Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Have we always eaten them?

February 14, 2016 – 05:08 am

British people - and many others across the world - have been brought up on the idea of three square meals a day as a normal eating pattern, but it wasn't always that way.

The case for breakfast, missed by many with deleterious effects, is that it makes us more alert, helps keep us trim and improves children's work and behaviour at school.

But when people worry that breaking with the traditional three meals a day is harmful, are they right about the traditional part? Have people always eaten in that pattern?


Breakfast as we know it didn't exist for large parts of history. The Romans didn't really eat it, usually consuming only one meal a day around noon, says food historian Caroline Yeldham. In fact, breakfast was actively frowned upon.

"The Romans believed it was healthier to eat only one meal a day, " she says. "They were obsessed with digestion and eating more than one meal was considered a form of gluttony. This thinking impacted on the way people ate for a very long time."

A brief history of brunch

  • Brunch is a portmanteau of "breakfast" and "lunch(eon)"
  • It is thought the meal has its roots in British 19th Century hunt breakfasts - lavish multi-course meals
  • In 1895, Guy Beringer wrote a column for Hunter's Weekly arguing the case for inventing a whole new meal for late Sunday mornings, mainly for Saturday night partygoers
  • The following year he was mentioned in an issue of Punch, which announced "to be fashionable nowadays we must 'brunch'"
  • While the concept is British, it's the Americans who really embraced it
  • It reportedly became popular in 1930s Chicago when film stars and the like stopped off in the city between trains for a late morning meal
  • This trend continued as the more formal 1950s gave way to the '60s
  • Back then brunch menus included clam cocktails and calf's liver with hash browns, nowadays it's more likely to be Eggs Benedict

Source: The Smithsonian

In the Middle Ages monastic life largely shaped when people ate, says food historian Ivan Day. Nothing could be eaten before morning Mass and meat could only be eaten for half the days of the year. It's thought the word breakfast entered the English language during this time and literally meant "break the night's fast".

Religious ritual also gave us the full English breakfast. On Collop Monday, the day before Shrove Tuesday, people had to use up meat before the start of Lent. Much of that meat was pork and bacon as pigs were kept by many people. The meat was often eaten with eggs, which also had to be used up, and the precursor of the full English breakfast was born.


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  • avatar Can eating only breakfast the whole day help loose weight? | Yahoo Answers
    • It will work but you may blackout or get frequent dizziness. No doubt you will lose weight, but if you do this eating some fats in that one meal will keep it easier to burn fat so when you do eat regularly, you're less likley to gain weight. Be careful because if you go too far with this, prepare for joint and back pain. Trust me it sucks.

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