There is so much controversy around breakfast, whether we should eat it, whether we shouldn’t and if we do should it be cereal, eggs, toast, yoghurt, full-fat milk, skimmed-milk… Is fruit juice ok?…. The confusion is very real. Let’s look at the facts and how they might apply to your child.
The Effects Of Skipping Breakfast … What The Research Shows
Breakfast skipping is too common in children and the percentage of breakfast skippers increases with age. Research has shown that skipping breakfast is positively correlated with an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese. Skipping breakfast has also shown to significantly affect children and adolescent’s cognitive function; those who consumed breakfast reported reduced tiredness, hunger and increased alertness.
Overall research shows that eating breakfast can contribute to improved cognitive function and concentration in school therefore it’s recommended to feed your child breakfast in the morning.
What Should You Feed Them?
A typical breakfast for a school child in the UK is cereal, milk and a glass of orange juice. However, the sugary cereals and juices are not helping their concentration at school. This meal is high in sugar, low in protein and healthy fats and as a result will cause a higher blood sugar spike meaning the child will feel hungrier more quickly.
One serving of chocolate rice cereal with milk (30g, 125ml) + 1 serving of orange juice (250ml) comes in at 36g of sugar. The daily allowance for a child is 5% of their daily energy intake which works out around 20g.
It has been found that children who consume low glycemic index (GI) breakfasts have more sustained concentration throughout the morning. Low GI breakfasts don’t spike the blood sugar as much as higher GI foods. Food combinations and portion size can impact GI however, to keep it simple see the examples below.
Foods with a lower glycemic index options: eggs, cheese, meats, wholegrain toast, jumbo oats, natural Greek yoghurt, berries.
Foods with a higher glycemic index: sugary cereals, fruit juice, skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt.
Foods which are rich in complex carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats help to slow the release of sugar into the blood stream.
Other research has shown that children and adolescents who consume skimmed or semi skimmed milk and diet soft drinks for breakfast have a greater risk of becoming over weight or obese. This is hugely reductionistic and therefore I’m not suggesting that if you consume skimmed milk you’ll become obese but in general low fat foods are more likely to spike your blood glucose levels leaving you feeling more hungry quicker and consequently eating more later on.
Quick and Easy Healthy Breakfast Examples:
- Overnight jumbo oats, made with full fat milk (or dairy free alternative), cinnamon and berries.
- Eggs (poached, fried or scrambled) and vegetables.
- Wholegrain toast with peanut butter (no added sugar) or smoked salmon.
- Vegetable omelette.
- Greek yoghurt with cinnamon, berries, nuts and seeds.
- Homemade low sugar granola/ muesli with berries and full fat milk (or dairy-free alternative).
It’s pretty simple really. In conclusion feed your child breakfast every day (to help with their performance and satisfaction) and ideally feed them foods which are rich in proteins, fibre and healthy fats (see from the list above) to ensure that their blood sugar levels stay stable throughout the morning keeping them fuller for longer.
Rampersaud, G. C. (2009). Benefits of breakfast for children and adolescents: update and recommendations for practitioners. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 3(2), 86-103.
Nilsen, B. B., Yngve, A., Monteagudo, C., Tellström, R., Scander, H., & Werner, B. (2017). Reported habitual intake of breakfast and selected foods in relation to overweight status among seven-to nine-year-old Swedish children. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 1403494817724951.
Cooper, S. B., Bandelow, S., & Nevill, M. E. (2011). Breakfast consumption and cognitive function in adolescent schoolchildren. Physiology & behavior, 103(5), 431-439.
Cooper, S. B., Bandelow, S., Nute, M. L., Morris, J. G., & Nevill, M. E. (2012). Breakfast glycaemic index and cognitive function in adolescent school children. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(12), 1823-1832.