Has There Always Been Breakfast? A Fun Travel Through the History of Breakfast

Has Breakfast Always Been Around?

17th Century: No, No, No!

The history of breakfast tells us that “breaking the fast” was not always considered the “healthiest meal of the day.” On the contrary, in the 17th century eating in the morning was considered bad health, bad habit, and bad morals! It was thought that eating upon waking showed lack of restraint and the result was not only indigestion, but gluttony and sensuality. Farmers often worked for hours before giving in to the hunger brought on by work. But then along came……

The Industrial Revolution and Hard Work

18th century factory

XVIII century factory

History began to affect breakfast in the 18th century. The Industrial Revolution meant that workers – men,women, and children – often left the home early in the morning and didn’t return until the evening. This required some sort of sustenance, thereby lifting the earlier “moral taboo” of breakfast – at least for laborers,

18th century bread for the children

18th century bread for the children

children, the sick and the elderly. Now a bit of bread, cheese and ale provided needed strength for the day.  Breakfast was still nothing like we envision today. Until….


The 19th Century – The Breakfast Revolution

In response to the earlier meager fare, history tells us that the 19th century brought about a sort of breakfast revolt. The

19th century family dining

19th century middle class breakfast table

gentry especially began to add meat, seafood, spices, boiled chicken and pastries to the early morning meal. They delighted in oysters and breads, and even desserts. The kitchen table became a “groaning board” and all was fair for fare. The middle class soon began to copy the breakfast trend, if not in quality, at least in quantity.  As you might have guessed this did not have wonderful results but instead resulted in……..


Widespread Dispepsia

What in the world????  Yep, you heard it right. The medical community of the day began to be alarmed at an epidemic of what they called “dispepsia,” which was really just plain ole INDIGESTION! All that fancy, heavy, spicy eating in the early morning was not setting well with the people and their tummies.  One particular doctor was most concerned at the what he saw as a health and moral crisis. You are going to recognize his name……..

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Michigan

When you read his name, you probably start picturing Kellogg’s numerous cereals. But the Doctor was not thinking about today’s grocery aisle full of sugary treats. He published his own thoughts on how simplifying the diet could help with what he saw as a trend in immoral sexual vices. NO KIDDING! Read more about it here. So he “invented” the idea of cold cereal – a very plain, unsweetened corn flake that by today’s standards may have tasted like cardboard. But the ladies who used to slave over those huge repasts (and the resulting dispepsia) were thrilled with his findings because it meant zero food prep. Freedom! History doesn’t tell us the effect on morals. 🙂 I am quite sure, however, that the good doctor would roll over in his grave to see the multi-colored evolution of his first generation cereal!

Since Dr. Kellogg’s days, our first meal of the day has gone through many stages. Fortunately we have arrived at…………

The Age of the Liberated Breakfast

Americans have passed through many morning fads and finally arrived at a place where…typical for us……everyone does his own thing. From smoothies (green of course) to sandwiches to omelettes to breakfast bowls. We run the gamut from drive-thru addicts to breakfast salad fanatics.  Commuters have brought us many to-go morning sandwiches which can be bought while filling up your car with gas; yet the paleo and low-carb rage has legitimized kale, quinoa, avocado and spinach on our breakfast tables. What a journey. I like the place where we have landed – CHOICE!                                    

Happy “breakfasting!”

healthy breakfast bowl

Healthy breakfast bowls with fried egg, chickpea sprouts, seeds, vegetables and greens





2017-10-09T20:59:25+00:00 May 8th, 2017|Blog|

About the Author: Helen Leibee

Helen Leibee
Mother of eleven children (six natural and five adopted) and grandmother of thirteen, I have spent decades preparing food, raising chickens and other farm animals alongside our menagerie, researching health and nutrition topics, watching food trends, and incorporating varied cultural traditions into our homeschool, small farm lifestyle. Gardening and finding farm fresh were always prioritized and still are.

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