It has long been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is especially true for children, who are growing and learning. Research supports the contention that eating breakfast helps children to concentrate. Now, a new study provides the strongest evidence yet of the link between eating breakfast, the quality of that breakfast, and a child’s educational outcome.
The dietary habits of almost 5,000 children aged 9 to 11 years were examined by researchers to see if there was a link between the consumption of breakfast (and its quality) and subsequent English, Math, and Science test results (SATs).
The results of the study show a significant and positive association between the consumption of a healthy breakfast and the educational performance of the children examined. The chances of a child who ate breakfast achieving above-average test scores was up to twice that of a child who did not eat breakfast. This was the first significant study showing a link between breakfast behaviors and actual academic attainment in the form of test scores.
One very interesting aspect of this study was that eating unhealthy breakfast items, likes chips (crisps) and sweets, had no positive impact on test scores. This finding is in line with an emerging body of research that suggests that eating breakfast foods with a lower glycemic index may have a positive effect on children’s memory, literacy, overall cognitive function, and academic outcomes. Lower glycemic foods release energy slowly and steadily over time. Therefore breakfast foods with a lower glycemic index provide a steady release of energy for children throughout the morning, allowing them to concentrate for longer periods of time.
Low glycemic index breakfast foods include oatmeal, whole grain bread, nuts, strawberries, peaches, apples, pears, oranges, dried apricots, milk, and yogurt.
What is the take-away from this study? Children should eat a healthy breakfast every day to ensure that they are able to reach their full potential. Eating a healthy breakfast can improve a child’s memory and concentration, and can lead to greater academic achievements. This is especially important to remember as children reach their teenage years, because that is when breakfast consumption rates have been shown to decline.
So what are some healthy breakfast options for children? The key is to make sure they include some protein, a little fat, whole grains instead of refined, some fruits or vegetables, and very few added sugars. It is especially important to check the sugar content of commercially-made breakfast cereals and granola bars. Breakfast is also a good time to include a glass of milk to make sure children get enough calcium in their diet.
Here are a few healthy breakfast suggestions for children (and adults):
- Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and sliced banana
- Yogurt, granola, and berry parfait
- Hard boiled egg with whole wheat toast
- Raspberry overnight oats
- Oatmeal with banana cinnamon breakfast topper
- Whole grain pancake and yogurt
- Banana oatmeal breakfast cookies
- Fruit and nut granola bar
- Almond butter and banana quesadilla
- Banana oatmeal pancake
- Fruit smoothie made with avocado
What are some of your healthy breakfast ideas?
Source: Littlecott, H. J., Moore, G. F., Moore, L., Lyons, R. A., and Murphy, S. (2015). Association between Breakfast Consumption and Educational Outcomes in 9–11-year-old Children. Public Health Nutr. Public Health Nutrition 1-8. Web. doi:10.1017/S1368980015002669