What are the 3 meals of the day called?

The 3 main meals of the day typically go by the names of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These names describe the times of day that each meal is conventionally eaten. Let’s take a quick look at what each of these meals is called and when they occur during the day.


Breakfast is the first meal of the day. It is typically eaten in the morning, soon after waking up. The word “breakfast” comes from the concept of “breaking the fast”, referring to the overnight period when you go without eating while you sleep. Eating breakfast helps provide energy and nutrients to start the day after fasting through the night.


Lunch is the middle meal of the day. It is typically eaten around midday or noon. Lunch provides a chance to refuel during the afternoon. The origins of the word “lunch” are uncertain, but it may be related to the concept of a small “lump” of food, or derived from an old Germanic word meaning “to swallow.”


Dinner is the final meal of the day. It is typically eaten in the evening. The word “dinner” comes from an old French word “disner” meaning the largest meal of the day. While the largest meal was traditionally eaten midday, it gradually shifted later in the day over time. Now dinner is the main evening meal, often shared with family.

Typical Breakfast Foods

Some common breakfast foods include:

  • Eggs
  • Toast
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Fruit
  • Yogurt
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Hash browns
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Granola
  • Muffins

Breakfast foods provide a mix of protein, carbs, and other nutrients to help start the day off right.

Typical Lunch Foods

Some common lunch foods include:

  • Sandwiches
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Leftovers
  • Pasta
  • Rice dishes
  • Tacos
  • Pizza
  • Burgers
  • Noodles
  • Bento boxes

Lunches often feature portable foods that can be easily packed and brought to school or work. Hot or cold dishes may be eaten.

Typical Dinner Foods

Some common dinner foods include:

  • Roasts
  • Chicken dishes
  • Steaks
  • Fish
  • Casseroles
  • Stir-fries
  • Pasta
  • Soups and stews
  • Salads
  • Vegetables

Dinners often consist of meat or fish dishes, along with vegetable side dishes. More time is available in the evening to prepare multi-course meals.


In addition to the 3 main meals, snacks are often eaten between meals or with meals. Some popular snack foods include:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Toast
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Smoothies
  • Granola bars

Snacks help provide energy and nutrients between meals. They can help curb hunger until the next mealtime.

Meal Timings

While breakfast, lunch, and dinner are fairly standard names for the 3 meals of the day, the exact times that people eat meals can vary based on personal preference and schedule. Here are some typical meal timings:

Meal Time Range
Breakfast 6am – 9am
Lunch 11am – 2pm
Dinner 5pm – 8pm

However, some people may eat meals earlier or later than the typical times. Families with young children may eat dinner quite early, while those who work late shifts may eat dinner later at night. The most important thing is eating meals when it best fits with your schedule and hunger cues.

Cultural Differences

While breakfast, lunch, and dinner are common across many cultures, the foods making up these meals can vary significantly. Here are some cultural differences with major meals:

  • Japan – Rice, miso soup, fish are common at breakfast. Bento boxes with rice, fish, meat and vegetables are typical for lunch.
  • Mexico – Huevos rancheros (eggs, tortilla, salsa) are a popular breakfast. Lunch often features tacos, quesadillas, or tortas. Dinner may include tacos, enchiladas, tamales, or pozole stew.
  • India – Roti flatbreads, paratha, porridge, or eggs are breakfast staples. Thali set meals with rice, dal, raita, chutney, and curry are common lunches and dinners.
  • Italy – Breakfast features cappuccino and sweet baked goods. Pizza and pasta with tomato sauce are lunch favorites. Multi-course dinners with regional dishes like ossobuco or seafood.

While the timing may be similar, the food choices can create unique cultural dining experiences at meals.

Changing Habits

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are traditional meal names, but some eating patterns are shifting these days. Some examples include:

  • Brunch – Combining breakfast and lunch into a late morning meal.
  • Intermittent fasting – Restricting eating to certain time windows, like 8 hours each day.
  • Snacking and small meals – Eating smaller amounts more frequently.
  • 5-6 smaller meals – Dividing daily calories into more meals than just 3.

Nutrition science continues to evolve on optimal meal timings and frequencies. Many modern eaters are opting for more flexibility over the traditional 3 square meals a day.

Meal Planning Tips

To make the most of your daily meals, here are some tips:

  • Eat breakfast every morning to avoid getting too hungry later.
  • Plan leftovers into lunch to save time and money.
  • Make a weekly dinner plan and shop accordingly to reduce food waste.
  • Prep ingredients in advance to make cooking quicker and easier.
  • Drink water before and during meals to aid digestion.
  • Allow room for healthy snacks to fill in nutritional gaps.
  • Listen to your body’s cues of hunger and fullness while eating.

Planning ahead takes effort, but can lead to eating better balanced, portioned meals throughout each day.


Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are the traditional names for the 3 main meals eaten each day. But the exact timings, foods eaten, and number of meals can vary significantly based on individual preferences and lifestyles. The key is finding a meal schedule that provides your body with balanced nutrition to power you through each day. Listen to your body’s natural hunger and fullness signals to guide your eating pattern.

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