1937: Biscuits and Jam from What breakfast looked like the year you were born
What Breakfast Looked Like the Year You Were Born
Its components might have changed over the years, but breakfast has long been touted as the most important meal of the day. From its time as a hearty meal before hours of manual labor to its current incarnation as more of a light snack for the health-conscious diners of today, the first meal of the day has always been a snapshot of society.
“Breakfast shifts from a heavier meat/potatoes/eggs meal to a lighter meal focusing on grains, dairy fruit, etc.,” food historian Amy Bentley told The Daily Meal. “Then there was the Kellogg Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, which helped popularize cereals for breakfast. They were marketed as healthful and maintained this health halo for a long time.”
Eggs also went back and forth between being considered good for our health and not. During the late 20th century eggs became suspect as some scientific studies saw their cholesterol levels as too high, especially in the yolk. Many saw egg whites only as the healthy part of the egg. But there has been a return to eggs in the last decade or so. And we can’t talk about breakfast without also mentioning sugary cereals and on-the-go meals!
Just as American life has changed over the decades, the definition of a traditional American breakfast has changed too. We relied on several sources including old menus, commercials, recipe books and the great website Food Timeline to help us track down what constituted the typical breakfast from 1937 until 2000.
1937: Biscuits and Jam
Although biscuits weren’t a new breakfast item, they made a resurgence after General Mills made a marketing push for their Bisquick. An advertisement from that year shows the hot biscuits being prepared with jam. According to “A Week of Family Menus” in “America's Cook Book,” which was published in this year, biscuits and jam could be served with orange juice, eggs, cereal, coffee, and milk.
1939: Rice Krispies
Even though Rice Krispies were released to the public by Kellogg’s in 1928, the nation was on a cereal kick in 1939 and the crisped rice cereal became a breakfast table staple. We bet you still have no idea how they’re made, though.
1940: Spam, Toast, and Margarine
World War II was raging in Europe and Asia, and even though the U.S. was not yet directly involved, food rationing and shortages were on the horizon. So Spam, toast, and margarine became the norm. Arnold Bread and Red Cheek Apple Juice came out this year, and Log Cabin Syrup was also popular. If you haven’t tried Spam, we assure you it’s delicious.
1941: Cheerios With Concentrated Orange Juice
The turmoil of a world at war kept practical, economical foods prominent on the American breakfast table. Concentrated orange juice and soy (instead of cornmeal) were favorite breakfast items. 1941 also marked the year Cheerios was introduced to the breakfast table; today, there are more than a dozen flavors!
1942: Yogurt and Raisin Bran
Both Post and Kellogg’s Raisin Bran were popular for Americans as the U.S. became fully involved in the war. Dannon yogurt was also a common breakfast item. For a treat, people turned to Pillsbury’s Pancake Mix.
1943: Shredded Ralston
It was all about the war in 1943, so popular breakfast items like Shredded Ralston used the patriotic spirit in their marketing. “Shredded Ralston is ready-to-eat when I'm ready,” read one advertisement. “And man! Does it give me life! No wonder Uncle Sam says - eat foods like this every day. Get your whole wheat every day - the easy Shredded Ralston way.”
1944: Bananas and Sunkist Orange Juice
It was all about fruits in 1944. Chiquita bananas started trending during this year, and Sunkist ads were commonplace in newspaper circulars.
1945: Orange Juice With Mint and Waffles With Syrup
Sticking with the juice trend from the year prior, orange juice topped with mint was a trendy breakfast beverage in 1945 as was Constant Comment Tea and Vermont Maid Syrup. Of course, you need something to put that syrup on, so waffles or pancakes were popular options.
1946: Stewed Fruit and Cereal
Prisons tend to serve a pretty basic breakfast. According to a menu from Alcatraz in 1946, that meal included stewed fruit — prunes, peaches, etc. — and some type of cereal.
1947: Tomato Juice, Cereal and Creamed Diced Chicken
Juice and cereal were still very much at the forefront of breakfast items in 1947. But postwar prosperity meant these might often be served with meat and heavier milk products; creamed chipped beef on toast (which many GIs brought back from the war with them) was a popular combination of the two. Pillsbury hot roll mix was also introduced this year along with frozen orange juice.
1948: Bananas and Cereal
Chiquita Banana made a big push in 1948. Sliced bananas popped up as a great addition to cereal, and the company even developed creative ways to make the fruit part of a meat-based dish. They released a recipe for “banana scallops,” a hash-brown-style breakfast side dish.
