We all know that breakfast is very important for children (and adults) but has it actually been proven to improve school performance? And what sorts of foods should children have at breakfast time?
If your household is anything like ours, it is all a bit chaotic and a mad rush in the morning to get the kids ready and out the door in time for school! But if there is one thing that you should take time over in the morning, it is what you feed your children.
What does the research say?
Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast are more likely to perform better on academic tests. A UK web-based study of children aged 6-16 years, showed that tests of accuracy and speed were impaired in children who had not had breakfast compared to those that had.
Another study of teenagers based in Korea, showed that the frequency of breakfast was positively associated with academic performance (those having breakfast everyday had the best scores).
Yet another study in China, showed that children who had breakfast everyday had better verbal, performance and full scale IQ scores.
So…there is plenty of evidence showing that children perform better after having breakfast, but what is a healthy breakfast for a child?
What is a healthy breakfast?
A healthy breakfast should consist of a variety of food groups:
- Starchy foods such as cereals, bread, rice, potatoes or pasta to provide energy, B vitamins, fibre and some iron (if fortified). Choose wholegrain varieties whenever possible.
- Fruit and vegetables as these are a good source of vitamins and fibre. Fresh, dried, stewed, canned (in juice not syrup), frozen and pureed/blended are all fine. Try vegetables too, such as tomatoes, mushrooms or avocado.
- Milk and dairy foods provide protein, calcium and B vitamins. Try to include milk or yoghurt (fruit or plain) or a lower fat cheese as options.
- Meat, fish, egg or alternatives provide protein, iron and vitamins. These are not essential at breakfast, but they can add variety when you have more time, perhaps on the weekend. Try different forms off eggs such as scrambled, poached, boiled or “eggy bread”. Other ideas could include smoked salmon or haddock as healthier options to fried bacon.
Some ideas of healthy breakfasts:
– Oats porridge, made with milk and topped with banana and raisins
– Toast and peanut butter with glass of milk and apple slices
– Scrambled or poached egg on wholemeal toast with mushrooms (sauteed in a little olive oil)
– Boiled egg and wholemeal toast “soldiers” with grilled or fresh tomatoes
– Fruit salad and yoghurt with a slice of malt loaf
– Toasted wholegrain English muffin or fruit bread with low fat spread with a glass of milk and a piece of fruit
– Half a toasted bagel topped with cream cheese and tomato
– Stewed prunes and apricots (pureed) and stirred into oats porridge
– Smoked salmon with scrambled egg on toast is a delicious treat
Remember to include a drink at breakfast, as being well hydrated will help children to concentrate better at school.
Which breakfast cereals are suitable?
There are so many choices available these days, it is difficult to know which breakfast cereal to choose! Try and go for wholegrain options with no added sugar. And try to use a variety so children don’t get bored of one particular type!
Look out for “toasted” muesli as these often contain added oil/butter and sugar. Choose “raw” muesli instead as this contains raw oats with no added butter or sugar.
I’ve mentioned fibre quite a lot, but how much fibre do children need? Breakfast can provide a good “boost” to fibre intake.
More on this in a later post about childhood constipation….