For many people, breakfast — often called the most important meal of the day — is also the day’s least-exciting meal.Breakfast choices frequently reflect utilitarian needs; foods at breakfast are typically simple, quick and easy to prepare and eat.And when people find a breakfast option they like, they generally stick with it, day after day, scientists have found.
Why were so many people satisfied with eating the same breakfast every morning?The scientists suggested that psychological, biological and cultural drivers shape our expectations for meals, and those factors — and our enthusiasm for eating — differ depending on the time of day.
Researchers identified two goals that govern meal choices: utilitarian, in which practicality is paramount, and hedonic, in which pleasure is more important.The researchers then analyzed data in which a group of 1,275 American volunteers and a group of 2,624 French volunteers self-reported what they ate at different meals, to find patterns in meal experiences.
“Labor practices allow many people less time to select, prepare, and consume their breakfasts than their lunches or dinners,” the researchers wrote.Biology — circadian rhythms — likely also play a part; people tend to be at their most alert at the start of the day, and would therefore be satisfied with a meal choice that they don’t have to think about too much.But later in the day, when their energy is flagging, they might crave a more stimulating meal for lunch or dinner.
The researchers then proposed that psychological factors could also map to circadian rhythms to further nudge people toward certain meal choices.Early in the day, when energy levels are higher, people are more prone to pursue utilitarian goals and make practical choices.This makes it more likely that they’d be guided by practicality over pleasure when eating breakfast and would be more inclined to find one breakfast they liked and then eat the same thing over and over again, according to the study.
But as the day progresses, and a person’s energy waxes and wanes, the importance of utilitarian goals declines.Pleasure-seeking becomes more important, and a person would then be more prone to seek variety in tastes and textures.
So, what do you usually eat for breakfast?