It may sound slightly trivial, but I’m always fascinated by what people eat, how they make decisions about food and what are some of the assumptions that people are making about the food that they’re eating.
This week I’ve surveyed 100 gay men around the world to find our what they have for breakfast. It may not be the most rigorous of studies, but it’s a pretty strong sample of gay men primarily in the 25 to 45 age bracket and a good mix of global locations including the US, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.
It’s often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but why is that? And how do we interpret that into what we eat at the start of the day?
I started my research by asking gay men 'do you always eat breakfast?'
Actually 72% is a pretty good response - the reasons that participants gave as to why they don't eat breakfast included ‘I rarely have the time’, ‘Depends how late for work I am running’ and ‘I only eat breakfast on weekdays’.
I discussed these results with Bernard Lavallée, a nutritionist from Montreal in Canada who specializes in how gay men relate to food, exercise and body image.
According to Lavallée, breakfast is important because: ‘It’s the first meal of the day. Your body needs this energy to be in good shape during the morning and it is what will keep you focused throughout the morning. It has been proven that people who skip breakfast usually have a poor nutritional status and are more likely to be overweight or obese.’
So it’s clear that getting something into your body at the start of the day should definitely be an important part of your morning routine and most gay men seem to be doing pretty well on that score.
I next asked my survey participants - What guides your choice of breakfast?
A number of respondents also commented that taste was an important factor, but it’s interesting that health and fitness is the key driver for gay men in the morning so the next obvious question is to see what these choices mean in practice. I asked the survey participants: What do you generally eat for breakfast?
There was quite a lot of variation in the remaining 29% of responses - including fruit smoothie, bacon sandwich, porridge, cheese, protein shake, yoghurt and berries, noodles and turkey.
So while there is quite a range, there is a big proportion of gay men that are opting for cereal as their breakfast of choice. Quick and easy to eat, and often quite tasty, it's not difficult to understand why breakfast cereal is such a popular choice - but given that the key driver for gay men’s choice of preferred breakfast is health and fitness, it was a little surprising to me that so many people are opting to start their day with cereal (given the apparent obsession of body-conscious gay men with a low-carbohydrate/gluten-free diet).
Nutritionist Bernard Lavallée takes a relaxed approach in terms of defining what we should be eating to start our mornings: ‘There is no such thing as the perfect food for breakfast, however, you want your breakfast to be sustaining, which will help you stay focused throughout the morning, until your next meal.
‘For your breakfast to be sustaining, you’ll want to have a source of protein (eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, nuts, nut butter), a source of carbohydrates (bread, cereals) and a fruit to start the day with a load of vitamins and minerals.
‘Cereals are not necessarily a bad choice. You just have to know how to choose them wisely. You want to avoid cereals loaded with sugar and/or salt and prefer those high in fibers. Add milk and some fruits to your cereal bowl and you have a breakfast that will give you plenty of energy.’
But what about coffee? In my survey 37% of respondents generally drink coffee with their breakfast. Again Lavallée in unfazed by these results: ‘There is no problem with coffee if you don’t drink too much of it. Usually, there are no side-effects to it if you drink less than four cups a day.’
Of course there are a wide range of opinions in the field of nutrition and diet, and often studies and research can indicate conflicting results. There is quite a bit of evidence suggesting that gluten (a protein found in grain-based foods) can be quite difficult for the body to digest and process and may result in gluten sensitivity. It may be psychosomatic, but I try to avoid gluten as it seems to make me feel bloated, lethargic and generally a bit rubbish. As a result my breakfast of choice is usually eggs or if I’ve got time I’ll fry up a small steak.
However, what is important is finding the diet that is right for you. If you’re in a hurry in the morning and looking for a quick, healthy and easy breakfast (which my survey suggests that most gay men around the world are), nutritionist Lavallée recommends three options to grab and go:
So what have we learnt from this exercise? When it comes to breakfast, gay men around the world are generally getting it right. We’re making the important decision to prioritize eating food in the morning and we’re making our choices based on health and fitness (and generally making pretty decent breakfast choices).
Good work gays.