The habit of skipping breakfast is cause for concern since daily nutrient intake plays a pivotal role in growth and development in children and adolescents. Increased demands for growth mean that more energy, or calories, are needed. Research has shown that children who skip breakfast do not compensate for it by eating more later in the day. Skipping breakfast may also affect children’s academic performance – this might be because engagement and cognitive abilities may be compromised due to low blood glucose.
Skipping breakfast linked to poor nutrition
Research has found that children who skip breakfast tend to get more of their energy from foods with added sugars, typically with a lower amount of nutrients.1 The intake of several key nutrients such as vitamin A, calcium, fibre, iron, folate, protein, carbohydrates, and fats has been found to be lower in children who did not eat breakfast.1
This may be a result of socioeconomic status, as access to breakfast may be limited to many children in the US. The children who don’t eat breakfast tend to rely more heavily on snacks that do not provide the adequate nutrition they need.1 The concern is also that poor eating habits early in life could lead to worse adult nutrition and potentially, obesity together with its associated health risks.
Skipping breakfast linked with poor academic performance
While there has been evidence that eating a healthy breakfast is associated with health and cognitive performance of school aged children, a direct link with educational outcomes has been difficult to prove.
One study reported significant associations between eating breakfast and educational performance in children aged 9-11.2,3 Importantly, the study found that higher quality breakfasts were associated with greater academic outcomes.
Another study looked at the effects of skipping breakfast on the academic performance of secondary school students.4
In this study, only 53% of students reported eating breakfast frequently. The study reported that adolescents who frequently skipped breakfast on school days had lower GCSE grades than those who consistently ate breakfast.
Eating breakfast less than one school day per week was associated with a decrease in score – on average 10.25 points compared to those with more frequent breakfast intake. This was a difference of nearly two grades.
Eating breakfast regularly has benefits on physical activity
Researchers have found that regularly eating breakfast is associated with increased physical activity in adolescents.5
The results of this study imply that eating breakfast on a regular basis may have benefits on physical activity and can provide a valuable message to young adolescents about the importance of healthy dietary habits and physical activity behaviours.
Skipping breakfast results in more total calories consumed
Researchers have found that adolescents who skipped breakfast consumed, on average, 483 kJ per day more than did those who had eaten breakfast.6 They also found that the daily intake of protein and fibre was higher in those who ate breakfast, although their overall intake of fruits and vegetables remained unchanged.
Promoting a Healthy Breakfast
Professionals and parents should consider intervening and creating strategies to encourage eating a healthy breakfast at early ages.1
Healthy active children should eat 7 grams or more of protein at breakfast
Dietary protein is important for the building blocks of lean tissue growth all throughout life. This is especially important for children.
In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition,7 researchers from Switzerland, Canada, and the United Kingdom determined how different amounts of protein eaten at breakfast and the distribution dietary protein throughout the day impacts net protein balance in children.
The study reported that healthy active children should consume 7 or more grams of their total daily protein intake at breakfast to offset the protein losses from overnight fasting.
- Ramsay, S., Bloch, T., Marriage, B., Shriver, L., Spees, C., & Taylor, C. (2018). Skipping breakfast is associated with lower diet quality in young US children. European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41430-018-0084-3
- Cardiff University News Release: “Good breakfast, good grades?” Available from: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/view/162112-good-breakfast,-good-grades Last Accessed: November 17, 2015
- Hannah J Littlecott, Graham F Moore, Laurence Moore, Ronan A Lyons and Simon Murphy. Association between breakfast consumption and educational outcomes in 9–11-year-old children. Public Health Nutrition, available on CJO2015. doi:10.1017/S1368980015002669.
- Adolphus, K., Lawton, C. and Dye, L. (2019). Associations Between Habitual School-Day Breakfast Consumption Frequency and Academic Performance in British Adolescents. Frontiers in Public Health, 7.
- Zakrzewski-Fruer JK, et al. Physical activity duration but not energy expenditure differs between daily and intermittent breakfast consumption in adolescent girls: a randomized crossover trial. J Nutr. 2018; 148:236-244.
- Zakrzewski-Fruer, J. K., Plekhanova, T., Mandila, D., Lekatis, Y., & Tolfrey, K. (2017). Effect of breakfast omission and consumption on energy intake and physical activity in adolescent girls: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 118(5), 392-400. DOI:10.1017/S0007114517002148
- Karagounis, L. G., Volterman, K. A., Breuillé, D., Offord, E. A., Emady-Azar, S., & Moore, D. R. (2018). Protein Intake at Breakfast Promotes a Positive Whole-Body Protein Balance in a Dose-Response Manner in Healthy Children: A Randomized Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, 148(5), 729-737. doi:10.1093/jn/nxy026
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