What type of breakfast person are you? Cereal, toast or eggs?

Media release
07 April 2021

New research has identified five breakfast personalities among the national population in findings that could promote healthier food choices in the Australian diet.

The research team from Deakin University's Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) analysed data from the 2011-2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey and found what people eat for breakfast is broadly categorised by gender, age and socio-economic factors.

Dr Rebecca Leech said the study, funded by the National Heart Foundation and National Health and Medical Research Council, found five distinct types of breakfast eating:

  1. Wholegrain cereals and milk: Eaten with dried fruit, nuts and seeds, and possibly, fresh fruit and yoghurts. Men and women eating this type of breakfast were more likely to be older, married, and for men, have higher education and income levels. They were also more likely to be non-smokers, physically active and have a healthier weight profile.
  2. Mixed cereals and milk: This was the most common type and accounted for more than 30 per cent of women and men and included wholegrain or refined grain cereals with regular or reduced fat milk but no dried fruit, nuts, seed or yoghurt.
  3. Protein foods: Eggs and/or processed meats, such as bacon or sausages, typically accompanied by refined grain (low fibre) bread and unsaturated spreads and oils. This was the only breakfast type to include vegetables. This breakfast was more likely to be eaten later in the morning, after 9am, and on weekends and was more popular among younger women and men and those born in non-English speaking countries.
  4. Breads and spreads (Type 1): Refined or wholegrain breads together with unsaturated spreads, such as margarine, and spreads high in sugar, saturated fat or salt. Men were almost all coffee or tea drinkers and tended to be older, married, have lower incomes, live in an inner regional city and have not worked in the past week. The women in this category preferred wholegrain breads with spreads and were also older and more likely to be married.
  5. Breads and spreads (Type 2): Men were more likely to have a sugar-sweetened drink, such as fruit drink, soft drink or cordial, rather than coffee or tea, and were younger and more likely to have worked in the past week. The women in this category preferred refined-grain bread varieties.

Dr Leech said cereals accounted for about half of all breakfasts eaten by Australian adults and breads and spreads accounted for around 40 per cent.

"The cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages and vegetables was the least commonly eaten breakfast, accounting for only 11 per cent of all breakfast and eaten mostly on weekends or later in the morning," Dr Leech said.

"Not surprisingly, tea or coffee topped the list as the most popular breakfast beverage choice in Australia."

Dr Leech said that understanding the choices different population groups make when eating breakfast would help tailor meal-specific messages to encourage healthy dietary changes.

"Breakfast is often a meal we eat out of habit and making small changes to the food we eat at breakfast can make a big difference to the nutritional quality of our diet overall. These small changes are achievable because they don’t require many cooking skills," Dr Leech said.

"For example, older Australians who prefer breads and spreads at breakfast could be encouraged to add protein-rich foods, such as eggs or reduced salt baked beans, as part of broader strategies to promote healthy ageing.

"Other simple changes to food choices include replacing refined-grain cereals or breads with wholegrain varieties, processed meats with unprocessed meats, adding tomato or avocado to quality proteins such as eggs or adding nuts, seeds, fruit or yoghurts to cereals are examples where breakfast quality could be improved.

"People who eat wholegrain high-fibre cereals and milk for breakfast had the healthiest weight profiles and breakfast consumption was also linked to other lifestyle factors that may play a role in weight management.

"Whilst a causal link between breakfast type and weight gain remains to be established, choosing wholegrain cereals and breads at breakfast could help Australians meet their daily fibre requirements and reduce their risk of certain health conditions including diabetes, bowel cancer and heart disease.

"Fibre intakes can easily be increased by including a slice of wholemeal or grain rich bread topped with beans, mushrooms and spinach, or half a cup of cooked porridge or other wholegrain cereal, and some fruit as part of your regular breakfast."

Heart Foundation Food and Nutrition advisor, Sian Armstrong, said the research highlighted the importance of breakfast as an opportunity to choose heart-healthy foods.

"We recommend choosing foods from the Heart Foundation's Heart Healthy Eating Pattern," Ms Armstrong said.

'Breakfast options include vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach and tomato, bananas, berries and other fruit, oats and wholegrain toast and healthy proteins including beans and eggs. Choose healthy fats such as avocado and nut butters, as well as unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese."

This work was supported by a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (ID102109) from the National Heart Foundation of Australia and a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Emerging Leadership Fellowship L1 (APP1175250). The funders had no role in the study design, data analysis, interpretation of the data, or writing of the study. Views expressed in this article are those of Dr Leech and do not reflect the views of the NHMRC.

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Media release School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Faculty of Health Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN)

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