After two years of writing weekly Drought Diaries posts, there’s one major gap in our discussion of the virtual water footprint of your dietary choices: breakfast.  I’ll take the mea culpa on this one and make an unfortunate confession.  I don’t eat breakfast.  Yes, I know that’s terrible, unhealthy, and downright wrong, but it is what it is, and in my non-breakfast-eating endeavors, I’ve failed to cover the virtual water footprint of breakfast foods.  Shame on me, and let’s remedy this error.

Most breakfast foods tend to fall into one of two categories: starchy or meaty.  This is bad news for the water-conscious diner, since both starches and meats tend to be environmentally unhealthy in their water use.  How unhealthy, though?

Let’s start with the starches.  We calculated the virtual water footprint of biscuits in an earlier post, which clocked in at 104 liters of water in one biscuit.  The same is true for pancakes, waffles ,and muffins, which use the same ingredients in their batter (with some variety depending on personal recipes and add-ins.)  Toast with jam takes 9 gallons  for the slice of bread and 5 liters in every meager teaspoon of your sweet topping.  Even oatmeal needs 16 liters of water in each tablespoon of cereal.

Now, let’s look at the meaty side of things.  I love bacon, which is why it’s really unfortunate that it takes 756 gallons per pound of bacon.  Sausage and ham have the same footprints, since they’re all made of pork. Yikes.  Even protein sources that aren’t made of meat, like eggs, have their drawbacks.  Every single egg requires 200 liters, so skip the omelet.

And what are you drinking?  Well, if it’s a cup of coffee, you can tack an additional 140 liters onto your footprint.  Orange juice is a little worse at 170 liters for a single glass. At least a cup of tea only requires 30!

What does this all mean?  Well, the good news is you don’t all have to give up eating breakfast, although my decision to skip the first meal of the day is certainly looking a little better in hindsight.  While it’s not quite as sexy as the other options, fresh fruit for breakfast is a classic for a reason: a whole pound of grapes only needs 100 liters, strawberries use even less, an average size apple will use 125 liters and one orange 80. 

That’s what I call the breakfast of champions.