So You Want to Stop…Your Fast Food Breakfast Habit

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So You Want to Stop…Your Fast Food Breakfast Habit

My grandmother, and I bet yours, used to tell me all the time that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. I remember going to visit my grandparents in Memphis, and sitting with my grandmother while she had tea. Everyone in the family would come over to the house to chat and eat fruit, bacon and whatever people felt like cooking or bringing over. These were some of my favorite times as a kid (and where I learned you could froth milk then put it on cereal!), but I don’t think these leisurely breakfasts, however wholesome, are what most adults experience. And I know that because I read Quick Service Restaurants, the official magazine of the fast-food industry.

“Nearly half of consumers visited a limited-service restaurant for their early meal last year, up from a third in 2009,” they wrote in 2012. More and more of us are hitting the drive thru or coffee shop for our breakfast now.

Twenty-five percent of McDonald’s sales are breakfast items, up from 15% in 2009. Nineteen percent of Starbucks sales are breakfast foods, and they’re invested $200 million in buying breakfast food brands. Taco Bell saw the writing on the wall and, in 2014, started opening at 7 a.m. for commuters who want breakfast. Their key menu item? The Waffle Taco.

Why are fast food breakfast items selling like hot cakes (or waffle tacos)? Because we’re desperate for convenience. We’re already stopping for coffee … why not a bagel? Or an Egg McMuffin? There are more and better food choices that we can make at the start of our days, but when it comes to fighting for convenience, you can only win by being more convenient.

One of the problems with fast food breakfasts is that they create a habit loop—a powerful, subconscious drive where, triggered by our environment, we buy amped-up, ultra-tasty food that rewards our tastebuds immediately. According to the top researchers on breaking habit loops, the key is avoiding the cue altogether.

So we’ve got to stay OUT of the restaurant; otherwise, we’re just fighting our brain chemistry and tempting fate if we say we’ll just go to Dunkin’ for coffee and not get a donut.

Feeling rushed to get out of the house is a terrible feeling that most of us contend with at least a few times a week, but you can still get a healthy breakfast in if you plan ahead. Putting yogurt and fruit into individual mason jars on Sunday can ensure that you have a convenient option every day of the week. Cooking a quiche on Sunday means you can cut it up into individual servings, put them in glass or plastic containers, and zap them in the microwave when you get to the office.

“Customers are looking for breakfast options that are portable, and save time and money,” revealed a 2014 study by market research firm Technomic Inc. And while I wouldn’t recommend driving and eating, this is the reality of most commuters, who buy one-handed foods like Egg McMuffins and Waffle Tacos.

You can fight back by making your own one-handed breakfast foods the night before (or a week ahead on Sunday), such as quiches in muffin tins, or even your own egg-white-based breakfast sandwiches.

If you love smoothies, but the thought of prepping all the fruit and veggies in the morning is daunting, you can make things more simple and convenient by trying out smoothie blocks. Fruitera will deliver pre-frozen cubes of healthy, organic smoothie ingredients to your door, and all you have to do is throw them into the blender with some water. They’re even pre-packaged in single servings. It’d be hard to top something more convenient than that.

Looking for more on-the-go breakfast ideas you can make quickly at home? Try these:

Mini Whole Wheat Egg Sandwich Recipe
Egg and Hummus Breakfast Wrap Recipe
Flourless Banana Bread Muffins Recipe
Health Nut Blueberry Smoothie Recipe
Refreshing Kale & Pear Smoothie Recipe
Berry Beet Smoothie Recipe
Banana Bread Granola Bars Recipe
Cinnamon French Toast Breakfast Wrap Recipe
Chia Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies Recipe

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  • RRainbolt

    We started making smoothies in the morning and found that they take less time than going through a drive through and for the two of us we save $50 a week, so we put that money into a separate account and will use the $2,600 a year while on vacation. (Oh and we’ve dropped a combined 30 pounds in the process)

    • Audrey

      Fantastic! Well done

    • Ernie Parsons

      Same here. I ended up taking my Nutribullet to work and stocking the freezer with frozen raspberries. That mixed with a little water and some protein powder is a pretty tasty and cost effective breakfast.

      Oh, and I physically changed my morning commute route to avoid any temptations 🙂

  • People might also try waking up earlier. They would have more time to make a homemade breakfast.

    Great post.

    • Channah

      There’s a limit to that. When you are already struggling to get up at 5am, you don’t really want to change to 4:30.

  • shortie079

    I am currently trying 2 diffrent weight loss pills, I get bullied for being anything close to fat so I want to lose it ASAP

  • Healthy Girl

    I tend to stay away from fast food places in the morning by making my coffee at home. I asked for a Keurig for Christmas and use it everyday! Having a mini one at work is also very convenient! I like to make overnight oats so it is quick and easy in the morning and I can eat it at my desk. I also found hardboiled eggs simple and easy to grab in the morning. Convenient and healthy is possible it just takes a little work:)

    • Tyler Mueller

      Good for you. It seems as though if you prepare your food at night before you go to bed the more likely you are to eat at home. Coffe is another great example. It is quick and easy to make at home, and you probably will end up saving money in the long run. Places like McDonalds banks of people coming for coffee because then theyre are normally tempted to buy other food to go along with the coffee.

  • Tyler Mueller

    Conveinence is the reason that fast food breakfast or stopping in at the local gas station has become so popular in America. This is an issue that all Americans need to fix including myself. If you eat a healthy breakfast before leaving for work or school in the morning, you most likely won’t be stopping at McDonalds for breakfast. What I would suggest is to make your breakfast the night before, or have the items needed sitting out and ready to use. We seem to not have enough time in the mornings, so if you have some fruit cut up, or even eggs made where you just need to pop them in the microwave before eating, we will have the time needed to eat. Another idea would be to wake up twenty minutes earlier each morning. This will give you some time to make a nice healthy breakfast for yourself. It is important to make sure you eat breakfast every morning, but eating unhealthy breakfast foods does no good for you!

  • ML Carver

    While I like the premise of the article, I take issue with the statement that more people are willing to pay a premium for healthy food (1 out of 4!) that means that 75% are NOT willing to pay a premium for whole foods. Perhaps 25% is higher than before, but the implication in the sentence is that more people are willing to pay the premium & thats not true. Most people (not the readers of a column like this) can’t afford to pay the extra & face it, a sausage burrito is cheap, one handed & filling. It also has the addictive salt, fat & refined flour that cause so many of our problems…..