes (and even make them firetruck and train shapes.. I’ve had enough caffeine at that point) and freeze the extra to pop into the toaster in the mornings.

  6. breakfast every day

    i am a big fan of breakfast.  i eat flax raisan bran with blueberries, pomegranate seeds, sliced banana with low fat milk.  and when i am very good a pot of freshly brewed green tea goes with it.

    my dh on the other hand is not so good.  and IF he eats breakfast it is the leftovers from dinner!  however, i have been nagging him enough that sometimes he will have oatmeal.

    dd?  well she is a night owl so breakfast comes hmmm, perhaps at noon.  but during school year she eats something otherwise she gets migraines.

    i believe breakfast is important.  i have kept my weight in check whereas dh? not so much.  he’s working on it.

  7. Not hungry in the morning

    I’m just not hungry when I wake up in the morning.  It’s usually at least an hour before anything sounds appetizing.  My 6yo is the same way.  Not sure about my 3yo.  Most days, she’s fine waiting till I’m ready to think about breakfast.  Not sure if she’d eat right away if I offered something.

    We love breakfast foods and will make a late breakfast on the weekends or have breakfast for dinner.  

    I make sure that everyone has something before they leave the house or something that they are eating in the car on the way to school.  On week days, it’s something really quick since we just don’t get up early enough to have time for anything else.

    • I’m realizing now

      that I was the same way when I commuted to work.  I didn’t need to eat right away but could not skip breakfast.  I’d often have oatmeal or something at my desk right when I got to work.  

  8. We’re breakfast eaters

    Little Boy wakes up ready to eat his own arm and Sister Bear really does not function until she has food in her tummy.

    And, since I have been at home, those breakfasts can be more than cereal.  In fact, during the school year, we only have cereal a couple times a week.  My kids do not do well on bread carbs alone so I try to add some protein and a fruit.  So we have smoothies, oatmeal, eggs, toast, bagels, waffles or whatever else I can come up with.  I’m hoping to have a stock of quick non-cereal breakfasts for the kids that can be done even if I’m not home in the morning.

    We are also lucky that our school is smart enough to have a milk/snack break for the kids mid-morning.  I think it really helps.  

  9. Mmmm, breakfast

    I love breakfast.  I am a morning person, and always wake up hungry.  When I was preggo w/ DD1, I started the First Breakfast/Second Breakfast routine, where first breakfast was a bowl of Cheerios around 5am, second was cereal or a hot breakfast at normal breakfast time.  And I’ve found that if I eat 2 breakfasts and a light lunch, I don’t really feel like eating after noon.  DD1 is the same — huge breakfast, huge morning snack, good size lunch, and then she just picks at dinner.  Seems to work so we’re just going with it for now.  

    –R

    • I did two breakfasts

      when I was pregnant, too, but mainly because I always threw up the first breakfast. First breakfast was something soft, second breakfast was more substantial.

      I love every kind of breakfast food, too.

  10. Our kids

    were allowed a snack in elementary school. I don’t remember having that when I was a child, but I am glad my kids did.

  11. definitely a breakfast person

    we’re a breakfast family and lately, Jess has been eating two breakfasts (but I think she’s in a growth spurt; all her pants have become high-water waders!). I’ve found that ideally, my breakfast has to either feature slow carbs (oatmeal) and/or protein, otherwise I’m just hungry again by 10.

    Breakfast for dinner sounds like a lot of fun; I’ve done fritters and savory pancakes. I’ve got a great vegan/gluten free chickpea pancake recipe, if anyone’s interested!

  12. DS doesn’t eat breakfast

    It has always bothered me because I feel like Good Mothers Feed Their Children Breakfast.  But, he won’t eat anything.  Even when he’s hungry, which is never in the a.m., he doesn’t like breakfast foods — eggs, pancakes, waffles, french toast.  I cannot believe he is the fruit of my loins, as I love breakfast foods.

    Of the 5 days that we make toast or a bagel for the ride to school, he might eat it once.  Occasionally he’ll wrap it up and I guess he eats it a bit later, but not usually.  He won’t eat eggs (though he’ll prepare them if a friend sleeps over — he just watches his friend eat).  He won’t drink a small amount of juice or chocolate milk, won’t take a nutrition bar for a couple of hours later.  He also doesn’t always eat lunch, which is maddening. He says he doesn’t like what we prepare, won’t make his own lunch, and won’t tell us what he will eat.  It’s actually pretty diabolical.

    For some reason, what meals have boiled down to for DS is a simple dichotomy:  Any food prepared at home is de facto disgusting.  Restaurant food is good. That includes foods like Pop-Tarts, which I hate to offer but have been desperate enough to do at times.  He generally refuses them; I guess he is even suspicious of our ability to toast packaged foods.  He likes bacon, but is very leery if it’s cooked at home.  In my defense, my cooking is well-received by other people.  No one gets sick or spits into their napkins, I’ve checked.  Most people ask for seconds!  Really!  Paging Dr. Freud….

