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Breakfast 
ideas

These days we have plenty of choice for the first meal of the day.  From easy, on-the-go breakfasts like oatmeal muffins and banana smoothies, to leisurely weekend brunching with pancakes and softly scrambled eggs, eating well in the morning sets you up for the day.

Today it is often described as the most important meal, but in the medieval period, only field workers ate before work – usually a slice of dark bread and a hunk of cheese.

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Breakfast on the go

Sometimes busy mornings mean you don’t have time to sit down, but you can still
enjoy breakfast on the go. Boiled eggs, scones, oatmeal muffins and smoothies are
all quick ideas that can be easily eaten on your commute or at your desk.

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Keep hunger pangs at bay

If you want sustained energy that keeps you satisfied until your next meal, eat a protein-rich breakfast. Think nut butters like peanut or almond spread on toast with slices of apple or fresh eggs, crispy bacon, protein-enriched breakfast cereals or smoked salmon. 

 

 

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Plan ahead

Getting organised can save you time. For an easy breakfast, overnight oats can be made in the evening and popped into the fridge until you leave in the morning. For a gluten-free, vegan breakfast, use free from porridge oats and add almond milk, chia seeds, nuts and blueberries.

 

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As Adelle Davis, American nutritionist and author, said in the 1960s:

" Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a 
prince and dinner like a pauper "

 

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Healthy breakfasts

Make breakfast count with healthy breakfast ideas including Greek yogurt, fruit salad and granola


Explore healthy recipes


 

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How to cook eggs

Quick and easy egg recipes that work for breakfast and brunch



View egg recipes

 

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Healthy smoothie recipes  

Need on-the-go breakfast ideas? Try smoothies full of fruity goodness


Try smoothie recipes


 

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Pancakes

For leisurely weekend brunching, look no further than a stack of fluffy golden pancakes drizzled with maple syrup
or honey

Pancake recipes

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Vegan breakfast

Go beyond avocado toast with these recipes

Vegan breakfast recipes

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Vegetarian breakfast
Rise and shine with meat-free vegetarian breakfast recipes

Vegetarian breakfast ideas

A brief history of breakfast

From the Middle Ages to the present day

 

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Middle Ages

The main meal of the day is generally eaten mid-morning apart from field workers who have a slice of dark bread or cheese before working.

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17th century

The mid-morning meal begins to be eaten later so eating breakfast becomes more widespread. Wealthy people opt for light white buns made with spice and dried fruit. White bread is thought to be easily digestible and more genteel.

Fashionable new exotic foreign beverages arrive around 1650 and the mid-morning meal is a chance to show them off.

 

 

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1700 - 1830


Breakfast booms and tea triumphs as the national drink.
Black tea is the most common, taken with milk and sugar.
Sweet fruit buns are still popular as are plainer breads, served hot with butter.
The muffin man becomes a familiar figure selling door to door and to people on their way to work.

 

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1831-1901

In the Victorian era, the cooked breakfast gains popularity.

Large groups come together in country houses for shooting parties. Big breakfasts are served to keep guests going until the post-shoot tea is eaten.

An 1899 country house guide recommends a breakfast of ‘fish, eggs, fresh and preserved meats, fruit, porridge and toast with butter and jams’.

 

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Beginning of the 20th century

Rich and poor alike eat a hot breakfast often comprising bacon, eggs and toast. 

Britain consumes so much bacon that Denmark starts to breed pigs for the British market.

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Between the wars

Big breakfasts become less popular among ladies trying to lessen their curves in the 1920s.

In the 1930s, the Hollywood diet suggests that half a grapefruit and a cup of black coffee will suffice.

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Post-war

The cooked breakfast remains hugely popular in the 1950s (despite 14 years of food rationing).

Convenience foods such as tea bags, sliced bread and orange juice start to appear.
In the 1960s, more women go to work and breakfast cereals start to take off.

 

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1970s

Muesli, marketed as a Swiss health food, hits the shelves in the 1970s.

Package holidays are discovered and continental breakfasts appear.

1980s

Breakfast television launches as the meal itself becoming increasingly fragmented with adults grabbing a coffee and hasty snack.

Children try to find the toy in their cereal boxes before school.

 

 

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21st century

Brunch finally becomes part of the British dining scene - a social affair with a wide array of food.

Our preference is to eat brunch out with dishes like smashed avo a popular alternative to cooked breakfast.

 

Edited from an original article A Brief History of Breakfast by Dr Annie Gray in Waitrose & Partners Food magazine, January 2019. For more articles and recipes from the world's best chefs and food writers, download the Waitrose Food app.