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A Healthy Breakfast Boosts Brainpower

By: Tracy Mendez, RDN

  • Friday, February 14, 2020
  • 2 Minute Read   

Many people don’t realize the importance of eating a balanced breakfast. Studies show that students who skip breakfast tend to have decreased cognitive performance and lower intakes of fiber, folate, iron, and calcium, while starting the day with breakfast is a healthy habit associated with better health, diet quality, behavior and academic benefits.

People associate a healthy breakfast with elaborately planned meals, but healthy meals don’t have to be time-consuming or fancy. Whether it is toast, fruit and a cup of milk, a yogurt parfait with fruit and granola or an egg and cheese burrito, beginning the day with a balanced breakfast is one of the most important steps people can take to live a healthier lifestyle. 

This is especially important for kids. Consuming three or more food groups at breakfast ensures children have enough energy to sustain them through lunch. In fact, research suggests that consuming a balanced breakfast can lead to increased academic performance. Teachers, students and parents can play a role to ensure breakfast is on the back-to-school schedule. 

Creating a grocery list or prepping breakfast the night before is a great way to stay on track. Here is more information on practical suggestions on how to plan a healthy morning meal.

Not every household will have the time or means to create a healthy breakfast before school. Fortunately, a balanced breakfast is available in many schools through the School Breakfast Program. Partaking in school breakfast is a great option that leads to higher intakes of healthy foods like dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, resulting in increased intakes of fiber and calcium.

Breakfast is critical to a healthy eating pattern, which is why it is a key part of Dairy Council of California’s K-12 classroom nutrition lesson plans. Classroom educators can incorporate nutrition education into their teaching plan with programs that align with Common Core Standards.

Educating children about nutrition and the importance of making healthy food choices can improve their academic performance and contribute to healthy eating habits as they grow. The start of the school year is a great time to teach children the importance of having a balanced breakfast. Showing students this short video created by Dairy Council of CA about eating a healthy breakfast, in combination with integrated lesson plans, can instill a preference for healthy eating in children.

Ramsey SA et al. Skipping breakfast is associated with lower diet quality in young US children. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 2018;72:548–556. 
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.
Littlecott HJ et al. Association between breakfast consumption and educational outcomes in 9–11-year-old children. Public Health Nutrition. 2016;2.

Tracy Mendez, RDN

Tracy Mendez, RDN

Tracy Mendez, Nutrition Education Director, is a practicing registered dietitian nutritionist with expertise in advancing nutrition education.

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