Excellence Begins with Breakfast
Better Breakfast Month
September is Better Breakfast Month, and Florida Governor Charlie Crist officially designated September 15-19 as Florida School Breakfast Week. Florida is committed to providing quality nutrition programs that support the growth and development of Florida’s children, and looks forward to the state becoming a national leader in promoting the health, academic and physical benefits received from eating breakfast at school.
Florida School Breakfast Week promotes the availability of breakfast for all children at school and the strong link between eating a nutritious breakfast and improved academic achievement.
If your children participate in the School Breakfast Program, you can be assured they will have a hearty and healthy breakfast each morning. Breakfast at school is very affordable, and if you qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, you also qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast. These qualifications are based on income and are completely confidential. Even if you do not qualify for free or reduced-price breakfasts, your children can often purchase a breakfast for less that one dollar.
Regardless of whether your child eats breakfast at school or at home, the important part is that they do eat breakfast. Not only does it start them off on the right foot for the day, it will help them ingrain the habit through adolescence and into adulthood—where eating a nutritious breakfast is every bit as important as in childhood.
Breakfast provides our bodies and minds with energy to start our day:
- Breakfast breaks a 10-14 hour overnight period of not eating.
- If breakfast is skipped, this fast may stretch to 18 hours.
Consequences of Skipping Breakfast
Research suggests that healthy, normally nourished children cannot do their best work without breakfast.
- For a child who has not eaten breakfast, the morning’s school work may be lost altogether.
- It is not reasonable to expect a child to learn on no fuel.
- Already malnourished children may have a worse reaction to skipping breakfast.
- Effects include physical, behavioral, and scholastic consequences.
Breakfast gives us nutrients we need for energy, tissue growth and repair, and other bodily functions:
- Eating breakfast provides daily intakes of calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, D, E, and B6.
- School-age children often have low intakes of these nutrients—especially if breakfast is not eaten.
- Iron deficiency is associated with impaired cognitive development. Many breads and cereals are fortified or enriched with iron, along with thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
- Iron from plant sources is better absorbed when eaten with acid foods, like orange and grapefruit juice.
- Our brains need glucose, and food is needed to maintain our blood glucose levels.
- Children have high metabolisms associated with behavioral changes that adversely affect school performance in those who skip breakfast.
Negative behavior may occur when breakfast is skipped:
- Increase in nervous habits.
- Decreased attention span.
- Decreased frustration tolerance.
- Behavioral problems may stem from hunger or may be caused by the release of adrenaline, as a consequence of a decrease in blood glucose levels.
In short, if children do not eat breakfast they will be hungry, tired, cranky and distracted.
- Studies show that children who did not eat breakfast made more errors on matching familiar figures.
- Reading and math skills also suffered in breakfast skippers.
- On days without breakfast, children have a decreased ability to solve continuous task problems.
- All of this points to the importance of eating breakfast.
A nutritious breakfast is one that provides adequate energy (calories) along with a variety of other nutrients, like protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Encourage children to eat a meal that includes at least one from each of the following groups:
- Fruits or vegetables
It is important to eat a variety of foods everyday from these food groups as well as the protein group.
- 8 oz. milk OR
- 1.5 oz. cheese OR
- 8 oz. plain yogurt OR
- 8 oz. plain yogurt OR
Fruit or Vegetables:
- ½ cup fruit OR
- ½ cup fruit juice OR
- ½ cup vegetables juice OR
- ½ cup vegetables
- 1 muffin OR
- ½ bagel OR
- 1 slice bread OR
- ¾ cup hot cereal OR
- 1 oz. cold cereal
What are some examples of an all-star breakfast?
- Cereal with berries and skim milk
- Oatmeal, orange, and skim milk
- Pancakes topped with fruit and skim milk
- Bagel with peanut butter, banana and milk
- Granola bar, apple, and yogurt
- Whole wheat toast with poached egg and salsa
- Scrambled egg whites with vegetables and salsa
- Breakfast parfait, yogurt and cereal
The benefits of eating a healthy breakfast are not limited to children. It is important for everyone to begin their day with a nutritious meal. It is the most important meal of the day.
Why is it important?
- Breakfast kick-starts the metabolism to burn fat more effectively.
- Gives needed energy throughout the day.
- Makes you less likely to snack between meals.
- Psychosocial behaviors improve.
- Students and professionals who eat breakfast perform better in school/work, pay more attention, are more creative, think better, and are overall more successful.
Breakfast does not have to take a lot of time. It can be simple or elaborate, cooked or uncooked, eaten sitting down or on-the-run, low or high in calories, mundane or varied. The main thing is to make it part of your routine.
Children and adults who eat breakfast do more and better work in school that those who skip it. Those who skip breakfast tend to tire more quickly, be more irritable, and react less quickly than those who eat breakfast. In short, breakfast doesn’t have to be time-consuming or typical, but eating breakfast is the smart way to start your day.
L. Bobroff, et al, Building Better Breakfasts (4HFNL25), UF/IFAS Florida 4-H Youth Development Program (rev. 01/2009).
"September is Better Breakfast Month," Kansas State University (2004).
J. Law, "Start Smart with School Breakfast" (pdf), UF/IFAS Leon County Extension (2008).