Richard Bogren, Reames, Elizabeth S.
News Release Distributed 07/06/10
Experts often call breakfast the most important meal of the day, and this is especially true for children headed off to school.
Studies show that children who eat breakfast tend to perform better in school and have fewer disciplinary problems, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.
“Hungry children just can't do their best work,” Reames says. “Hunger, even short-term hunger, decreases attention span and ability to concentrate. Hungry children are easily distracted and become fidgety, irritable and tired.”
Eating breakfast improves concentration, problem-solving ability, mental performance, memory and mood, Reames adds. Breakfast can help students be more alert, think faster and clearer and have better recall. In addition, breakfast eaters score higher on tests and have better concentration and muscle coordination. They’re also more creative and energetic.
“Children who eat breakfast are less likely than children who miss the morning meal to miss class, be tardy or report they are sick,” she says.
“Studies of adolescents indicate that missing breakfast is associated with weight gain,” the AgCenter nutritionist adds. “Skipping breakfast is linked to larger meal portions, overeating at night and minimal fruit consumption which may contribute to excessive weight. People who eat breakfast tend to consume less fat, less cholesterol and more fiber over the course of their day.”
It's especially important for parents to eat a good breakfast every day because they’re role models for their children, Reames says. Children who see their parents eat breakfast are more likely to eat breakfast, too.
“Breakfast provides both children and grown-ups with the energy and nutrients needed to start the day,” she says. 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. Children who skip breakfast may not get as much protein, fiber, calcium, iron and vitamin C each day as children who eat breakfast.”
After fasting all night, breakfast provides the brain a needed supply of glucose, its basic fuel. Skipping breakfast deprives the brain of nutrients, and the body then has to work hard to break down any stored carbohydrates or turn fat or protein into fuel for the brain.
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. Breakfast should provide children with about a quarter of their daily calories.
If there's no time in the morning to eat breakfast at home, school breakfast is a great choice. School breakfasts provide a balance of nutrients, including carbohydrate, protein and fat.