Proof Positive: Breakfast Improves Kids' Grades, Mood and Weight
Proof Positive: Breakfast Improves Kids' Grades, Mood and Weight



From ages 2 to 18, kids will grow five to six times their starting weight and height.1 They get the energy to sustain this growth by eating regular, balanced meals and snacks. Breakfast is especially important, as nutrition stores are used up during sleep.

Despite the well-known importance of breakfast, nearly one-third of school-age children arrive at school without having eaten a meal.2 Students skip breakfast for a variety of reasons: to save time, lose weight, or because they simply aren’t hungry before the bell rings. This trend of skipping breakfast is concerning to educators, as it has been shown to negatively impact kids’ overall health and academic performance.

Breakfast Benefits

A good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast are a winning combination. A review of 21 studies found that regularly eating breakfast is associated with improved school performance. Additionally, it suggests that eating breakfast has a positive impact on kids’ ability to stay on-task. Other benefits include improved memory and lower body weight. Those who skipped breakfast were more likely to be overweight.3

Kids and teens who regularly eat breakfast have between 20 and 60 percent higher levels of iron, B vitamins and vitamin D than those who don't.4 Skipping breakfast is associated with significantly lower levels of fiber and folate.5 These vitamins and minerals are crucial for growth and often aren't made up for during lunch and dinner.

Make It Balanced

A balanced breakfast including protein, fiber and fat keeps children feeling full through lunch. Including foods from three or more food groups is a simple model to ensure a variety of nutrients. Breakfast lends itself to being a nutrition-packed meal, with its emphasis on Dairy (milk, yogurt); Fruits; Grains (cereal, oatmeal); and Protein (eggs, milk).

A healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be time-consuming or fancy. Here are some quick, portable breakfast ideas for kids to try on their own:

• An apple, toast, and a cheese stick
• A banana and a cup of yogurt with a granola bar
• Whole-grain cereal, milk and berries
They can learn to build a balanced breakfast with our video, game, or worksheet.

One study showed that even something as simple as a cup of low-fat milk in the morning boosted grades for girls.6 While the study didn't specifically show an effect in boys, that doesn't mean they don't benefit too. Milk offers a unique blend of nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, fat and essential vitamins and minerals. Even chocolate milk can be a healthy choice!

A Teacher’s Role

Teachers can help improve the health and academic performance of their students by encouraging them to eat breakfast at home or school and teaching nutrition education.

Promote the School Breakfast ProgramTeacher with children

Teachers should also inform families about their school’s breakfast program, as school cafeterias have healthy, convenient and affordable breakfast options for students. Student participation in the USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) is associated with increased grades and standardized test scores, reduced absenteeism, and improved cognitive performance (e.g., memory).7 Kids who participate in the SBP have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy.5

Teach Nutrition Education

All children and their families deserve access to nutrition education and healthy foods. Teachers can meet Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy while teaching nutrition education. The Dairy Council of California nutrition education curriculum includes a breakfast lesson in each grade level program.

Whether it's in the kitchen, cafeteria, or classroom, breakfast fuels learning, promotes growth, and helps make healthier kids. Parents and teachers can work together to ensure that kids make eating before classroom instruction begins a top priority.

Click here to find more articles, tips, recipes and breakfast ideas.

1. Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics.

2. Deshmukh-Taskar PR, Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE, Keast DR, et al. The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumption with nutrient intake and weight status in children and adolescents: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010; 110:869-878.

3. Adolphus K, Lawton C, Dye L. The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013; 7:425.

4. Gibson S. Micronutrient intakes, micronutrient status and lipid profiles among young people consuming different amounts of breakfast cereals: further analysis of data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Young People aged 4 to 18 years. Public Health Nutr. 2003; 6:815-820.

5. Ramsay SA, Bloch TD, Marriage B, Shriver LH, Spees CK, Taylor CA. Skipping breakfast is associated with lower diet quality in young US children. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018; 72:548-556. 

6. Rahmani K, Djazayery A, Habibi MI, et al. Effects of daily milk supplementation on improving the physical and mental function as well as school performance among children: results from a school feeding program. J Res Med Sci. 2011; 16:469-476.

7. Health and Academic Performance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. Published May 2014.


Balanced Nurition for Your Child