Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day. However, it can also be the least exciting meal for many. Breakfast is often a reflection of functional needs. Foods at breakfast are simple and quick to prepare, which can be a great way to revive your body and mind after a good night’s sleep. Scientists have shown that people tend to stick with the same breakfast choice day after day when they find it appealing.
Researchers recently examined the eating habits of thousands of French and U.S. study subjects. They found that many people ate the same breakfast food every day, and they were very happy about it. However, when they sat down for lunch or dinner, these people expected more variety and a more enjoyable experience.
Why were so many people content with the same breakfast each morning? Scientists suggested that our expectations for meals are influenced by psychological, biological, and cultural factors. These drivers and our enthusiasm for eating can vary depending on the time of the day.
Our bodies follow the circadian rhythms throughout the day and night. These 24-hour cycles govern all aspects of life. A typical human schedule follows light-related circadian rhythms. This biological clock is controlled by tens of thousands of neurons in the brain. We feel more awake when the sun is shining during the day and sleepier at night.
Circadian rhythms can also influence our eating habits. Researchers have studied the links between circadian rhythms and variations in the number and size of meals people consume throughout the day.
The scientists investigated whether psychological factors, such as circadian rhythms, could influence how people eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Romain Cadario (assistant professor at Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management) said that these questions were also interesting to the researchers due to their breakfast habits.
Practicality vs. enjoyment
Morewedge and Cadario reviewed previous studies and identified two goals to guide meal choice: utilitarian, where practicality is the most important, and hedonic. Hedonic is about pleasure. To find patterns in meal experiences, the researchers analyzed data from 1,275 American volunteers.
The researchers found that 68% of participants had eaten the same breakfast at least twice a week in both the American and French groups. This was higher than 52% and 73%, respectively. Comparatively, only 9% of participants repeated the same dinner they’d already had, while this was lower for Americans (16%) and French participants (6%).
The researchers suggested that cultural factors in France and the U.S. may be responsible for why people choose less variety in breakfasts. Capitalist labor practices make it easier for people to prepare and eat breakfasts faster than lunches and dinners. The biology of circadian rhythms is also likely to play a role. People are most alert at the beginning of the day and will be satisfied with a meal they don’t have too much to think about. Scientists suggested that when energy is low, people might want a stimulating meal for lunch or dinner later in the day.
Researchers then suggested that psychological factors could be used to influence people’s choices about meals. People are more likely to make practical decisions and pursue utilitarian goals early in the morning when their energy levels are higher. According to the study, this makes it more likely that people will choose practicality over enjoyment when choosing breakfast. They are more likely to find a breakfast they like and then repeat the process repeatedly.
As the day goes by, people’s energy levels decrease, and their practical goals become less important. Pleasure-seeking becomes more essential, and people will be more inclined to try different tastes and textures.