Egg Nutrition Center Blog

The “Most Important Meal of the Day” is NOT so Important to Some Consumers

A recent NPD Morning MealScape 2011 study discussed that 31 million Americans still skip breakfast. This is a huge opportunity for health professionals. The public has heard (us) and the media talk about the benefits of breakfast, but this has not motivated much change in consumption. What can we do differently to help facilitate change? One approach that I have seen incorporated in other behavior change models is to discuss the risks of not eating breakfast. Example: Children who do not eat breakfast may perform worse in school or people who do not eat breakfast consumer MORE calories throughout the day. Would this make an impact?

Among children, the incidence of skipping increases as children age with 13-to-17-year-olds having the highest incidence (14 %) of skipping breakfast. I again think it is like any other habit-breakfast should become part of a lifestyle. I feel strongly that it starts with parents showing a child at a young age that breakfast is important for the whole family. Perhaps everyone cannot sit together at breakfast, but focusing one everyone eating breakfast to start their day is important.

Of reasons not to eat breakfast “not being hungry” is one that the participants reported. It would really be interesting to see how much and how late these individuals consumed other meals. Also if you incorporate breakfast as a habit it would become second nature to eat the morning. I personally have to eat soon after I wake up or I am not a happy camper. Another reason is the “time” aspect and I would challenge those people to find 3 minutes to make a microwave coffee cup scramble.

The study also discusses that 3/4 of the people eating breakfast are doing it at home, but the others are eating away from home. The quick service restaurants could build on the groups eating away from home as well as sparking interest in those not eating breakfast at all. Why not offer an egg sandwich on a whole wheat bread/bun with a side of fruit instead of a hash brown? Perhaps breakfast skippers that feel they feel they do not have time at home, might consider this option if it were a healthier one? However on the other hand, I must say that those who eat on the run because they feel it takes too much time should consider how much time is spent at the drive-thru (bet it is about the same or more than the 3 minutes to make scrambled eggs). Of course perception is everything.

So what can we do to continue to promote breakfast consumption? Easy healthy recipes? Showing the time factor can be met? Focusing on the risks? Continuing to promote it as the “most important meal of the day” and hoping it takes hold?

Here is a breakdown of the adults in the study-as you can see males skip more often.
Percent of Adults, By Gender, Who Skip Breakfast * percent of individuals who are up, but don’t eat or drink anything in the morning prior to 11 am
Males Females
18-34 years old 28% 18%
35-54 years old 18% 13%
55+ years old 11% 10%
Source: The NPD Group/Morning MealScape 2011

Author: Anna Shlachter MS, RDN, LDN