What People Ate For Breakfast Before The Pandemic vs. Now

Chefs, health care workers and more share the current state of their breakfast plates.
While some people have more time at home to make lavish breakfasts since the pandemic, others are in a bigger rush than ever to get out the door.
Lew Robertson via Getty Images
While some people have more time at home to make lavish breakfasts since the pandemic, others are in a bigger rush than ever to get out the door.

We’re two years into the pandemic, and much has changed and continues to change from the “before times.” The early days of the pandemic had many of us spending more time at home than ever, and with that extra time we made banana bread, nurtured sourdough starters and made dalgona coffee. But what about now?

For some people, the elimination of a daily commute means they now have time to make a hot breakfast. Others are taking a more relaxed approach and skipping breakfast entirely. And health care workers continue to lead extremely busy lives with limited time for regular meals.

Below, people break down their pre-pandemic and current breakfast routines.

Melanie Sutrathada, on-air host, content creator and actor in New York City

Acai bowl with sliced mango on the side.
Melanie Sutrathada
Acai bowl with sliced mango on the side.

“Breakfast used to just be something quick that I would grab on the go, like a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll from the bodega or toast with peanut butter. Now, I’m more intentional because I have the time to be and I also see the importance of treating food as fuel and as a way of self-care.

Some of the breakfasts I gravitate toward now include chia seed pudding with raspberries and blueberries, easy overnight oats, sweet potato breakfast hash with lots of onions and bell peppers, shakshuka and açaí bowls!”

Kat Downer, registered nurse in New York City

“Pre-pandemic, I was in nursing school and often skipped breakfast because I was too busy. Those days, I mostly subsisted on a diet of coffee and sheer will. Now that I’m a nurse (woo-hoo!), I’m still super busy but have slowed down enough to acknowledge the benefits of actually eating breakfast. This usually takes the form of homemade overnight oats with peanut butter protein powder and chia seeds that I take with me to work. Often, breakfast is scarfing down my oats and drinking coffee while reading patient notes. Life is still pretty chaotic, but it’s nice to be eating some form of breakfast again.”

Dustin Lowe, PR director in Nashville, Tennessee

“Pre-pandemic, my breakfasts were just something fast to get me out the door. Early in the morning I’m not hungry, so it’s usually a handful of nuts and some fruit before I head to work and my first cup of coffee in the office. Once lockdown hit, there was no reason to eat before I got hungry, so I might wait until later and have a warm breakfast with my wife (who cooks beautiful breakfasts) instead. Or, if I still had my traditional light breakfast, I might follow it with a second breakfast a couple hours later (like oatmeal or buttered bread and jam with my coffee). The multiple courses felt a little fancy, and the added snacking was a fun diversion ... but when it was time to go back to work my pants didn’t fit anymore.”

Kyle Lee, founder of Alaskan Salmon Company in Anchorage, Alaska

Brown sugar oatmeal topped with salmon gravlax and goji berries, and a blueberry smoothie.
Kyle Lee
Brown sugar oatmeal topped with salmon gravlax and goji berries, and a blueberry smoothie.

“Sleep is crucial to my daily performance, so when there’s the dilemma of more sleep or a well-balanced breakfast, I choose more sleep every time. Before COVID, I would have to factor in commuting time, so I would usually grab some sort of nutritional bar and head out the door. Now that I am working at home, I have a lot more time to myself in the morning. Removing the commute to the office, I am able to make a more well-balanced breakfast.

My go-to breakfasts have simple ingredients and I can put everything together pretty quickly. Today, I made brown sugar oatmeal with a few slices of salmon gravlax and goji berries, paired with a smoothie (blueberries, mango, honey, spinach). Another breakfast I often have is avocado toast with salmon gravlax and a smoothie. These options offer a good source of carbs, clean protein and servings of fruits and veggies.”

Pallavi V, writer, content creator and artist based in Bangalore, India

“I have the advantage of working from home, but lockdown means we don’t have a cook coming in. Breakfast before was an omelet and fruits, a bowl of oatmeal or paratha with raita. Now I eat breakfast at my desk because the boundaries of home and work have been erased. So I just opt for boiled eggs or sandwiches — anything I can hold in my hand off screen or speak around.”