1949: Shredded Wheat With Stewed Apples
Nabisco was pushing its shredded wheat big time in 1949, touting that it could be served both hot and cold. It was often depicted with stewed fruit such as apples, and the same combo was common on breakfast menus.
1950: Cereal and Coffee
Sugar Pops by Kellogg’s (which later became Corn Puffs) was introduced this year as a new cereal, and Dunkin’ Donuts (which changed its name to Dunkin’ last year) opened, making for the perfect breakfast combo.
1951: Orange Juice and Coffee Cake
It would be pretty typical to find orange juice on a breakfast menu since Tropicana products were introduced this year. And it would often be served with a sweet treat like Danish coffee cake. You could find the pairing on a variety of restaurant menus.
1952: Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes
It was during this year that Kellogg’s released Frosted Flakes cereal, which was an instant hit, was released.
1953: Eggo Waffles
While Denny’s was a big restaurant chain at the time, Eggo Frozen Waffles were introduced, making serving breakfast at home a breeze.
1954: Ham and Eggs
Whether it was served as a ham-and-egg sandwich or just standalone ham and eggs, the combo was popular in 1954. General Mills also introduced Trix cereal this year, and Carnation released nonfat dry milk.
1955: Special K Cereal With Toast and Coffee
Special K was introduced this year and made it onto the menu of restaurants across the country as part of the “Quick K” breakfast, which included toast and coffee.
1956: Bacon, Eggs, and Toast With Margarine
Imperial margarine was a popular spread during this year. So it wasn’t uncommon to find that as an offering with a simple breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast.
1957: Quick-Fried Apple Rings and Coffee
Some favorite items to eat for breakfast this year were pineapple juice, baked ham-and-egg sandwiches, quick-fried apple rings and coffee.
1958: Pancakes and Tang
IHOP opened in 1958, making pancakes the breakfast item of choice along with staples like orange juice and milk.
1959: Frosty O’s
Cereal was still a breakfast table staple, with Frosty O’s being introduced this year.
1960: Peaches, Toast, Eggs and Ham
Although Granny Smith apples were introduced in the USA in 1960, cling peaches made a big push to include their fruit alongside eggs, toast, and ham.
1961: Cooked Prunes in Syrup
The main breakfast everyone was talking about this year was “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” But the average American was chowing down on cooked prunes and syrup. Speaking of syrup, Mrs. Butterworth’s Syrup was introduced in 1961.
1962: Kellogg’s Cereal With Orange Juice and Coffee
Kellogg’s continued to dominate breakfast menus across the country, but Tang made the biggest breakfast splash this year. Astronaut John Glenn drank the fruit-flavored mixture in his Mercury capsule while becoming the first American to orbit the planet.
1963: Froot Loops
Healthier wheat cereals fully transitioned to more sugary ones as products like Froot Loops and Cap’n Crunch were introduced.
The sugar kick continued as Pop-Tarts (which have since been turned into a cereal) were introduced in this year.
1965: Yoplait Yogurt and Cereal
Both Yoplait and Apple Jacks cereal hit the shelves in 1965.
1966: Coffee, Cereal, and Grapefruit
The fruit-cereal combo was popular in 1966, whether it was strawberries in a box of Kellogg’s or a piece of grapefruit served with a bowl of cereal and coffee.
1967: Grilled Eggs, Ham, Juice, Bread and Coffee
It was all about eating all the breakfast foods in 1967. It wasn’t uncommon to see options that included eggs, breakfast meat, juice, cereal, toast and coffee.
1968: Steak and Eggs
Although decadent, it wasn’t odd to see steak and eggs as a breakfast menu item at both casual and high-end restaurants in the late ‘60s.
1969: Pancake Sandwich
At a typical family restaurant, you’d find the basics: eggs, pancakes, and bacon. You could have them all separate or together in sandwich form.
1970: Fried Egg, Bacon, Tomato, Fried Bread and Sausage
It seems like the makings of a BLT breakfast sandwich was popular in 1970. It was also the year Kellogg’s introduced a cereal called Product 19.
1971: Two Eggs, Bacon, Hash Browns, Toast and Jelly
A club breakfast at a motel would include two eggs any style, a choice of meat, hash browns, toast, and jelly. Starbucks was also founded this year.
1972: Life Cereal
The famous “Mikey likes it!” commercial made Life Cereal a breakfast staple.
