As you probably already know, most people have three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, some characters, for whatever reason, might decide to go without one of these meals. Skipping meals can cause hunger in the short term and nutritional problems in the long term, though, and that's why many works try to teach the audience a valuable lesson against skipping meals.
Most of the time, this is just a standard Aesop—the character is only skipping meals because they want to do something else, or they forgot, or they dislike the food being served (perhaps because it is a Stock "Yuck!" or they're a Picky Eater). However, occasionally, this can be a more serious moral where the character is skipping meals due to Weight Woe, sometimes even an eating disorder such as anorexia. If this is the case, it's often a Very Special Episode, and if the show does not usually explore such serious topics, it's an Unexpectedly Dark Episode as well. If the meal in question is breakfast, there might also be the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, although there is debate over whether that's strictly true.
The character skipping the meals will usually become very hungry and distracted, which might badly impact what they were trying to do (for instance, lead to a bad grade) that could end up with a Worf Had the Flu situation if a conflict is involved. Sometimes, they might also become lethargic or fall asleep, even though they're not hypoglycemic or anything, just to further make the idea of skipping meals seem even worse and because young children might not understand the real effects of skipping meals. They could also skip a meal, then later overcompensate and end up feeling sick (either with indigestion from eating too fast or cramps from eating too much) and/or groggy. If they have powers, especially in a children's work, skipping a meal might make them be Brought Down to Normal (see Weaksauce Weakness). They might also start seeing other people as food. If it's the more serious, wanting-to-lose-weight variety, they may even pass out. Something bad will happen to them, anyway. On a lighter note, they may also have a Delicious Daydream.
Compare Sleep Aesop, Disease-Prevention Aesop, and A Weighty Aesop for other health-related Aesops. Also compare Diet Episode and Vegetarian for a Day. If it's related to losing weight and they do lose weight, it might cause a Temporary Bulk Change. If it doesn't, their loss of weight is an Informed Attribute and, if they're meant to be emaciated, an Informed Deformity. It can also overlap with Plot Time and Artistic License Biology if they lose weight unrealistically fast. If they forget to eat during an Obsessive Hobby Episode, this might lead to a story with two morals: this moral, and one about moderation. Is one of the least likely "abstaining from something" tropes to lead to the Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere gag, but it can happen. Can overlap with Let's Meet the Meat if Anthropomorphic Food wants to be eaten or wants people to eat its kind, or Adjacent to This Complete Breakfast if an ad talks about the importance of breakfast. May overlap with Power-Up Food or, if an ad, Cereal-Induced Superpowers.
- The Mini Wheats breakfast cereal company was sued once by talking about how elementary school students had better grades if they ate their cereal than if they had no breakfast at all. The wording made it seem as though the Mini Wheats were what made them good students, when actually it was because they weren't hungry.
- Adventures of the Little Koala had an episode like this. Walter and his brothers tell Pamie that she looks like her balloon, so she begins exercising and refusing to eat in order to slim down. Naturally, she passes out, and has to be educated on how crash dieting is incredibly unhealthy.
- In episode 16 of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, Ririka skips meals because she is distraught after the death of her magical girl mentor and eventually faints. She counts a physician among her family friends, so she gets swift medical attention mostly to deliver this exact aesop. But it does the trick - she starts to cheer up knowing her family supports her.
- Episode 4 of Sailor Moon, titled "So You Want to Be a Superstar", has Usagi worried that she's gaining weight, so she goes on a diet by skipping meals. The villains, meanwhile, start an "exercise program" that really involves draining energy from women who want to lose weight. Usagi falls victim to this herself and even faints at one point, leaving one of her friends to tell her she needs to eat more. The original English dub took this further and added a "Sailor Moon Says" segment warning viewers against skipping meals like Usagi.
- In Fussy Freya, Freya (after eating a food she doesn't like for the first time) is such a picky eater that she doesn't eat any of her meals, so she becomes emaciated. Her grandparents pretend they're going to feed her gross food like giraffe steak, and she changes her mind and eats her normal food.
- In How to Be Comfortable in Your Own Feathers, a little bird wants to be able to flutter like a hummingbird due to being bullied by one who says everyone should be able to at school, and thinks the best way to do so is to lose weight, so it goes to the gym and skips meals. Its mother tells it that its species cannot flutter no matter what, and that skipping meals is unhealthy. This book has two Aesops: it's partially an allegory for eating disorders, but it also has a more generalised theme of "don't try to be something you're not".
- Bumble has an episode where Boo and Peek are preoccupied studying and trying to fix a toy car (which, unbeknown to him, just has dead batteries) respectively, but they skip lunch and become irritable. The moral is that being busy is good, but everyone needs to eat.
- Full House: It's a few days before Kimmy's swimming pool birthday party and DJ feels insecure to put on a swimsuit because of her chunky figure. Wanting to lose weight, DJ skips meals and starves herself, even making Stephanie "pinky-swear" to keep quiet. It all comes down bad on DJ when she's at the gym where she gets a dizzy spell and collapses. Afterwards, Stephanie tells the adults about how she's starving herself, so they all talk to DJ and tell her about the dangers of fasting and how it can lead to eating disorders. Danny even tells DJ to love herself for who she is.
- Hi-5 has a skit about how you should eat your breakfast every day, with a superhero named Super-Duper who is lethargic and can't do his job because he never eats breakfast.
- In an episode of Lizzie McGuire Miranda assumes that she's overweight while shooting a music video after Gordo makes a remark about her eating habits and decides to get in shape, so she purposely refusing to eat other than french fries and yogurt, as a result Miranda passes out while rehearsing dance moves. Lizzie intervenes, which leads to Miranda revealing that the reason she's been missing meals is she's has been preoccupied with school and grades, among other things and realizes that she has taking her habit too far.
