The Main Meal of the Day
In North America, most of us are accustomed to three substantial meals a day – breakfast, lunch, and a hearty dinner. In many other parts of the world, though, lunch is the main meal of the day, while breakfast and dinner are more like light snacks. Meanwhile, many nutrition experts refer to breakfast as the most important meal of the day, encouraging us to “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”. How has the biggest meal of the day evolved over time and when should we eat it?
Lunch – the Old Dinner
These days, there is some confusion among English-speakers over the words lunch, dinner, and supper. Dinner is still used in some places (primarily Britain) to refer to a mid-day meal that many others of us would consider lunch. Likewise, a lunch could also refer to what others think of as dinner – such as a “Sunday Lunch”.
A few hundred years ago, there was no confusion over these terms and concepts. The mid-day meal was known as dinner and it was the largest meal of the day. Workers would rise early, take a break in the early afternoon to eat a large meal with their families, then return to work and finish the day with a light snack before going to bed. This last meal of the day was known as supper, and generally consisted of cold leftovers from the mid-day dinner.
Early to Bed, Early to Rise
In the past, eating a substantial lunch made sense. Before the advent of technology, it was difficult to work and eat without sunlight. Most people’s lives revolved around the sun’s cycles – rising early and going to bed shortly after sunset. As the Industrial Revolution took hold in the 1800s and people started moving from the farm to the factory, workers could no longer take a mid-day break for a large meal. Instead, they began eating a light lunch, pushing dinner to the evening hours after work. In addition, breakfast grew from a small serving of toast or gruel into a more substantial meal of bacon, eggs, and sausage.
While lunch may no longer be the main meal of the day in many parts of the world, the tradition persists with some holidays and occasions, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and weekend family gatherings.
When to Eat?
These changes to our meals and schedules have left many wondering not just what to eat, but also when to eat. Many professed experts have asserted that meal times and servings should be optimized to fit metabolic patterns, recommending smaller more frequent snacks instead of meals. That said, everyone is different – it’s generally best to eat whenever it works best for you and your body, assuming you stay within your daily calorie limits and eat primarily wholesome food.
Do you eat a main meal of the day?
Calorie Count co-founder Erik Fantasia and his girlfriend, Heather Curtis, are currently traveling through South America as part of a trip around the world. You can follow their adventures online with Facebook and their blog.