Nutritionist Cautions Skipping Breakfast Impairs Learning

Elizabeth S. Reames, Claesgens, Mark A.  |  7/20/2007 11:31:49 PM

2007 Back-to-School News (Distributed 07/13/07)

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, according to LSU Agricultural Center nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

"With breakfast, students think faster and clearer and have better recall," Reames said, adding, "Breakfast eaters also score higher on tests and have better concentration and muscle coordination."

Studies reveal that 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 shouldn’t forget breakfast either," the nutritionist said, noting that breakfast provides both kids and grownups 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 said. Children who see their parents eat breakfast are more likely to eat breakfast, too.

Skipping breakfast 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 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 carbohydrates or turn fat or protein into a usable form for your brain to function.

Students will begin to feel the effects when they are 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. School breakfasts provide a balance of nutrients, including carbohydrates, 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 resealable bag of easy-to-eat whole-grain cereal, or bring yogurt or a 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, because 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," Reames said. Doing so can pay big dividends in increasing your performance.

For related nutrition topics, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter homepage at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
Contact: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929 or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu

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