The 3 square meals a day myth is based on several misconceptions about what our bodies actually need to function effectively. How and when did it all start? I’ll try to unravel this mystery with this article.
What was going on in the Paleolithic era was that we were living in a time of abundance with lots of fruits, nuts, berries, seeds, vegetables and meats so a healthy meal would be plentiful. That is why the “healthy” meals were so abundant. Now, let’s look at the “good” foods.
It was not until modern times, as we began to eat foods that were full of fat and sugar that the idea of eating a healthy meal became more difficult. We began to think that we should eat as much as we want or could eat. Now, that was fine for the first few hundred years of our existence on Earth but when you get above this level, things start to get a bit complicated.
In America, people’s diets were really hard to control. In other countries, people’s diets were so difficult to control that people would starve themselves. So, what happened in the last 100 years? People started eating less.
I grew up with my mother as the main cook. She never let my brother, sister nor I out of the house in the morning without a home cooked breakfast and a packed lunch for school. While we were away, she was usually preparing food in the crockpot. When we got home, she would have another home cooked meal for dinner. While I came to expect this to be the norm, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered people haven’t always dined together for three meals a day.
Today, in the busyness of the modern era, we have more of a commercialized breakfast. We have boxed cereals, pop-tarts and oatmeal. Unlike those breakfast tables in the 1600s, we have appliances that make breakfast seem like a gourmet meal. Waffle irons, griddles and toasters are all advancements from the wood-burning stoves they had back in the day.
But families regarded breakfast as the most important meal of the day. Half way through the day, the laborers would retreat home for a mid-day meal with their families. This noon meal was essential to those working in factories and mines. When workers couldn’t come home, they carried their meals in canteens with food that kept them nourished.
Then, at the end of the day, they would retreat home to enjoy dinner with family. This was the only meal early Romans ate, but they would eat it around noon. Back then there was no electricity, so cooking dinner at night was rather senseless. But, as electricity became more widespread, so did the dinner tradition. People could eat dinner after their working hours—whenever they got home—and not be in the dark while doing so.
Meals began to focus more on family time, especially with the advent of the television. People would gather around the tube with their TV trays and watch the Johnny Carson Show or listen to the radio while passing the meat and potatoes. It started to become a staple in society, quickly spreading to each culture.
Today most households have three meals a day. They’re prepared by one or both parents. I never knew how lucky I was to have this in my home while growing up. I never understood why I had to eat breakfast—even though I seldom eat it now—but back then my mother insisted it was important. It’s interesting to know that we evolved into eating this way, all due to a man and his invention of the lightbulb.
Who Decided We Should Eat 3 Meals Per Day?