Suhaira Choudhry, resident physician in upstate New York

“I always make time to make tea in the morning (I cannot compromise on this), but I have gotten used to not eating breakfast over the past two to three years because there is no time. I get to the hospital at 6 a.m., so sleep is more valuable than eating at that point. I get one day off a week that I sleep in, and I usually make chocolate chip pancakes as a treat even if I wake up at 1 p.m.

“Pre-pandemic, in med school, I always had tea and some sort of breakfast (Cheerios and lactose-free milk is a favorite). I don’t think I will ever get used to having real breakfast again, even if I did have the time.”

LaMara Davidson, chef and founder of Cornbread and Kimchi in Atlanta

Loco moco and kimbap.
LaMara Davidson
Loco moco and kimbap.

“My breakfast habits have definitely changed during the pandemic simply because like most people, I now have more time in the mornings. Before, I rarely ate breakfast. Being a chef, we often feed everyone else first and then grab food on the go where we can or snack when we’re recipe testing. It’s the most ironic part of being a chef, not sitting down for meals ourselves.

Now that I have a more balanced lifestyle after starting my own business and making my own hours, I really enjoy breakfast. One of my favorite dishes to make is gimbap or kimbap, which is a Korean version of sushi. It’s a rice roll seasoned with sesame oil wrapped in seaweed with vegetables, fish, egg and meat inside. It’s super quick and easy and I often eat it with kimchi. Being half Korean, we always had rice on the counter, so it’s a natural thing for me to eat it for breakfast in some form or fashion.

“I went to Hawaii this past summer and discovered a new breakfast favorite, a local dish called loco moco, which is made with rice, a hamburger patty, gravy and a fried egg on top. It’s the new biscuits and gravy, in my opinion.”

Debbie Hunter, group exercise instructor and owner of Grayton Beach Fitness in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Oats, blueberries and scrambled eggs.
Debbie Hunter
Oats, blueberries and scrambled eggs.

“While healthy eating has been a priority for many years, that doesn’t mean I have not become lazy with my breakfast choices. But COVID caused me to stop and reevaluate what ‘healthy’ choices look like and it made me determined to eat food that would strengthen my immunity. I am not a big breakfast eater, but I decided to make more nutritionally dense choices.

For my fast-paced, active lifestyle, fast food choices changed from a waffle to an apple with natural peanut butter or a Green Vibrance drink. With citrus season upon us, plucking a grapefruit, lemon or orange off a tree is my favorite fast food. Food choices are important and for me a healthy lifestyle requires healthier choices especially during such a time as this.”

Kendra Borowski, publicist in New York City

“Breakfast for me was basically nonexistent before the pandemic! I’d be running out to meetings and just grab an iced coffee on the way. Now, I have time to make a proper meal, even if I’m going through morning emails in between bites at my kitchen table. I’ll fry or hard-boil an egg, saute some spinach, slice up some tomatoes or an avocado and sprinkle with feta. I do not skimp on presentation, finishing it off with some Maldon [salt] and Sriracha. It’s changed my daily energy levels!”

Chelsea Davis, journalist and blogger based in San Francisco

“I used to be all about breakfast, usually a bowl of oatmeal topped with raisins, a scoop of peanut butter and sliced bananas or berries. But since the pandemic, I’ve almost completely stopped eating a traditional breakfast. Lately I’ve just been starting my morning with coffee and not eating until about 12 or 1! Without a set schedule for waking up, going to meetings and generally being out and about, I often push breakfast off.”

Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and media spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics based in New York City

“Before the pandemic, I had a hearty breakfast like scrambled eggs with spinach and bell peppers. Now, I just eat Honey Bunches of Oats with almond shards, cinnamon, flax meal and a 50-50 mix of cow’s milk and unflavored soy milk. I’m less interested in making bigger breakfasts because I know most of the time I’ll just be staying at home.”

Morgan Cronk, firefighter and EMT in Walton County, Florida

Avocado toast topped with an egg and everything bagel seasoning.
Morgan Cronk
Avocado toast topped with an egg and everything bagel seasoning.

“Pre-pandemic, my egg consumption was up and carb consumption was down. Breakfast was typically five egg whites, 3 ounces of ground turkey and 6 ounces of plain oatmeal. Now, I’m married to a blond woman with a white SUV ... we have avocado toast with chia seeds. The challenges of the pandemic and adjusting to this new normal has made me more laid-back in my eating habits. We get up earlier in the mornings to sit and chat and enjoy our breakfast (and each other’s company) rather than eating and running, which has been nice.”

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