Kids are back to school and both kids and parents are adjusting to the routine for the school year. Including a nutritious breakfast as part of that daily routine is very important in helping kids succeed in school. The most important ten minutes of the day could be the time spent eating a healthy breakfast.
Breakfast is skipped more than any other meal of the day with up to 59 percent of all children and teenagers missing breakfast more than three times a week. The percentage of children, teens and adults skipping breakfast has increased over time. Children and teens skip breakfast more often as they get older. Girls skip breakfast more often than boys.
People skip breakfast for a variety of reasons, the most common being a lack of time. Others say they are not hungry in the morning or are skipping breakfast to control their weight.
Why is breakfast so important?
There are some very sound reasons breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The first meal of the day is called breakfast because it breaks the fast that has lasted ten to twelve hours since the last meal eaten the day before, usually dinner. The body uses glucose or blood sugar for energy. Excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver, which can be released as it is needed. By mid-morning, stored glycogen is virtually used up, if breakfast is skipped. As a result, the body has very little quick energy available.
Research has revealed a variety of benefits of eating a healthy breakfast. The overall nutritional adequacy of the diets of people who eat breakfast is superior to breakfast skippers. The nutrients missed at breakfast by children, teenagers, and adults are not made up at other meals eaten later in the day. People who eat breakfast are more likely to eat recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, milk, milk products, fruit juices, and grains. While more people are skipping breakfast, more people of all ages are overweight or obese.
Eating breakfast may help with weight control. Studies have shown people who eat breakfast have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than breakfast skippers. BMI is a number calculated using a person's height and weight and is a reliable indicator of body fat. Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for a number of diseases and health conditions, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type two diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep and respiratory problems, and some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).
Breakfast can help children and teens perform better in school. Children and teenagers who skip breakfast have difficulty with concentration because they may be tired, lethargic, and lack fuel for learning. They are absent or tardy more often and have more behavior problems than those who eat breakfast regularly. For adults, breakfast is associated with better memory function.
You are what you eat.
What is eaten for breakfast is important too. A healthy breakfast consisting of whole grain cereal like oatmeal, low-fat milk, and fruit juice, for example helps students perform better in school than an unhealthy breakfast of a low fiber, high sugar cereal or pastry and a soft drink.
A healthy breakfast should include a variety of foods to ensure people get a variety of nutrients and fiber. Choose foods from various food groups for breakfast by including dairy, grains, protein and fruit or vegetable.
Parents provide an important nutritional role model for their children. Children and teenagers will be more likely to eat a healthy breakfast if their parents do. Parents should encourage family meals which increase the likelihood that children and teenagers will make more healthful food choices, including eating breakfast.
Make time for breakfast.
In 10 to 15 minutes you can enjoy any of the following healthy breakfast choices:
Whole grain cereal and milk
Oatmeal and milk
Whole grain toast
Whole grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese
Whole grain muffin
Yogurt parfait made with low-fat granola
Fruit or vegetable juice
Low-fat or fat free milk
Fruits apples, oranges, grapes, bananas
Cheese sandwich on whole grain bread.
While sitting at the kitchen table to eat breakfast is the best choice, many of the foods listed above could be eaten on the run. Eating a healthy breakfast on the run is better than eating no breakfast.
Families can take advantage of the school breakfast program as well, if it is offered in their children's school. Do not underestimate the importance of eating a healthy breakfast because it provides an important part of daily nutrient intake and is needed for energy, learning, and job performance.
Deb Angell is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator for Huron County's Ohio State University Extension Office, 180 Milan Ave., Suite 1 Norwalk, OH 44857. She can be reached by phone at (419) 668-8219 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.