New Study Says a Healthy Breakfast Makes for Better Grades

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We’ve heard for years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but now there’s hard evidence to support that kids who eat breakfast do better in school. A recent study found that the “odds of achieving an above-average educational performance” were up to twice as high for children who ate breakfast, compared with those who didn’t.

Experts looked at the eating habits of 5,000 children, ages 9 to 11, from more than 100 grade schools. In what is believed to be the largest study of its kind to date, researchers found that children who ate a better quality breakfast such as proteins, whole grain cereals and fresh fruits, had better grades. The study also found that eating an unhealthy breakfast – such as donuts or heavily sweetened cereal – didn’t help with school performance.

Brooke Fenneman, M.S., R.D., a clinical dietitian specialist at Riley at IU Health, suggests these tips to help parents offer better breakfast choices.

Choose foods that have both protein and fiber.

“Yogurt and a banana is a good breakfast because a child can get protein from the yogurt, and fiber from the banana,” said Fenneman. “Fiber and protein can help keep a child from getting hungry again right away, and they boost energy. Add a glass of low-fat milk for more protein. This helps children feel full longer, which enables them to focus on school work, rather than on being hungry and thinking about lunch.”

Serve healthy foods you can prepare ahead of time.

A yogurt smoothie with fruit or vegetables – or both – can be made ahead of time and frozen. Also, nuts (for children who are not allergic), and hard boiled eggs are nutritious and easy to have on hand.

“Almonds are a really good source of protein, and can be added to whole grain cereal,” says Fenneman. “They’re a better option than cashews, which have more fat. Almonds are full of B vitamins, which help provide energy, as well as vitamin E.” Parents can also think outside the box and give children food that is not usually seen on a breakfast menu. “Children have different tastes in the morning,” says Fenneman. “Experiment and see what’s appealing. Parents can give their children hard boiled eggs, paired with cubed cheese, both of which are packed with protein.” 

Watch the sugar.

“Foods such as donuts and heavily sweetened cereals should be avoided because of the high sugar content,” Fenneman says. “They create a rapid spike in glucose, which results in a sudden burst of energy. But this is quickly followed by a drop in energy, making the child feel tired by mid-morning. Foods with protein and fat will give children energy that can last until lunchtime.”

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