2005-03-10 / Medical

Dietetic Association Study Says Breakfast Is The Key Meal For Kids

People who eat breakfast tend to have better concentration and problem-solving abilities and have more strength and endurance, according to studies cited by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Those who skip breakfast, the ADA notes, often feel tired, irritable or restless in the morning.

After hours of sleeping without a meal or a snack, your body needs to replenish its glucose, also known as blood sugar, the main energy source for the brain. So consider breakfast your early-morning refueling stop and do not risk running on empty.

Refuel for School

Research shows that children who regularly refuel by eating a morning meal tend to do better in school, often scoring higher on tests, and tend to behave better in school, too. Kids who skip breakfast tend to be late or absent from school more.

A State of Minnesota Breakfast Study found that students who eat breakfast before starting school had a general increase in math grades and reading scores, increased attention, improved behavior, and visited the nurse less often. Researchers at Harvard Medical Center in Boston found that hungry children are more likely to have behavioral and academic problems than children who get enough to eat. At school, hungry children had more problems with irritability, anxiety, and aggression, and were absent or late more often.

During National School Breakfast Week, March 7 to 11, sponsored by the School Nutrition Association, parents are urged to ensure that children can perform to the best of their ability by eating a nutritious breakfast either at home or at school. The School Nutrition Association confirms findings that kids do better in school, including better grades and higher scores on standardized tests, and notes that students who eat breakfast do not end up sick in the nurse’s office as much. The Medical Society of the State of New York encourages healthy lifestyles and works to prevent or reduce the risk of disease in children and adults.

No Super-sizing for School Breakfasts

The School Breakfast Program has been providing healthy breakfasts to students for more than 30 years and now feeds more than eight million children daily. A school breakfast is often the only morning meal available to many children and therefore represents a vital part of the initiative to improve the education skills of young children and prepare them for life.

The US Department of Agriculture sets the standards for the federal School Breakfast Program to make sure the meals are nutritious and provide less than 30% of their calories from fat, and 10% or less from saturated fat.

School breakfasts should be in age-appropriate serving sizes—avoiding super sizing. Each student must be offered:

Milk, a fruit or a vegetable (or 100% fruit or vegetable juice), two servings of bread or cereal; or two servings of protein-rich foods, such as meat, eggs, or peanut butter.

Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through the School Breakfast Program. Children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the federal poverty level (currently $24,505 for a family of four) are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level (currently $34,873 for a family of four) are eligible for reduced-price meals.

For more information about the School Breakfast Program and other child nutrition programs in New York State, call 1-800-942-3858.

This information is provided by the Medical Society of the State of New York. For more health-related information and referrals to physicians in your community, contact your local county medical society.

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