Skipping Breakfast Impairs Learning

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  7/22/2006 1:18:40 AM

Too busy for breakfast before work or school? Take a “portable” breakfast – many choices are available. You need to fuel yourself with something nutritious, even if it’s a small amount.

2006 Back-to-School News

The rush to school and work each day means some things have to be sacrificed – and often that includes breakfast. Surveys show that as many as 48 percent of girls and 32 percent of boys do not eat breakfast every day.

Eating breakfast improves concentration, problem-solving ability, mental performance, memory and mood. "With breakfast, students think faster and clearer and have better recall," says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames, adding, "Breakfast eaters also score higher on tests and have better concentration and muscle coordination."

The nutritionist continues, "Children who eat breakfast are more alert and perform better on school tests than children who do not eat breakfast. They are also 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.

Teachers also should not forget breakfast. Breakfast provides both children and adults with 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," Reames says, adding, "Children who see their parents eat breakfast are more likely to eat breakfast, too."

If you skip breakfast, it means your body has gone many hours with nothing in its 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, because both the 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 carbohydrates or turn fat or protein into a usable form for your brain to function.

Youngsters will begin to feel the effects when sitting in the 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 overly 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’ve had an appropriate breakfast.

School breakfast is the best option to provide a balanced meal every school morning. School breakfast provides a balance of nutrients, including: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. 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.

Try to start your morning with some fuel in your system. This can pay big dividends in increasing your performance.

For additional information about eating healthfully, contact the LSU AgCenter Extension agent in your parish. For related family and back-to-school topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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