'Morning, Sunshine: Is Breakfast on Your Menu?

Last week's issue of New York magazine takes on breakfast, a tasty multi-course spread on the meal that people either love or hate.

We've all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the fuel that fires up the engine and takes your brain to a higher level. As much as I do appreciate the sound advice, I rarely wake up hankering for a meal to start to the day. I'm an early bird alright, but I prefer my worms after coffee, thanks.

One of my favorite parts of the New York package is "What I Ate This Morning" poll; the responses are fascinating, covering the gamut from cigarettes to four hard-boiled eggs.

All this breakfast banter got me thinking: What happens when you rise and shine? Does breakfast figure into your routine, and if so, is it a slow or rushed affair? When I waited tables at a diner in Philadelphia in the early 1990s, I could predict when certain customers would show up for breakfast, where they'd sit and what they'd order. What is it about breakfast that makes us extreme creatures of habit?

For me, the notion of eating while working out of a REM state is what turns me off about breakfast. Give me an hour to get my caffeinated bearings and say good morning to the universe, and I'll be ready to join you. One morning last fall, I made blue corn pancakes for me and Mister MA on a weekday, and I remember thinking how much fun it was to commune at the table before we parted ways for the day.

Still, breakfast remains a rarity rather than a rule for this bird, and I'm wondering, should I or shouldn't I get on the first-meal-of-the-day stick? Share your morning thoughts in the comments area.

P.S. Remember when everyone and their brother had a breakfast nook?

From the MA archive: breakfast treats.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 9, 2008; 8:31 AM ET Breakfast
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I too can't eat first thing in the morning. I usually make breakfast at work: in order to save money & calories, I no longer buy coffee & bagels/cream cheese near the office. Instead, I bought an electric tea kettle for the office & every morning make drip coffee with a filter that sits on my mug, and an envelope of instant plain oatmeal, into which I sprinkle a few raisins, slivered almonds & cinnamon. I usually bring in a banana to complete the meal. Plus, I store yogurt, carrot sticks & other fruit as well as milk for my coffee in my little cube refrigerator so I'm not tempted to nibble chips, cookies, etc. during the day.

Posted by: Bethesda Mom | June 9, 2008 10:35 AM

My stomach is my back-up alarm clock. If I snooze too long, my tummy starts to growl. There is no impetus like hunger to get you up out of bed. I have breakfast everyday. Lately I have been enjoying the strawberry jam I made on an English muffin. But cereal is my usual. Also love yogurt and fruit/granola/grape nuts.

Thank goodness I don't live near a cozy diner. I could see me doing that on a regular basis. Mmmmm....

Posted by: MorningGirl | June 9, 2008 10:46 AM

I'm not a breakfast person either. If I had my druthers, I'd eat about two hours after I wake up, but my health says I have to eat first thing. I've compromised, and I eat breakfast at work everyday about an hour after I wake up.

I think the everyone-should-eat-breakfast idea is just as exaggerated as most diet advice. Eat if you're hungry and if eating makes you feel better.

Posted by: mollyjade | June 9, 2008 11:23 AM

I *have* to eat breakfast. If I don't, I feel weak and cranky by lunchtime. Even if it is a granola bar when I rush out the door, I have to eat something. My favorite breakfast is an egg, cereal (hot or cold), and coffee with milk. Sometimes I put fruit on my cereal, if I have some handy. It is fast, inexpensive, tasty, and nutritionally sound.

I really like a big country breakfast, but I rarely have the time or the calories to spare.

I think no one is quite feeling creative and adventurous right after waking, so we tend to stick to patterns.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | June 9, 2008 11:47 AM

I can't leave the house without breakfast, even if it's only a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee, though sometimes I try and do an egg, or maybe some yogurt, honey and granola.

As for the person who makes and eats her breakfast at work, that's pretty much the most depressing thing I've heard all day. Even if it's just 5 minutes, breakfast is a little time you can take for yourself before starting the day. Maybe Bethesda Mom can't get much peace and quiet before going to work, but for me at least, breakfast is as much about the time as it is about the meal.

Posted by: MB | June 9, 2008 11:51 AM

i always want to eat as soon as I wake up, yet i'm not super hungry in the morning. my compromise has been a protein shake: half a frozen bananna, a cup of frozen blueberries or strawberries, a scoop of vanilla whey protein powder and skim milk. black tea is also a part of my routine. this lasts me until lunchtime.
in the winter, i sometimes make a batch of steel cut oats on the weekend and eat it the rest of the week. i throw in dried fruit and nuts, maybe a little jam and it's comforting and satisfying.

