There’s no better time to examine breakfast eating habits than at the beginning of the school year. Studies continue to show that students who eat breakfast perform better in school than those who don’t.
While the differences are subtle, students who don’t eat breakfast tend to tire more quickly, be more irritable and react less quickly than those who do eat breakfast. Because a large portion of the basic subjects are taught before noon, breakfast is a most important meal.
The reasons for skipping breakfast are many. Those most frequently heard include: "There isn’t time," "I’m not hungry early in the morning," "Food that early makes me sick," "I don’t like breakfast foods," and "I’m skipping breakfast to help with weight control."
For today’s families, time and energy are at a premium in the morning. Currently, 93 percent of school-age children in the United States live in households in which parents work outside the home. Still, breakfast doesn’t have to take a lot of time to prepare or eat. It can be simple or elaborate, cooked or uncooked, sit-down or eaten on-the-run, low or high in calories, mundane or varied. The main thing is to make it part of your morning routine.
For those who aren’t cereal lovers, breakfast can be just about anything, from last night’s leftover pizza to a peanut butter sandwich. For the person on the run, a blended smoothie – milk, ice cream and fruit or juice – might hit the spot. If this doesn’t appeal, there’s always peanut butter, granola or oatmeal cookies. When served with milk, these provide needed early morning energy for kids on the go. Grapes, apples, bananas, hunks of cheese, cartons of yogurt and hard-cooked eggs are other quick and easy on-the-go breakfast ideas. When planning breakfast, just remember "bread-fruit-milk," the basic components of a nutritious breakfast.
Besides lack of time, saving calories is the most common reason given for skipping breakfast. If your typical breakfast is a couple of donuts and coffee with two teaspoons of sugar, you have good reason to be concerned about the value of the calories you’re taking in at breakfast. The answer, however, is not to skip breakfast, but to select a breakfast that provides you with the nutrients you need to get you going for the fewest calories. For example, a breakfast of eight ounces of fat-free milk with one ounce dry cereal or toast and six ounces of fruit juice provides less than 250 calories but enough energy, protein, vitamins and minerals to help you avoid mid-morning fatigue and the subsequent urge to eat anything in sight.
In short, a good nutritious breakfast need not include typical breakfast foods, but eating something for breakfast is a good habit to practice.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension