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Why You Need to Eat Breakfast

September 02, 2017

There’s a good reason we call breakfast the most important meal of the day, and now a recent study is providing further evidence of why this is so true.

The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, involved 802 children between the ages of 4 to 10 years old and 884 children between the ages of 11 to 18. Researchers used food diaries to track the children’s nutrition over a four-year period from 2008 to 2012. They then compared the children’s nutrient intake to British dietary guidelines.

Why Eating Breakfast is Good for You

In the study, researchers considered breakfast a more than 100-calorie meal consumed between 6 to 9 a.m. The study found that kids who ate breakfast every day had a better nutritional profile than those who didn’t eat this meal daily. The breakfast group also had higher levels of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine, which aids in thyroid function.

Thirty-one percent of children who didn’t eat breakfast did not meet the lower recommended intake of iron, compared to just 4.4 percent of children who ate breakfast. Nineteen percent of breakfast skippers did not meet the lower recommended intake for calcium, while nearly 22 percent didn’t meet the lower recommended intake for iodine. Only 2.9 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, of children who ate breakfast didn’t meet the lower intake level for calcium and iodine. None of the breakfast eaters had folate intake levels that didn’t not meet the lower recommended intake, while about 7 percent of breakfast skippers didn’t meet this threshold. 

The study also found that breakfast-eating habits often got worse as kids got older. About 6.5 percent of four to 10-year-olds missed breakfast every day, while 27 percent of 11 to 18-year-olds did. There also were gender and income differences in breakfast eating patterns: girls tended to miss breakfast more than boys, and children who ate breakfast every day were more likely to come from a higher-income household.

This research shows breakfast is an important source of nutrients for children. Starting off the day with this meal also could help kids establish better eating habits throughout the day.

Numerous studies have found varying benefits of eating breakfast, including jumpstarting your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day, eating less fat throughout the day, improved mood, memory and attention, consuming more calcium and fiber and having a lower body mass index (BMI), which is a measure body fat based on your weight in relation to your height. 

Other studies also have highlighted the disadvantages of skipping breakfast, including an increased likelihood that you’ll eat unhealthy or be overweight and a decreased likelihood that you would eat enough fruits and vegetables every day.

Eating breakfast every morning doesn’t have to be a chore. Hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, oatmeal or a high-fiber cereal are all good breakfast choices. A low-fat protein shake, high-fiber toast with natural peanut butter, a protein bar, yogurt or glass of milk are all easy and healthy breakfast items, too. Even if you and your family are on the go, you can find healthy options. Many fast-food chains and coffee shops like McDonald’s and Starbucks now offer oatmeal, fresh fruit or breakfast sandwiches or burritos with egg whites. 

The most important thing is not to skip breakfast. The study focused on children, so parents will play a critical role in making sure their kids get the necessary nutrients and start their day off on the right foot. By making healthy choices for your family at breakfast, you’ll lay the groundwork for building healthier eating habits overall.

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