Benefits of Breakfast

What’s the evidence that links breakfast to our health, academic performance, and our school?


Research shows that students who eat breakfast:


  • Have improved concentration


  • Have improved math and reading scores


  • Perform better on spatial and cognitive tests.


  • Have a more positive attitude towards school


  • Are less likely to be tardy


  • Have better attendance


  • Have fewer reported discipline problems


  • Have more healthy diets which include more calcium, iron, and  B vitamins that are key nutrients to promote health


  • Have improved intake of fruits, vegetables,  whole grains


  • Eat more low-fat dairy foods


  • Drink less soft drinks and snack foods


  • Are less likely to have disordered eating


  • Children that eat cereal frequently have healthier body weights



    Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?


    We have all heard about how we should eat breakfast. Breakfast contributes to only 20% of daily calories but provides 30% calcium, iron, and B vitamins needed for the day. Breakfast makes an important contribution to both the mind and body, yet it is the most frequently skipped meal.  Promoting breakfast in schools helps students meet the Dietary Guidelines and reinforces appropriate lifelong eating habits.


    What is a healthy breakfast?


    A healthy breakfast should include foods from a variety of food groups, such as whole grains, fruit, and dairy, to ensure that you get a good mix of both nutrients and fiber.  A nutritious breakfast should include foods from at least three food groups: Fruit, Dairy, Bread, Milk, Meat or Meat alternate


    How does breakfast help you do better on tests?


    Breakfast literally means “break the fast.” By the time breakfast rolls around, you have gone 8-12 hours without eating. By eating breakfast, you will have energy throughout the morning and be able to concentrate better in class and during tests.


    Can eating breakfast improve my athletic performance?


    Yes it is especially important for athletes who train in the morning to eat breakfast.  Skipping breakfast causes the body to rely on glycogen storage in the liver and muscle for energy. Your body needs a healthy breakfast to fuel the mind and body.  To train and perform your best, you need both the energy from food and that which is already stored in the muscle. Breakfast eaters have better hand-eye coordination, which is a critical element of success in many sports.


    What if I don’t like eating breakfast?


    Common excuses for skipping breakfast include: “I have to run or I will be late.” “I am just not hungry that early in the morning.”  “I don’t like breakfast foods.” If eating breakfast is new to you, give your body a couple of weeks to get adjusted.  The key to fitting in a healthy breakfast is to plan ahead.


    What are the facts on skipping breakfast?


  • Breakfast skippers are more likely to get stomach pains and headaches caused by hunger, which can make learning and test-taking challenging


  • If you skip breakfast you miss nutrients like calcium, iron, and B vitamins that are typically not made up during the day.


  • Skipping breakfast is not an effective weight loss tactic.


  • Skipping breakfast can lead to binge eating later.


  • Breakfast skippers tend to snack more on high-fat, low-nutrition foods like chips, candy, soft drinks.


  • Breakfast skippers are more likely to overeat at lunch because of excessive hunger.


  • Breakfast skippers are more prone to overweight than breakfast eaters.


  • People that skip breakfast eat 2.5 times more calories later in the day.   So eat breakfast and you can actually lower your total caloric intake for the day.


  • Breakfast skippers have higher cholesterol levels, which can increase their risk for heart disease


  • Between 10%-30% of students head out the door in the morning with a low tank of gas, because they have not eaten.


  • More female than male high school students skip breakfast.


  • 59% of high school female skip breakfast more than three times per week.


  • Breakfast skippers have a diet lower in fruit intake and lack fiber, potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C and E.



    Does it matter if others eat breakfast?



    Yes, teachers and peers eating breakfast are very influential in helping students eat breakfast routinely.



    What are some different fast breakfast ideas?



  • Bagel with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter


  • Hot or cold cereal, fruit and milk


  • Sliced turkey, bell peppers, and cheese rolled up in wheat tortilla


  • Blueberry muffin or raisin toast with peanut butter and milk


  • Fruit and yogurt smoothie


  • Peanut butter or hummus on whole-wheat toast or pita bread


  • Cheese pizza


  • Breakfast quesadilla


  • Yogurt and sliced fruit


  • Breakfast burrito or taco


  • Toasted whole-wheat English muffin with lean ham and low-fat cheese


  • Toast with scrambled egg and milk


  • Low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice and toast




    References: 1. NHANES 1999-2002.    2. Barton BA et al. J Am Diet Assoc 2005; 105:1383-1389.     3. Murphy JM et al, Arch Ped Adol Med 1998; 152:899-907.  4. Nicklas TA et al. Am J of Clin Nutr 1998; 67:757S-63S.  5. BIHN Dietary Intake Study