Posted by: breakfastinboulder | June 9, 2008 12:22 PM

I drink a couple of cups of coffee at home and then have Cheerios at work. On weekends and days off from work, I sometimes go to a breakfast place in my neighborhood. At home on the weekends, I just east whatever is around be it a couple cheesesticks, left overs, whatever. I need something to eat within an hour or so of waking!

Posted by: WI | June 9, 2008 12:24 PM

I ususally have coffee at home and then Cheerios at work. On weekends and days off I sometimes go to a local breakfast place. Otherwise, I just eat left overs. I have to eat within a couple of hours of getting up!

Posted by: WI | June 9, 2008 12:26 PM

Study after study shows that breakfast is good for you. And it's a good sign to wake up a little hungry. As someone who cares about your health, Kim, I say start munching in the morning.

Posted by: MMcG | June 9, 2008 12:47 PM

@ MB - I read Bethesda Mom's comment as she isn't ready to eat when she is going through her morning routine.

My weekday breakfast is oatmeal with cinnamon and fresh or dried fruit and toast/english muffin with peanut butter. Usually eaten standing at the kitchen counter. If I am pressed for time, the makeup or hair dryer routine gets cut short in favor of breakfast - otherwise I am completely cranky.

Posted by: Kate | June 9, 2008 12:52 PM

i'm with bethesda mom - i typically eat oatmeal every morning when i get to work. it's not that my morning is hectic at home, i'd just rather spend the extra five minutes in bed and eat my breakfast while checking email and scanning the post. to each his own :) (the weekends are a whole other story - i loooove a nice weekend brunch!)

Posted by: gk | June 9, 2008 1:30 PM

I am always hungry when I first wake up. I love french toast with turkey sausage links or a hearty omelette with lots of veggies and cheese. But, unfortunately most days I must settle for yogurt and a banana.

Posted by: Sweetie | June 9, 2008 2:26 PM

I too eat breakfast at my desk - I have to get 3 kids fed and on a 7:15 school bus and then myself to work. Breakfast at my desk is calm and quiet - not depressing! I have a cafeteria in my building so it's usually a fried egg or some other egg dish and some plantains and BIG cup of coffee.

Posted by: Maria | June 9, 2008 2:44 PM

I am one of those people who doesn't like breakfast foods, so for me it's usually leftovers. The first time I stayed over at my boyfriends (now husbands) house, I asked if I could make a sandwich (we were long-distance dating and we both lived with our parents). After a look of confusion, his mom nodded and and helped me to find sandwich fixings. After that she always made sure she had sandwich stuff for me (consider it took 8 years before her son asked me to marry him it's a good thing!) My husband loves breakfast foods, and I will make them for him for dinner or on the weekends, but it's never my favorite meals, and most of the time I will eat something else.

Posted by: JJ | June 9, 2008 3:14 PM

Like others, I have to have breakfast in order to function in the morning. For the past few months, I've been hooked on a homemade fruit/grain/nut bar that seems to have just the right balance of protein, fiber and sugar. It is a variation on mayoclinic.com's Muesli Breakfast Bars (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-recipes/NU00327).

I substitute chopped dried apricots for the apple (too dry), decrease the honey to 3/4 c., use flaxseed in place of the wheat germ, and plain ol' white flour for the soy flour. They stick together nicely and really hit the spot (though we are not getting 24 servings out of them)!

Posted by: HEC1 | June 9, 2008 3:43 PM

I cannot start my day without breakfast. It's part of my morning routing to get up, make either eggs and toast, or at least cereal with fruit and yogurt. All washed down with my favorite French roast. It's the only way I can start the day and like some others, I'll sacrifice other parts of my morning routine to sit down for at least 15 min. and have my breakfast and watch the morning news. Ahhhh.

Posted by: Breakfastlovr | June 9, 2008 3:45 PM

I am ridiculously lucky: my boyfriend gets out of bed 10 minutes before me and has breakfast on the table by the time I get out of the shower. It's usually nothing fancy--tea, hot cereal and a half grapefruit in the winter, cold cereal or granola with berries in the summer, sometimes a fried egg or strip of bacon--but it's always nice and gives us a few minutes to sit down and talk about what we have going on for the day, what we dreamt about last night, how frequently the cat woke us up in night... Sometimes I have to leap up to go dry my hair while he's still sitting there munching on his toast, and I always feel a little bad. But it's one of my favorite parts of the day and it has little to do with the food.

