Why do you usually eat the same thing for breakfast?
Breakfast, the most important meal in the day, shoulders the responsibility of fueling us up and reviving the body and brain. Recently, a study conducted by Erasmus University examined the food diaries of 2,624 people living in France and 1,275 people living in the United States. The study discovered that 68% of the study subjects ate the same breakfast at least twice in one week, while only 9% repeated a dinner. So why do people avoid variety in the morning, yet later in the same day, seek variety in the choice of food?
Utilitarian vs. Hedonic Goals
The answer resides in two different goals that govern the food choices in every meal: hedonic and utilitarian goals. Utilitarian goals propel people to have an efficient meal. Hedonic goals drive people to eat foods that provide pleasurable experiences and sensations. The study shows that as the day progresses, people switch from pursuing utilitarian goals for breakfast to maximizing the pleasure they derive from their lunch and dinner.
Where do these goals come from?
The study speculates the difference in goals is due to the combination of cultural and biological factors. In terms of biology, circadian rhythms play a part. Early in the day, when energy levels are higher, people are more prone to pursue utilitarian goals. They would therefore be satisfied with the same breakfast that they don’t have to think about too much. But later in the day, when their energy is flagging, pleasure-seeking becomes more important, so they are prone to crave a more delicious or delicate meal for lunch or dinner.
Culture swings people’s opinions by marketing. The study notes that breakfast foods tend to be marketed with words that emphasize utilitarian rather than hedonic goals. In over 3000 products’ name descriptions in Amazon, the study finds that breakfast foods are more associated with utilitarian words including nutritious, energized, and healthy. However, pleasure-related words like tasty and savory dominate the descriptions for lunch or dinner food. This causes people to seek less variety but value practicality and efficiency at breakfast.
How can we leverage the information to improve our diet?
Habits are difficult to change, but easy to maintain. Our pursuit of efficiency at breakfast is a driver of a healthy eating habit. We can make a breakfast out of the foods we should be eating that are less appealing, like kale or spinach. Because we tend to repeat the same combination of foods and seek less variety and pleasure at breakfast, the healthy diet should be easier to stick to than trying to eat those foods for every lunch or dinner.
1.hedonic adj. 享乐的，与享乐有关的
2.utilitarian adj. 实用主义的，功利主义的
4.circadian adj.（指每 24 小时人或动物体内变化）昼夜节律的，生理节奏的
5.flag v. 疲乏；变弱
6.crave v. 渴望；热望
8.leverage v. 利用
9.appealing adj. 有吸引力的；有感染力的；令人感兴趣的
10.kale n. 羽衣甘蓝（一种类似卷心菜的蔬菜）
11.spinach n. 菠菜