Breakfast Matters

The benefits of a daily breakfast have been well studied. Children who eat a healthy breakfast are better able to learn, remember and pay attention in school. Behaviour and mood are also improved when children do not feel hungry.

Planning breakfast the night before can make mornings easier. Children are more likely to eat a good breakfast if they help to plan what will be served. You may want to keep a list of breakfast ideas to choose from.

A healthy breakfast includes foods from at least three of the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide: Vegetables and Fruit; Grain Products; Milk and Alternatives; and Meat and Alternatives. Including a source of protein from either the milk or meat and alternatives helps keep children from feeling hungry again a short time later.

Morning meal choices can include traditional breakfast foods like cereal and toast, or other healthy items. Some examples of healthy breakfast menus that are popular with children include:

  • § Smoothies (blended milk, yogurt and fruit)
  • § Peanut butter and banana sandwich with a glass of milk
  • § Blueberry muffin, slice of cheese, and a piece of fresh fruit
  • § Leftover baked beans, wholegrain toast, and a glass of milk
  • § Grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of tomato juice
  • § Scrambled eggs with vegetables in a pita pocket and a glass of milk

Children can also help to prepare foods ahead of time. For example, muffin batter could be prepared and refrigerated for baking in the morning. Fruit could be cut up the night before and mixed for a fruit salad. Vegetables could be chopped for a morning omelet.

Eating breakfast together as a family sets a good example for children. Studies show that children have healthier eating habits when they eat family meals regularly. Breakfast also provides valuable family time together before everyone heads off for the day’s activities.

After a healthy breakfast, a morning walk to school also gives children a healthy start to their day. Children, who start the day with healthy habits, are more likely to continue them through the rest of the day.

WRITTEN BY THE PUBLIC HEALTH NUTRITIONISTS OF SASKATCHEWAN AND

Originator: Heather Drozd, Saskatoon Health Region

References:

Alaimo, K., Oslon, C.M., & Frongillo, E.A. (2001), “Food Insufficiency and American School-Aged Children’s Cognitive, Academic and Psychological Development”, Pediatrics, 108 (1), 44-53.

Bellisle, F., “Effects of Diet on Behaviour and Cognition in Children”, British Journal of Nutrition, 92 (Suppl 2), S227-S323.

Matthew W. Gillman, Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, A. Lindsay Frazier, Helaine R. H. Rockett, Carlos A. Camargo, Jr, Alison E. Field, Catherine S. Berkey, Graham A. Colditz, “Family Dinner and Diet Quality Among Older Children and Adolescents”, Arch Fam Med. 2000;9:235-240.

D. Neumark-Sztainer, P. Hannan, M. Story, J. Croll, C. Perry, “Family Meal Patterns: Associations with Sociodemographic Characteristics and Improved Dietary Intake Among Adolescents”, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 103 (3), 317-322.

Pollitt, E. (1995), “Does Breakfast Make a Difference in School?”, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95 (10), 1134-1139.

Politt, E., Cueto, S., & Jacoby, E.R. (1998), “Fasting and Cognition and Well- and Undernourished Schoolchildren: A Review of Three Experimental Studies”, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67 (4), 779S-784S.

Wesnes, K.A., Pincock, C., Richardson, D., Helm, G., & Hail, S. (2003), “Breakfast Reduces Declines in Attention and Memory Over the Morning in Schoolchildren”, Appetite, 41 (3), 329-331.

Rampersaud, G.C., Pereira, M.A., Girard, B.L., Adams, J., & Metzl, J.D. (2005), “Breakfast Habits, Nutritional Status, Body Weight, and Academic Performance in Children and Adolescents”, Journal of American Dietetics Association, 105, 743-760.