Skipping breakfast impairs student

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  7/10/2008 9:28:52 PM

Back-to-School News Distributed 07/11/08

Although most parents tell their children that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, many kids don't listen. 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 AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

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

“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,” the nutritionist said.

Some people believe that skipping breakfast may help them lose weight. Studies of adolescents, however, indicate that missing breakfast is associated with weight gain. Skipping meals 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 often leads to eating more calories than if you had a nutritious breakfast.

Hunger, even short-term hunger, decreases attention span and the ability to concentrate.

“Hungry children just can't do their best work,” Reames said, explaining, “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 added that teachers shouldn’t forget their breakfast either. The meal also provides them with the energy and nutrients they need 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 without nutrients. 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,” Reames said, noting that 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 needed to think, walk, talk and carry on all activities, because the brain and central nervous system run on glucose. Lack of glucose deprives the brain of nutrients, and the body has to work extra hard to break down any stored carbohydrate or turn fat or protein into a usable form for the brain to function.

“You’ll begin to feel the effects when you're sitting in a classroom, trying to concentrate on reading or doing any other work,” Reames said.

School breakfast is the best option to provide a balanced meal every school morning. 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, the nutritionist says. 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,” Reames said. 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.

The rush to school and work each day means some things have to be sacrificed – and often they include breakfast.

“Make eating breakfast a top priority in your and your children's lives,” Reames said.

For related nutrition topics, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter home page at www.lsuagcenter.com. For additional information about eating healthfully, contact the LSU AgCenter Extension agent in your parish.

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

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