Is breakfast dead in America?

This is a cool article from Quartz on the decline of orange juice in American life — namely, rising prices of oranges, infections of orange grove, the evil nature of sugar now, etc. — but buried within it is this nugget:

That’s because Americans aren’t eating breakfast like they used to. Breakfast has been on the decline for over 20 years now, according to a recent study (paywall). Some 89% of American adults ate breakfast back in 1971, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. As of 2002, that number has fallen to 82%, and is likely lower now.

This is interesting because virtually everyone born in America post-WW2 was probably told at some point that breakfast is the most important meal; this winter, you see PhDs striking down that notion online. MSNBC did a slideshow on “American eating habits” a few weeks back, and this slide talks about the importance of breakfast:

20 percent is the reduction in the hunger hormone ghrelin after eating a breakfast high in protein rather than carbs. The same study also found that people who ate 350 calories of eggs and lean beef for breakfast consumed 290 fewer calories throughout the day than those who ate 350 calories of cereal.

That all makes sense. But the thing is, it’s not actually happening. Here’s an info-graphic (the future of content management, y’all) from Progressive Grocer: 


Here are some of the key survey results (and bear in mind, this is tied to Kraft releasing new breakfast foods, so…):

• Researchers found breakfast skipping to be more common in major Southern cities, with Dallas-Fort Worth (54 percent) and Houston (60 percent) residents forgoing breakfast most frequently.

• New Yorkers (69 percent) and Los Angelenos (66 percent) suffer most from morning energy drain, while residents of Washington, D.C. (44 percent) and Boston (46 percent) are least likely to be sluggish in the morning.

Among those who eat breakfast daily, men seem to get more out of their breakfast, with 53 percent of men feeling more productive after breakfast versus 44 percent of women.

If I had to throw a ham-hocked theory at this, I’d go with the whole “New York and LA are busy cities.” Actually, in the last incarnation of me living in New York, I didn’t eat breakfast that much, honestly. Houston and Dallas (like LA) are major commuter cities via car, so breakfast could be viewed as a one-way ticket to sitting in traffic (whereas if you skip, or try to eat at the office, there’s less traffic). If you’re reading that second bullet as DC having more breakfasts, I’d guess that has something to do with the culture of the breakfast meeting — which tends to be big in political/state capitols and college towns (which Boston essentially is as well). Again, those are unscientific theories.

This article indicates 31 million Americans (1/10 of the country) skips breakfast every day. Purportedly, some people believe that skipping breakfast is a good way to lose weight. (News: it’s not.)

For the approximately three people that care about this, I’ve been doing a Sunday breakfast casserole type thing that lasts through the week. It takes about 25-40 minutes to make on late Sunday afternoon and bam, I’m good till the next Sunday. It’s actually been a pretty cool innovation in my life and I’ve been able to often go until 1:30-2:30 local time before wanting to eat something again. I feel like that’s a positive. Here’s one recipe.

Ted Bauer