- There's a poem titled "The Story of Augustus, the Boy Who Wouldn't Eat Any Soup", about a boy named Augustus who refuses to eat the soup his parents give him for nine straight days, until he dies.
- Sesame Street has done this many times, with breakfast being the one they talk about most:
- In the song "The Most Important Meal of the Day" (also known as "The Breakfast Song"), a chef sings to a little boy who wants to skip breakfast, telling him not to because breakfast is the most important meal and everyone needs it.
- In another song, "The Breakfast Club" (which doesn't have anything to do with the movie apart from the title), a group of people sing that you should eat breakfast every morning as it's healthy for you.
- In one skit, Super Grover loses his Super Strength (and becomes too weak to even lift a briefcase) because he skipped breakfast, and the Super Foods (Anthropomorphic Food in super suits) give him some food, which restores his powers.
- Downplayed for the "Breakfast is the Best Meal of the Day" song that Ernie sings. While he does sing about how breakfast gives him energy in the morning, and that supposedly makes it the best, the song is mainly played for comedy, due to the surreality of him singing it at night.
- There's a kids' play called Iron Brian, where the title character tells you to get plenty of iron in your food (hence the name) and also not to skip breakfast or else "your brain and your body will eventually begin to slow down". As he's saying this, he walks slowly, slows down his speech, and eventually freezes in place to demonstrate.
- In Felicity's route in Growing Up, the Player Character notices that she barely touches her food whenever she goes out to eat with them. She does this to maintain her slim figure for cheerleading, but the PC can call her out for it because she gets dizzy when she doesn't eat. They'll even bring up her ailing brother to warn her not to be in his position if she doesn't take care of herself.
- Downplayed for the It's My Life (PBS) article on eating disorders. It tells you not to skip meals, as that can lead to eating disorders, but also tells you that eating too much can also lead to eating disorders.
- Kids Health:
- The article on breakfast says not to skip breakfast because it might lead to you eating more calories than you need (and subsequently becoming overweight), learning badly, and/or getting insufficient iron.
- The article on binge eating tells the reader not to skip a meal, since hunger can lead to binge eating.
- Parodied in the Neopets random event where you get more stats. Aethia claims that it's the result of a balanced breakfast.
- Poetry 4 Kids has a poem called "Scrawny Tawny Skinner", about a girl named Tawny Skinner who never eats her dinner and so grows so thin she disappears. It's mainly played for Black Comedy, but it also warns the viewer that it could happen to them if they skip dinner.
- Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: In the "Sonic Says" segment at the end of the episode, "Fast and Easy", Sonic skips breakfast and as a result, he doesn't have enough energy to dodge Scratch and Grounder when they pounce at him. Fortunately for Sonic, Tails moves him out of the way just in time, causing the two robots to fall off a cliff. After Sonic and Tails have breakfast together, Sonic explains to the viewers that their bodies need food like a car needs fuel, and advises them to eat a good breakfast every morning.
- In one interstitial on The All-New Popeye Hour, Popeye's four nephews are moving furniture. Unfortunately, two of the nephews are having difficulty because they didn't eat breakfast first, so their brothers have to help.
- Downplayed for the Arthur episode "Is That Kosher?". Francine tries to fast because her family is Jewish and it's a traditional time to do so. When she can't bring herself to go the whole day without food and eats something (namely a piece of pizza), she feels bad, but then she is taught that she doesn't need to fast until she's thirteen. The moral is partly that skipping meals isn't good for kids, but it's more something along the lines of "don't try to do something you're too young for".
- One episode of Connie The Cow has Connie being hungry after skipping breakfast. She overfeeds on small snacks like apples, ending up with a tummy ache. After her grandmother prepares her an actual breakfast she starts feeling better and learns the importance of not skipping breakfast.note
- In a Lower-Deck Episode of Doug focusing on Patty, she asks Doug if she's overweight, to which he sarcastically replies, "Yeah, you're huge." This drives her into a bout of anorexia, during which she only lets herself eat a single raw tomato a day. During the climax, she faints after winning the long jump during a Track-and-Field tournament. The school nurse tells her that simply not eating causes the body to start digesting itself and should never be considered as a viable method of weight loss.
- In one episode of Horseland, Pepper gains weight to the point where the saddle doesn't fit her anymore. As a result, she becomes determined to lose weight by stopping to eat and constantly practicing, but overtime she really starts to feel weaker, which affects her performance during a competition. After this experience, she stops neglecting her need of eating.
- Downplayed in the Madeline episode "Madeline and the Ice Skates". Madeline practices her ice skating so much that she skips meals and doesn't get enough sleep, and thus becomes weary and hungry. The moral is partly that skipping meals is bad for you, but the main morals are "Don't stay up too late" and "Don't be such a perfectionist".
- In Milo, the episode "Milo's Indigestion" has Milo skip breakfast, only to later be so hungry he eats too many berries and too quickly. This gives him acid reflux and he has to stay in bednote .
- In the Sabrina's Secret Life episode "Food 'Tude", Sabrina believes she's got fat because she can't enter in a pair of jeans (that in truth were accidentally shrunk after being washed), so she starts skipping meals in order to lose weight. As a result she starts to be more tired and less concentrated, and then she gets targeted by General Cheesehead, an anthropomorphic piece of cheese who attacks people skipping their meals to teach them that it's a wrong thing to do.
- Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Sleeping with the Enemy". Lisa becomes insecure about the size of her butt after being teased because of it, and thus stops eating in order to lose weight. In the end, Lisa mentions that she's still struggling with body image issues, but Homer tries to convince her to go back to normal because Status Quo Is God.