Mothers knew about the importance of breakfast, generations before the ink was dry in scientific journals. When I was a scrawny kid, leaving for school without food was unthinkable. No matter whether we ate leftovers from the night before or more traditional toast and eggs, my mother knew that an empty stomach left the brain impaired. Little did she know I’d grow up to be a dietitian, promoting her infinite wisdom, with cold hard science to back me up.
We now have decades of research showing that breakfast eating improves children’s academic performance (read: test scores), attention span, memory, mood, and ability to stay on task (2). Just ask your favorite classroom teacher. Children who fail to eat a nourishing breakfast may seem moody, have more behavior problems, visit the nurse’s office with vague complaints of stomach pain and headache, and miss more days of school.
Teens and adults may think skipping breakfast will help them lose weight. However, according to the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, 78% of the winning “losers” eat breakfast every day. (3)
Skipping breakfast may actually work against weight watchers in several ways. For one, without calories coming in after our long fast, our bodies may try to conserve energy, thereby lowering our metabolic rate. In one extensive review of breakfast habits, body weight and academic performance among children and teens, researchers found breakfast eaters generally consumed more daily calories, but were less likely to be overweight. Breakfast eating turned out to be one of the most protective factors against unwanted weight gain. (2)
In addition, people who skip or eat an inadequate breakfast (a donut and coffee, a bag of candy and a soda, for example) may get extremely hungry by lunch time and end up overeating. Or, instead of having a healthful planned meal in the morning, they may reach for snack foods, which tend to be high in fat, sugar, salt and calories, but devoid of meaningful and satisfying nutrients. (4)
In summary, most breakfast researchers advocate “consumption of a healthful breakfast on daily basis consisting of a variety of foods, especially high-fiber and nutrient-rich whole grains, fruits and dairy products.” (2)
Let’s add vegetables to that list too. Quick and easy omelets make natural envelopes for seasonal vegetables. Sprinkle some cheese on top for kid appeal – the gooey factor -- and wrap your creation in a whole wheat tortilla.
Note to children who on occasion must dash off to make the school bus just in time: wrap your tortilla in a napkin, grab your backpack, hurry and GO. We’re talking real fast food breakfasts worth eating.
No matter where you live, make breakfast an occasion at your house. Provide inspiration for the day, kind words, and a smile, and you’ll help make the world a brighter place.