Breakfast for Champions

Review of recent studies shows eating breakfast may help your child do better in school and maintain a healthier weight.
bowl of cereal

Blaine Moats

May 25, 2005—Could getting your child to eat breakfast help him maintain a healthier weight and do better in school?

A group led by researchers at the University of Florida reviewed 47 nutrition studies and concluded that yes, children and adolescents who ate breakfast had superior overall diet quality, consumed more daily calories but were less likely to be overweight, had better mental functions, and had better school attendance records than those who skipped the morning meal.

Why would eating breakfast possibly improve your child's grades? The researchers suggested several possible reasons: It may modulate short-term metabolic responses to fasting, cause changes in neurotransmitter concentrations, or simply remove the distracting physiological effects of hunger. Therefore, the report's authors recommend children and adolescents consume a healthy breakfast—at home or at school—on a daily basis.

The report, which appears in the May issue of The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, also cites that breakfast should include a variety of foods high in nutritive value without providing excess energy.

"To maximize the potential benefits of breakfast consumption, it is important to distinguish between simply promoting breakfast vs. the consumption of a healthful breakfast," the researchers wrote in the study.

The review notes breakfast consumption should be encouraged in groups who may be more likely to skip breakfast: older children and adolescents, especially teenage girls, and possibly black and Hispanic children.

Also, children who tend to skip breakfast because of a lack of time in the morning should eat breakfast either at school or on their way to school. Many breakfast foods can be consumed while on the go, like dry cereal, whole-grain toasts or bagels, 100% juices in a to-go container, and fresh fruit, the study notes.

Among the other recommendations that the study makes for breakfast habits in kids:

  • The most nutritious and fibrous meals include dishes from a variety of food groups.
  • For children with low intakes of dairy products, offer alternative sources of calcium such as calcium-fortified 100% juices or other foods, noting that fewer milk products could mean the child isn't receiving key nutrients such as vitamin A and riboflavin.
  • Dairy or meat products should include lower-fat versions of these foods to help reduce total and saturated fat intakes.
  • When appropriate, health practitioners who work with children should encourage parents to investigate the availability of school programs.

What do you think of this new research? Do you make sure your kids eat breakfast in the morning? If so, is it a battle? If not, why not? Do they eat at home, on their way to school, or at school? Share your thoughts on our message board below:

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