Elizabeth S. Reames | 4/19/2005 10:28:41 PM
The rush to school and work each day often means something is sacrificed. The frequent victim is breakfast, according to LSU Agricultural Center nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
A recent survey found as many as 30 percent of 8- to 13-year-old children do not eat breakfast every day. More than one-third of adolescent girls don't eat breakfast.
Eating breakfast improves concentration, problem-solving ability, mental performance, memory and mood.
"With breakfast, students will think faster and clearer and will have better recall," Reames says, adding, "Breakfast eaters also are more alert and score higher on tests and have better concentration and muscle coordination." She notes, too, that children who eat breakfast are more creative and energetic.
Hunger, even short-term hunger, decreases attention span and ability to concentrate. Hungry children just can't do their best work. They're easily distracted, and become fidgety, irritable and tired. Also, children who eat breakfast are less likely to miss class, be tardy or report they are sick than children who miss the morning meal.
Reames also advises teachers not to forget breakfast either. Breakfast provides both kids and grown-ups the energy and nutrients needed to start the day. It's especially important for parents to eat a good breakfast every day, since parents are role models for their children. Children who see their parents eat breakfast are more likely to eat breakfast, too.
If you skip breakfast, your body has gone many hours with nothing in your system. Getting the 40-plus nutrients needed each day is more likely for those who eat a morning meal. Breakfast skippers may never make up the nutrients they miss. Breakfast should provide children with about a quarter of their daily calories.
Children who skip breakfast may not get as much protein, carbohydrates, calcium, iron and vitamin C each day as children who eat breakfast.
Breakfast provides glucose – the fuel you need to think, walk, talk and carry on all activities, since your brain and central nervous system run on glucose.
"Skipping breakfast deprives your brain of nutrients, and your body has to work extra hard to break down any stored carbohydrate or turn fat or protein into a usable form for your brain to function," Reames says, noting, "You’ll begin to feel the effects when you're sitting in a classroom, trying to concentrate on reading or doing any other work."
Some people believe that skipping breakfast may help them lose weight. Skipping meals, however, often leads to overeating later in the day. Becoming over-hungry often leads to a lack of control and the inability to determine when you’re full. This can result in taking in more calories than if you had an appropriate breakfast.
"School breakfast is the best option to provide a balanced meal every school morning," Reames states, explaining that school breakfasts provide a balance of nutrients, including carbohydrate, protein and fat. A balanced breakfast such as fruit, cereal and low-fat milk gives a sustained release of energy, which delays symptoms of hunger for several hours.
If there's no time in the morning to eat breakfast, there are plenty of items you can bring along with you to school or work. For example, carry a re-sealable bag of easy-to-eat whole-grain cereal or bring yogurt or small box of skim milk, juice or fruit.
Even if you just tolerate food in the morning, try to have a little something, such as some juice, and bring along a mid-morning snack. Other good portable items include whole-grain crackers, hard-cooked eggs, cottage cheese, low-fat granola bars or even a peanut butter sandwich. Single serving hot cereals, such as oatmeal, also are handy, since all you have to do is add hot water, which is available at most cafeterias or at the office.
If you start your morning with some fuel in your system, you’ll reap big dividends with increased performance, Reames says.
For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/ For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.