1973: Pancakes and Sausage
A famous combo at Howard Johnson’s hotels was pancakes with three sausage links. You could also get blueberry pancakes all served with maple syrup and whipped butter, of course. Promise Margarine also suggested they could help lower cholesterol.
1974: Stuffed Tomatoes, Corn Muffins, Coffee and Pineapple-Orange Shrub
1975: McDonald’s Egg McMuffin
Although it was created in 1971, the Egg McMuffin became a hit with the public when it was rolled out nationwide in 1975. As you might expect, it’s also pretty easy to make at home.
1976: Chex Cereals
Wheat Chex, Corn Chex, and Rice Chex cereals were popular.
1977: Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast
The original Grand Slam came with two eggs, two pancakes, two sausage links, and two bacon strips, and it was introduced this year.
1979: Honey Nut Cheerios
The now classic cereal hit stands this year.
1980: Carl’s Jr. Sunrise Sandwich With V8 Juice
It wasn’t just McDonald’s dominating the fast-food breakfast market. Carl’s Jr. offered many breakfast items and advertised them with V8 juice.
1981: Sizzelean Bacon
Diet foods were making their way into American homes, and the breakfast table was no exception. The processed bacon alternative Sizzelean was touted with the tagline “Move over bacon, there’s something leaner!”
1982: Eggs-Stuffing Casserole, Bacon Broccoli, Fruit and Spiced Coffee
According to Betty Crocker’s “Working Woman's Cookbook,” which was published in 1982, a popular brunch would include eggs-stuffing casserole, bacon or sausage, broccoli spears, fruit and spinach salad, and spiced coffee.
1983: Banana Bread
Bisquick introduced banana bread, offering addled home cooks an easy alternative to pancakes for breakfast.
1984: SlimFast Shake
Diet foods were in full swing, with SlimFast being a popular breakfast substitute.
1985: Pillsbury Toaster Strudels
Who didn’t love the frozen breakfast pastry with icing?
1986: Fruit Squares Cereals
As the country remained on a diet kick, Kellogg’s decided to enhance its cereal products by offering fruit-themed varieties. Raisin Squares, Blueberry Squares, Strawberry Squares, and Apple Squares were advertised this year.
1987: Bran Flakes
Still trying to stay on the health-focused bandwagon, Kellogg’s pushed Bran Flakes in TV ads.
1988: Apple Cinnamon Cheerios
General Mills followed Kellogg’s lead and launched its own healthy fruit-themed cereal: Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. They were touted as containing real apples and made with whole-grain oat cereal.
1989: Biscuit, Egg and Bacon
Fast food joints like McDonald’s and Hardees touted fresh biscuits as part of their quick and cheap breakfast sandwiches, which included eggs and bacon.
1990: Low-Fat Granola Bars
Forget calorie counting! It was all about low-fat food products in 1990. That’s why low-fat granola bars from companies like Kellogg’s were a trend.
1991: McDonald’s Breakfast Burrito
In addition to offering a $2 breakfast, McDonald’s also launched a breakfast burrito in 1991 to spice up the morning meal.
1992: Berry Berry Kix
It was all about the berry theme this year. Berry Berry Kix was favorite in addition to Trix Yogurt.
1993: Eggo Waffles
We all remember the catchphrase “L’Eggo my Eggo.” That’s part of the reason the frozen waffle treat was such a hit in the ‘90s.
1994: Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs
Rejoice, chocolate lovers! Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs were introduced this year. There never seems to be a shortage of Reese’s spinoffs; peanut butter cup creamer was introduced in 2017!
While Dunkin’ Donuts began making bagels this year, Burger King was gaining on the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin by offering the Croissan’wich. It featured egg, cheese, and sausage on a croissant.
1997: Cereal and Milk
“Got Milk?” ads were all over the place, encouraging people — especially kids — to drink milk.
1998: Breakfast Mates
Matthew Thompson/ YouTube
It was all about convenience in the late ‘90s. That’s why your favorite cereals were now offered in easy to-go packs (like Breakfast Mates, which contained both cereal and milk but failed because it wasn't refrigerated). Of course, you still enjoyed them with milk.
Sticking with the on-the-go vibe, Go-Gurt — portable yogurt that didn’t require a spoon — was introduced this year.
2000: Milk n’ Cereal Bars
The new millennium kicked off with the ultimate in quick breakfasts: General Mills’ milk and cereal bars. Unfortunately, because they were full of sugar and low in protein, eating them was one of many breakfast mistakes we bet you didn’t know you were making.
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