School Breakfast Revisited

Written by Emily Dwyer – See bio below


Are Kids Really Eating Breakfast?

It’s been found that 77% of elementary-aged children are eating breakfast, yet as children age, that percentage decreases to 50% by middle school, and 36% by high school. (Breakfast in America) We’ve all heard at one point or another that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why are kids still skipping breakfast?

A study from Rush University Medical Center, has identified that kids who eat breakfast regularly are shown to have, “a lower BMI, consume less fat throughout the day, meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, have higher daily calcium intake, have higher daily fiber intake, and have better performance (memory and attention)”. (The Science Behind Breakfast)

Skipping breakfast, can have a serious negative effect on student’s daily performance. Allyssa Mullins, Special Education Teacher says, “Students who eat breakfast in the morning come in awake and ready to learn. They are the students saying, ‘good morning’ and remembering what the morning routine consists of. While students who aren’t eating breakfast come in sluggish, quiet, and sleepy.” Teachers across the board are all saying the same thing – fuel from food in the morning is crucial for learning! Therefore, it’s critical that kids get in the routine of eating breakfast every morning so they can perform well at school, during extracurricular activities and later in life.


Children & Adolescence Need More Calories/Fuel

Children & teens are rapidly growing. This means they have a high metabolic turnover and require more calories to get through the day. They also require more glycogen stores during sleep. Glycogen is a complex sugar that’s the primary storage of glucose or energy in the body. Carbs, proteins and fats are all metabolized to glucose before they’re used for immediate or sustained energy in the body. Glycogen is our primary source of energy during a starvation bout (such as sleeping for 8 hours, etc). Naturally, kids sleep longer hours than adults and thus fast for longer periods of time. 

After a good night’s rest, it’s important that kids eat a well-balanced breakfast to restock their energy supply (blood glucose and glycogen stores). High-quality carbs are especially important for active adolescents and teens that are involved in sports. Further, the importance of quality protein in the morning cannot be stressed enough. The body readily utilizes amino acids during sleep to repair, restore, and regenerate muscle, tissues, blood, enzymes, & other important components that make the body function optimally, fight disease, and sustain daily tasks.


What Happens When You Don’t Eat Breakfast?

After a starvation bout, (such as sleeping for many hours) glycogen stores have run out and blood glucose is maintained through the oxidation of fat stores. Once you’re awake and moving, energy needs increase, thus blood glucose levels drop. In the absence of eating breakfast, glucose levels drop even further. This results in the release of adrenaline and cortisol stress-hormones by the brain. A stress response through the ancient gut-brain connection – your brain literally tells your body it’s starving! These hormones can motivate feelings of irritability and agitation, which therefore will affect the child’s performance in school either by not concentrating, or distracting others with their agitated behavior (The Conversation). This lack of fuel can spiral into low grades, the need for repeating grade levels, poor work quality and/or bad behavior. This vicious cycle can lead to a loss of self-esteem leading to body image, self-confidence and self-worth issues that can follow into adulthood. School should be a place where children can thrive and shine, not a place they dislike engaging and learning.


Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Parents’ overwhelmingly busy schedules are a barrier in providing their child with breakfast, especially if they’re kids say they, “aren’t hungry.” However, offering breakfast each morning is crucial for intellectual, social, and physical development. Even if you feel there’s simply not enough time to cook a well-balanced breakfast, here are some quick recipes you can throw together in the morning in under 15 minutes.

  • Eggs are a great go-to breakfast food that cook up in minutes! Hard-boiled, scrambled, or pan-fried in olive oil.
    • Pair them with sauteed veggies such as fresh spinach, peppers, onions, broccoli, etc. 
    • Eggs are packed with healthy fats, quality protein, iron, choline, lutein, and carotenoids – all wonderful nutrients for eye, skin, hair, blood, and brain-health. If you enjoy hard-boiled eggs they can be easily boiled in 12 minutes and prepped for the week. They make an easy grab and go breakfast or healthy snack!
  • High-fiber, high-protein (above 5 grams per slice) toast with nut butter and fruit
  • Avocado toast with protein topping (egg, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, greens, edamame, etc.)
  • Breakfast smoothie with protein and fresh/frozen fruit
  • High-fiber, high-protein cereal with fruit and/or nuts
  • Make-ahead muffins (they’ll last all week) such as: apple oat muffins, blueberry, bran, zucchini blueberry, carrot, cranberry orange, etc.
  • Greek yogurt blueberry pancakes (easy to freeze and reheat on a frying pan or cast iron!)
  • Overnight oats, which can be prepped a few days prior and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to eat, these can even be eaten cold if that’s what you prefer!
  • Instant oatmeal low in sugar or straight up wheat bran warmed with milk
  • Quinoa, fruit, nut, & seed bowl
  • Homemade bagels that can be frozen, thawed, and grilled
  • Chocolate Avocado Protein Pudding for Breakfast!

Some schools offer “breakfast clubs”, where kids get together in the morning before the start of school, to eat breakfast. Governmentally funded programs such as the National School Breakfast Program provides breakfast to ensure children are meeting their nutritional needs. If your child’s school does not offer this program, perhaps suggest it at the next parent-teacher night.  Even if your child already eats a healthy breakfast each morning, you could be helping someone else whose lacking that morning necessity! Eat your fuel!


Some Easy on-the-go Breakfast Recipes

Guilt Free Chocolate Brownie Smoothie: https://www.holistictrick.com/guilt-free-brownie-batter-smoothie 

Applesauce Oat Muffins: http://bakedinaz.com/2016/01/applesauce-oat-muffins.html

Kid-Friendly Smoothies: https://www.momables.com/10-healthy-smoothies-for-kids/

Greek Yogurt Blueberry Pancakes: https://sweetpeasandsaffron.com/extra-fluffy-blueberry-almond-pancakes/

Kid-Friendly Overnight Oats: https://tasty.co/compilation/kid-friendly-overnight-oats-4-ways


Citations

Breakfast in America. Retrieved from https://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/nutrition/breakfast-in-america.html 

The Science Behind Breakfast. Retrieved from https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-
health/why-you-should-eat-breakfast

Drummond, C., & Social Health Sciences. (2019, February 25). What happens when kids don’t eat breakfast? Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/what-happens-when-kids-dont-eat-breakfast-33311

 


About our contributor, Emily Dwyer!

Emily is fairly new to Rhode Island and is originally from Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 with a degree in Health Management & Policy. Emily has always had a passion for nutrition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. She hopes to one day further her education in public health with a focus in nutrition and nutrition-related disease. Emily believes that food is one of the best forms of medicine, and takes a holistic approach when it comes to treatable conditions that may be diet-related. She hopes to contribute to The Holistic Trick by offering her ideas, knowledge, and opinions to help readers strive to lead the healthiest lives they can! 

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