The importance of breakfast for children

Skip breakfast and you will often hear a tut, followed by the words "breakfast is the most important meal of the day". But why is that the case, and why is breakfast especially important for our children?

Dietician Alisa Bar-Dayan explains: "Besides assuring optimal development and growth, positive effects on alertness, attention, performance on standardised achievement tests, and other skills important for academic success are enhanced for those who eat breakfast on a daily basis."

A good metaphor to explain the importance of breakfast to your children is to think of the human body as a car. Following a night's sleep your fuel tank is empty and requires refuelling to effectively tackle the challenges of the day ahead. Until a car has been topped up with sufficient fuel, it will struggle to perform well and will require top-ups earlier than anticipated. A healthy and balanced breakfast can therefore provide the refuelling your child needs to make the most of the day ahead.

In their 2006 Eating Breakfast report, Health4Schools claimed: "Research has shown that children who skip breakfast perform less well academically, socially and emotionally, whereas eating breakfast improves children's problem solving abilities, their memory, concentration levels, visual perception and creative thinking."

Providing children with breakfasts that are rich in fiber, whole grains, and protein can help to boost their attention span, concentration, and memory. Health4Schools also states that a child's breakfast should provide about one quarter of their daily energy intake as levels can be low after a night's sleep. Low blood sugar levels have been linked to poor memory, concentration and learning, so raising blood sugar levels early in the morning will help the body to function more effectively throughout the day.

A good breakfast can also offer an opportunity for iron intake, which has been connected to increasing IQ. Breakfast foods such as cereals with added iron, wholegrain breads, eggs and raisins are all good sources of iron.

A glass of orange juice will also help to re-hydrate your child, whilst providing vitamin C which will help the body to absorb the iron from non-meat foods.

Eating a good breakfast can also help to keep your child's weight in check. It will help to kick-start their metabolism, converting food into energy. Studies have also shown that children who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and do not resort to snacking on high-calorie foods between meals or overeat at lunch.

So, next time your child mutters the words, "it's too early to eat", try reminding them of their empty tank and the importance of refuelling to have a successful day.
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