Posted by: Phoebe | June 9, 2008 3:47 PM

I love breakfast. Usually, it's a bowl of cereal within a half hour of waking, but if I have time (or am eating out), I love waffles, eggs and (most of all) breakfast potatoes.

Posted by: Sarah | June 9, 2008 3:51 PM

Hey MB:

As Kim would say, different strokes for different folks. I'm one of those who likes to sleep in as much as possible and just can't look at food until I've been up for at least an hour or two. Far from being depressing, a colleague looked at my side table in my office with my cereal bowl, mug, Mayorga coffee, cinnamon & electric tea kettle, with mini fridge underneath and said that it looked as if I had a studio apartment. I replied that it was nicer than my first studio apartment!

Posted by: Bethesda Mom | June 9, 2008 4:33 PM

I love breakfast foods, just not in the morning. I never eat breakfast and rarely eat lunch--it just plain nauseates me and I can't stand getting sick at work. So, a few crackers and tea hold me over 'til dinner. I know you're not supposed to eat a lot in the evenings, so I keep dinner pretty light most of the time.

I know this is probably bad for a number of reason--dropping/spiking blood sugar levels, low energy, conducive to weight gain--but it seems to work OK for me. I guess people do have different metabolisms and quirks.

I'm totally forbidden by my doc to eat eggs, dairy, or bread but I sometimes have a real breakfast meal (sans meat) of an omelette and toast for dinner or weekend brunch for a luxuriously guilty treat. (Don't tell.)

Posted by: love breakfast at night | June 9, 2008 5:39 PM

I love breakfast. The world is divided between those who eat breakfast and are satisfied until lunch, and those who continuously snack. Snack foods are crap. Granola bars are crap. People like to put down eggs. Eggs are the perfect food. A lot of people still seem to think eggs are bad for you. They are misinformed by nutritionists who are themselves ill-informed. A cup of oatmeal and an egg-most satisfying. Unless you're my brother, who fasts all day and eats like a hog for dinner.

Posted by: Chris' brother | June 9, 2008 9:50 PM

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day to give the brain energy it needs to function. I however, am not an early morning person as far as eating goes. If I don't eat my stomach gets very quezzy. Working in the medical field it is important that I try to eat so that I can do my best where other peoples lives are at stake. I will eat on my way to work since I have 45 minutes to kill. It usually consist of a toasted bagel (no butter) and a piece of fruit as well as the infamous caffeine fix (coffee).

Posted by: sweetlittlemama | June 9, 2008 10:40 PM

Monday through Saturday mornings, breakfast is a glass of skim milk. Only on Sunday mornings do I have to sit down and eat a bowl of cereal as I read the newspaper.

Posted by: Little Red | June 10, 2008 12:44 PM

Most days, I make this sandwich for breakfast - takes 5 minutes and I just wrap it up and eat it on the train on the way to work:

Wheat english muffin
1 egg
Mix-ins: grated cheese, ounce or two of leftover meat/cold cuts/ham/salami (sausage or any ground meat is especially nice), leftover asparagus/mushrooms/roasted veg or handful spinach leaves

Put the muffin halves in the toaster and toast on the darkest setting. Meanwhile, beat the egg with a fork in a small microwavable bowl with a little salt (but see below), pepper, and tabasco. Microwave 45 seconds-1 minute (depending on your microwave). Remove and stir to break up the partially cooked egg.

Mix in whatever you want - a little cheese and/or the torn-up spinach leaves or leftover vegetables, and/or a small amount of leftover meat, whatever. Stir it into the egg and put it back in for 45 seconds-1 minute. By this time your muffin should be done. Turn the cooked egg mixture out onto your muffin. Voila! Sandwich.

You don't need to add butter or other oils since the egg should be fairly tender and moist, and, depending on how salty your add-ins are, you may not need to salt your eggs. Using a whole wheat muffin gives the sandwich additional lasting power.

Posted by: sergio georgini | June 10, 2008 1:26 PM

Gotta have protein, whether milk in the form of a green tea latte or yogurt with fruit, honey, and almonds. Or a slice of multigrain toast with cheese or peanut butter.

Cereal just leaves me craving junk by 10 am.

Posted by: Reine de Saba | June 10, 2008 3:20 PM

Breakfast is a luxury that I only afford myself on weekends. Coffee and maybe a bagle is generaly all that time will allow. Like most who have been here before me, I Love my Sleep.

Posted by: Usermlw | June 10, 2008 4:49 PM

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