A full plate of breakfast sits on the table in the late evening, with the moon and stars visible through a window.
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The treasured anomaly of breakfast for dinner has served as the perfect occasional treat for American families: fluffy stacks of pancakes topped with maple syrup and butter, an eclectic fruit salad, crispy bacon fresh from the sputtering pan and eggs just the way you like them, but at night. Breakfast for dinner just works, concluding the day by satisfying both the sweet and savory while allowing for rest and relaxation to digest the meal afterwards. Now, imagine a world where breakfast could always be dinner. 

While this proposal may seem slightly radical, rearranging the meals to place breakfast last would not only make more sense logically, but would also create a distinct tradition that the United States could claim as its own — free of colonialist roots or problematic pasts. Lunch would replace breakfast as the first meal of the day, dinner would replace lunch, and breakfast would replace dinner. But let’s break it down first. 

Lunch in the morning may seem counterintuitive, but when placed in conjunction with science, it makes total sense. Have you ever woken up craving something sweet, like a big stack of pancakes? The chances are low. In reality, our bodies crave salty foods after we wake up because we sometimes become dehydrated during the night’s sleep, and our depleted sodium levels — an electrolyte that helps to balance fluid levels — must be replenished for proper hydration. By encouraging the intake of sodium, our body is encouraging us to refill both our sodium supply and our hydration levels. Thus, it makes much more sense to eat foods traditionally associated with lunch for breakfast, because it generally consists of foods with higher levels of sodium content. By doing this, we would satisfy our natural craving for salt while re-saturating our body with the proper sodium content it needs to function. 

Moreover, the claim that traditional breakfast is the most important meal of the day and associated with better health outcomes hasn’t withstood scrutiny. In fact, the primary study upon which this claim is based was found to be littered with researcher bias, the improper use of casual language to describe results and misleading citations. The study also lacked a control group. Essentially, the maxim “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” with supposed health benefits is more correlation than causation, a misconception that has now been adopted as truth by the general public. If we shed these untruths, then we can begin to properly rearrange the meals to best suit our interests.

With lunch as the first meal of the day, traditional dinner, or the biggest meal of the day for Americans, should take the place during conventional lunchtime. This is because dietitians have actually found that eating the biggest meal toward nighttime makes it much more difficult to metabolize food because our bodies’ “normal, natural rhythm” is disrupted. Meanwhile, other parts of the world like Africa, Southeast Asia and some parts of Europe and Latin America typically consume heavier meals toward the middle of the day to refuel from their labor, allowing their big lunch to burn off for the rest of the day. Patrick Okolo III, chief of gastroenterology for Rochester Regional Health, explains that “in many cultures, people eat heaviest in the afternoon, and that translates to generally better health” because it more closely aligns with our bodies’ natural rhythms. Thus, eating dinner at lunchtime would benefit our digestive systems and our overall health. 

What’s more, making traditional dinner a lunchtime phenomenon would create other expansive benefits. In a dinner-as-lunch world, you could get dressed up to eat with your loved ones when the sun is still brightly shining, making for much better aesthetics for mealtime. Because the rest of the day still remains, people could either return to work or school fully fueled for the leftover day’s work, or return home for a nap during the hottest time of day, frequently referred to as a siesta. These siestas have considerable health benefits, including but not limited to reducing sleep debt and “boost(ing) your cognitive performance for up to a few hours after your nap.” Essentially, this midday dinner could aid the efficiency of workers while also creating other numerous health benefits. 

With lunch replacing traditional breakfast, and with dinner replacing traditional lunch, breakfast would therefore replace traditional dinner. While I have previously dreaded breakfast — a gluttonous, carbohydrate-heavy meal that would sit disagreeably in my stomach, digesting at a glacial pace — eating breakfast for dinner would restore the magic surrounding the meal. Breakfast for dinner would, for one, essentially render dessert obsolete because of breakfast’s sweet contents, satisfying our sweet tooth while preventing us from consuming extra carbs or sugar afterward. Moreover, the malaise or drowsiness typically experienced after a sugary and carbohydrate-heavy meal could be assuaged by the sleep that’s soon to follow the meal. Breakfast for dinner allows for the flexibility of quick and easy meals, like a bowl of your favorite cereal, or elaborate meals that take more time to make, like a full-on breakfast feast. On top of all these benefits, breakfast ingredients are typically more affordable than dinner, allowing for the large portions of food that dinner often requires to be made without breaking the bank. 

Rearranging breakfast to replace traditional dinner, as well as making lunch replace traditional breakfast and dinner replace traditional lunch, would both radically improve human health as well as improve our day-to-day routines. While offering the opportunity for the United States to finally have an unproblematic cultural tradition, rearranging the meals would cognitively and digestively benefit the American people. Now, those stacks of buttermilk pancakes with warm syrup and crispy bacon can be enjoyed as a delightful evening treat.

Sophia Lehrbaum is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at lehrbaum@umich.edu