Salad for Breakfast? Rethinking Why We Eat, What We Eat, and When We Eat It

Rainbow Salad

Salad: It’s what’s for breakfast.

Early this morning, while standing in front of my open fridge, I decided I’d have a salad with tuna. Yes, I did say this morning.

Stop the presses. Joyce just had tuna for BREAKFAST. I mean that’s weird, right? I felt like I broke some sort of unspoken rule.

I’ve been around the health, fitness, and sports industries for a long time, and after trying my share of trendy eating plans, I’ve discovered that I thrive on a paleo diet. Or a mostly paleo diet, anyway. I’ve found that eating little to no bread and pasta makes a huge difference for me. If you’re interested, I’m a big fan of the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.

Side note: by diet, I mean a regimen you stick to 80% of the time. Chances are, changing the way you eat (and, therefore, the way you live) overnight isn’t something you’ll be able to stick to perfectly. It’s hard to change the way you eat, and forcing yourself to commit to a perfect diet is exhausting. Give yourself some leeway, allow for mistakes, and cheat every now and then. It’ll keep you sane!

But anyway, back to my lunch-for-breakfast situation. The weird, almost subconscious awkwardness I felt this morning made me ask this question:

Why do we eat what we eat when we eat it?

I can only speak from my own travels and experiences, but most restaurants I’ve been to divide the menu into the three meals of the day.

There are restaurants that have an all-day menu. But generally, the typical American breakfast menu has “breakfast” foods on it: eggs, toast, biscuits, a meat (sausage, ham, steak, bacon), oatmeal, grits, some cereals, and maybe fruit. Lunch follows with certain foods, and dinner has its list.

So I did some research. I googled and found a few articles on the history of meals, the introduction of cereals, and Mr. Kellogg and Mr. Post working in sanitariums. What I found was pretty interesting.

Our traditional “three square meals a day” lifestyle comes from back in the day when most of our country’s workforce were farmers, laborers, and factory workers. If you were outside in the heat all day, none of your meals were really that formal. You were more worried about just getting something to eat. But, when more people started working in factories, the easy-to-carry lunch sandwich made its debut, and the family dinner was perfected into a formal event. (Check out the reference at the bottom of the post for more food history.)

But now we’re in the 21st century. Most of our workforce isn’t made up of the same types of jobs. More and more people work from home, or don’t work a regular 9-5 grind.

So if our lifestyles have changed, why haven’t our meals?

We now know a lot more than we used to about health and nutrition. Our work and lifestyles have changed but yet our thoughts on traditional foods at traditional times have not. With obesity at an all time high, might rethinking what we eat and when we eat it help move people in a more healthy direction?

I’m not suggesting you can’t have eggs for breakfast or a salad for dinner. But what if we ate in a way that fit our lifestyle and health and wasn’t so programmed?

What do you think?

If our three square meals a day lifestyle doesn’t work anymore, what do you think will? Or is three meals a day still your thing? How can we restructure our preconceptions of foods associated with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so we can still have three traditional meals without all the traditional calories?




  1. I think you’re onto something, Joyce. Reading the part about what motivated laborers’ diets, as well as factory workers really got me thinking. This is a conversation I feel that can really pick up steam as a means of influencing our dietary choices… And mealtimes!

    • Thanks, Joe! I might continue with this. I might add some recipes to it too. Thanks again for the encouragement!

  2. If we can eat breakfast for dinner, we can certainly eat dinner for breakfast, right? While I usually end up with a protein/fruit smoothie because it’s easy – I occasionally have a salad or soup or other leftovers for breakfast if I feel like it. I’m not an egg person, so in general, traditional breakfast foods are a fatty carby splurge for me. Pancakes, bacon, and hashbrowns are great every once in a while but probably not great for me on the daily!