Monday, August 22, 2011

Back to school: Why breakfast is essential

Breakfast -- a back-to-school essential
Backpack? Check!  Pencils?  Check!  Loose-leaf paper? Check!  Breakfast?  If you're a parent getting your student ready to go back to school soon, then you may want to consider adding breakfast to the checklist of back-to-school necessities.  A daily breakfast will help prepare your child for school in many ways that books, pencils, and papers cannot.  So before shuttling your children out the door and onto the classroom, check out these 5 reasons that breakfast is essential to your student's health and well-being.

Reason #1:  Better academic performance
Without breakfast, some children may go for up to 18 hours before their next meal.  A nutritious breakfast will provide the fuel and nutrients that your child's brain needs for better memory and focus during school.  Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast tend to perform better academically than their breakfast-skipping peers.  It appears that consuming breakfast may help with numerous skills, such as math, reading, and memory.  Not only has breakfast consumption been tied to enhanced test scores, but it has also been associated with better attendance and punctuality.

Reason #2:  Better nutritional intake
Breakfast contributes significantly to the overall energy, vitamins and minerals that children need to sustain their scholastic activities, especially in the morning.  Studies link student breakfast consumers with more nutritionally adequate diets that are higher in nutrients, such as protein, calcium, iron, fiber, and vitamins A and C.  On the other hand, breakfast skippers tend to have lower intakes of nutritious foods, like vegetables and fruits.

Reason #3:  Better psychosocial health and behavior
Breakfast consumption among students has been associated with improvements in psychosocial health, which involves the way a child thinks, feels, or interacts with others.  The affect seems to be most apparent among those students with poorer nutritional status or with low nutrient intakes.  Progress with behavior, such as hyperactivity, has also been observed.

Reason #4:  Healthier weight
Most, but not all, studies have reported that children who are overweight tend to skip breakfast more frequently than children who are at healthy weights.  In fact, adolescents who regularly consumed breakfast or who increased their consumption of breakfast maintained better weight control in long-term studies.  Researchers propose several theories about how regular breakfast consumption promotes healthier body weights, including improved appetite regulation, enhanced diet quality, and reduced calorie intake.

Reason #5:  Development and maintenance of a lifelong health habit
Studies have shown that children who skip breakfast are more likely to become adults who skip breakfast.  In fact, breakfast skipping appears to increase with age, so it's important to help children establish the habit while they're young.  Routine breakfast intake during adulthood has been associated with positive benefits, such as improved weight control, fewer cardiovascular risk factors, and improved memory.

You now may be asking whether or not the types of foods included in breakfast matter when it comes to child health and performance, and the answer is a resounding YES!  Stay tuned for a follow-up post answering this question.  Thank you for reading!

What benefits have you noticed about breakfast consumption for your children?

Photo credit:  qwrrty via Flickr


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