Most dieticians recommend eating 3 meals a day. But food historian Caroline Yeldham says the idea is actually a new one. In fact, eating one meal a day was the standard for thousands of years.
Part of it was simple supply and demand. Most people spent most of their days hunting and gathering – and were lucky to eat once every day. But even the wealthy citizens of ancient Rome limited themselves to one meal in the early afternoon - and considered anyone who ate in the mornings to be a glutton. It wasn’t until medieval times that people began eating a second, light meal called breakfast – meaning literally to “break your fast.” But breakfast was eaten at what we consider lunchtime - after monks finished their morning church services. You have to fast-forward to the Industrial Revolution before people started eating breakfast in the early morning. That’s because factory workers routinely worked at least 14 hours a day. So, they needed a good meal to get them through their morning.
And what we think of as lunch also began during the Industrial Revolution, when workers were given a break to refuel at noon. At first, vendors sold food outside the factories.
Then, companies - and later schools – installed cafeterias to maximize efficiency and save time, so people didn’t have to leave the premises to eat. But food researchers say that lunch is still not an easy meal to pin down. For example, your parents routinely took an hour for lunch. Today, the average worker eats at their desk, and finishes in about 15 minutes.