School Breakfast Week

March 4, 2011 in Health, Nutrition, Weight Management by Mary Ireland

Next week is school breakfast week. The USDA School Breakfast Program was implemented to ensure that children from low-come households were able to have breakfast to begin the day. To me this is a wonderful program because I am a breakfast eater. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to wait until lunch to eat. I wouldn't be able to concentrate and I would be irritable. I understand that not everyone has the same enthusiasm for breakfast as I do, but current research does seem to substantiate the importance of breakfast for children. Eating breakfast is of particular importance in the areas of intelligence, nutrition, behavior and obesity.

Intelligence

Research showing a relationship between eating breakfast and improved grades include:

  • A study published in the Journal of School Healthwhich surveyed 5,200 grade 5 students and their parents about dietary intake. The study found that children with overall decreased diet quality were significantly more likely to perform poorly in school, while those with improved diet quality did significantly better. This research is important because it studied the impact of consuming fruit, vegetables, grains, dietary fiber, protein, iron, calcium and vitamin C when calculating their results. Diet variety was also a contributing factor.
  • A study finding that children who received no breakfast or who were given a glucose drink had declines in attention and memory as compared with children who had whole grain cereals for breakfast.

When it comes to learning, research shows that a nutritionally balanced breakfast makes a difference. A combination of the macronutrients fats, carbohydrate and protein is required for optimal learning.

Nutrition

Breakfast should make a substantial contribution to daily nutrition. Studies conducted at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center found that adolescents who eat breakfast are two to five times more likely than breakfast-skippers to consume at least two-thirds of the daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, folacin, phosphorus, iron and vitamins A, B6 and D. The study also found that fat consumption was lower among adolescents eating breakfast. One theory is that those who skip breakfast get hungrier later in the day and either don't have healthy foods available or simply make poor eating choices.

Tardiness, Absenteeism and Behavioral Problems

Most of us are aware of how hunger affects our mood and energy levels. According to Dr. Debby Demory-Luce, a registered dietitian with the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, children who eat breakfast are less likely to be described as depressed, anxious, fidgety, or irritable by parents and teachers." They also think faster and more clearly, concentrate better, suffer less fatigue, and are less likely to end up in the nurse's office complaining of tummy aches and dizziness.

In a study of Boston Public School pilot breakfast programs, students who increased their breakfast participation rates decreased their school absence and tardiness rate and were shown to have decreased emotional/behavioral problems. Nearly 60% of staff reported a positive change in behavior and attentiveness when a student ate breakfast.

Obesity

Even though teenagers may think they are cutting calories by skipping breakfast, studies find that they actually eat more calories a day than those who eat breakfast. Kids who skip breakfast, tend to eat more later, overcompensating for the calories they didn’t eat at breakfast. According to researcher Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, of the University of Minnesota, eating a healthy breakfast may help adolescents avoid overeating when they do eat. It may also help them to disrupt unhealthy eating patterns, such as eating a lot late in the evening.

Dr. Neumark-Sztainer's research shows teenagers who regularly ate breakfast had a healthier diet and were more physically active throughout their adolescence than those who skip breakfast. Years later, they also gained less weight and had a lower body mass index (BMI). The teens who ate breakfast regularly had a lower percentage of total calories from saturated fat and ate more fiber and carbohydrates than those who skipped breakfast.

The American Dietetic Association regards skipping breakfast as a potential risk factor for increased adiposity, particularly among older children or adolescents. This conclusion was drawn from 15 observational studies published between 1994 and 2004, including 2 longitudinal studies, 2 nationally representative studies and 11 other cross-sectional studies. Evidence supports the view that obese children and adolescents are more likely to skip breakfast than their leaner counterparts. Obese children also have been reported to eat smaller breakfasts than their non-obese peers.

So there is a lot of evidence to support what a lot of us knew intuitively and what Registered Dietitians have been saying for a long time. If you have trouble getting your kids to eat breakfast, try Dr. Grandma’s Whole Wheat Muffin Mix or Whole Wheat Pancake Mix. Both are highly nutritional, great tasting alternatives to cereal for breakfast. If your mornings are too busy to include making muffins or pancakes, you can make them ahead of time and heat them in the microwave. Both are good “on the go” foods and make excellent snacks for kids when they get home from school. See Dr. Grandma’s Breakfast recipes for other nutritious breakfast ideas that you kids will find yummy.

Another yummy way to give your kids the nutrients they need is smoothies. You can add a lot of vegetables to the smoothie without your kids even knowing because berries or other fruit such as bananas, peaches apples disguise the taste.

Carrot, Kale, Berry Smoothie

Ingredients

1 small carrot washed
1 cup kale leaves washed with large part of stem removed
2 cups cold water
1 cup of frozen blueberries, blackberries or strawberries
1 teaspoon sweetener of choice, optional

Directions

Put carrot and kale in blender with 2 cups water. Blend until smooth. Add berries and sweetener. Blend until berries are pureed into carrot/kale mixture. If you want a thicker smoothie, you can add ice and blend. For a thinner smoothie add more water. You can add apple if you want a sweeter taste. This makes two 3 1-cup servings. You can also adjust the amount of carrot and kale based on taste. Note that frozen bananas add wonderful texture and taste.

Serve.

Wash carrot and kale.

Blend carrot, kale and water.

Add berries and puree.

Serve.