    Having bitched about DS, I must confess that DH never eats breakfast, and I’m not hungry in the mornings but will try to eat oatmeal or yogurt at work.  Not eating anything just seems so wrong for a child.  And ironically, this was a child who woke up starving from every single nap and night’s sleep as an infant and toddler.  He’s not a big eater in general, though his weight seems fine, and his bloodwork looks very good.  I insisted he take something to eat at rehearsal the other day (8+ hours) and he took… celery.  Sigh.  I have kept an eye on him for an eating disorder but he has no trouble eating burritos, chicken, sandwiches, etc. — as long as it’s take-out.  Sometimes I take him a bbq’d burger when I pick him up in the evening and if he’s sufficiently starving he’ll eat it.  Most of the time, he won’t eat the grapes or bell pepper strips or whatever that I serve along with it.

    Sorry for the novel.  You can tell this is a touchy subject for me :)

    • Your son and my son

      must be long lost brothers.  He is much the same, but he will eat bacon made here at home…in fact, he just scarfed down nearly a pound of it.  What he likes, he really likes…so much that he’s content to eat it over and over and over.  He did finally concede to eating burgers made out on our grill…previously, he’d eat hotdogs, but not hamburgers made at home.  He won’t eat chicken, but will eat ham, steak or roasted meat.  He’ll eat potatoes, but I can’t think of another vegetable he’ll really eat.  

      He’s never liked school lunches.  Not surprising, so we always packed him a lunch.  We also give him a couple of dollars for the vending machines.  Well, this year, he quit taking a lunch.  Ofcourse, we worried.  It leaked out, over time, however, that he had been eating the lunch at school.  His school sits next door to an adult education school that has cooking classes, so they cater the lunches at my son’s school.  I thought the food always looked very good, but he would never admit it…but, evidently, during the school year, he did decide it wasn’t too bad, in fact, he liked it.  But tell us that he actually liked this wider variety of food?  Nope.  Like pulling teeth to get this information.

      • I’m glad he’s eating!

        I have taken to offering something reasonable, listening to the inevitable “no,” and going on my way.  At today’s doctor visit we found out his organs are in fine shape and so are his muscles.  A little glitch on the EKG, what the doc described as a “normal variant.”  So whatever he’s doing appears to be working.

        I wish I worked next door to a cooking school.  

  13. Without breakfast, I am nothing

    Except that sometimes nausea makes me want nothing more than a ginger ale or such, and once morning sickness demanded I had pickels, and another time cake.  I swear!

    Breakfast growing up was always healthy cereal, maybe with some fruit or oj.  I vastly in favor of my grandmother’s muffins, and occasionally her “coddled” eggs.  Pancakes are also alright on occasion, and I seldom turn down waffles or crepes with fruit on top.  But really, Cheerios+berries+milk = good to go.  OB wants me to have protein, and it is making me despise eggs, whereas before I was indifferent.

    DH has never been a breakfast eater, but he is a night owl working the night shift, so now he eats bagels for his morning meal right before he goes to bed.

    The kid eats breakfast.  It’s usually Eggos, but he  likes Cheerios too, and is quite fond of eggs.  Sometimes it’s just Nutrigrain bars or graham crackers, but he gets snacks at daycare, so he’ll live.

  14. I’m a breakfast convert

    I never ate breakfast as a kid, but I do as an adult. I’m not a morning person, so when I worked at an office, I ate when I got in or by 10-ish. When pregnant, it was either a protein bar or a microwaved egg. Now that I’m home, I eat either with the boys (usually cold cereal or oatmeal) or just after if they got up too early to suit me. cough princess cough

    I find that if I skip breakfast I eat too much crap the rest of the day. Anyone else notice this?

    • Absolutely

      If I eat breakfast I get hungry for proper meals, like second breakfast and lunch, if I don’t eat breakfast I never really get hungry and so I just snack on junk all day.  

      –R

  15. Have to have breakfast

    or I won’t last for more than 10 minutes out the door – I’ll simply faint.

    I’m not a morning person at all, and would rather spend the 20 minutes I need sleeping, but I know I just won’t make it to work :-) I usually have a bowl of cereal with yoghurt and sometimes fruit and that will last me till lunchtime. Luckily, DH and DD1 eat breakfast too, so at least we spend that time together. On the weekends we usually have bake-off rolls or something and spend some more time eating breakfast.

    • I faint too

      Although I haven’t done it in ages.  After figuring out the cause and effect there I find I’ll eat something whether I’m hungry and awake or not.  Now I’m so fearful of fainting that I eat at fairly regular intervals and stop what I’m doing and put something in my body at the slightest signal that it could come on.

      • Same here

        it’s been ages, because I now know what to do (eat regularly) and when I’m particularly vulnerable (when I have a bad cold or flu, or after donating blood – yep, d’uh!)

        Can’t say I worry about fainting at all anymore, because even when I start to see stars, I can stave it off by simply sitting down then and there and making sure I get some blood to my head. But I’ll go touch some wood now…

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