Breakfast Helps You Make the Grade

Amanda FloecknerHealthy Living

Breakfast Helps You Make the GradeBreakfast literally means “break the fast.” By the time breakfast rolls around, many people have gone 8 to 12 hours without eating. By comparison, we eat every 3 to 5 hours throughout the day when we are awake. Breakfast makes an important contribution to both the mind and body, yet it is the most frequently skipped meal.

Common excuses for skipping breakfast include:
• “I have to run, so that I am not late for school.”
• “I am just not hungry that early in the morning.”
• “I am trying to lose a few pounds.”

Many people head out the door in the morning with a low tank of gas, because they have not eaten. However, you will find no time like the present to enjoy the benefits of eating breakfast!

Helping the mind
Breakfast may make you a better student. Research shows that students who eat breakfast have greater attention spans, improved concentration, and perform better on spatial and cognitive tests. Breakfast eaters have better school attendance and are less apt to show up tardy.

Breakfast skippers are more likely to get stomach pains and headaches caused by hunger, which could make learning and test-taking challenging.

Helping the body
Breakfast eaters are healthier. They are more likely to meet the nutritional recommendations for their age groups, especially for vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, iron, and fiber. Breakfast skippers have higher cholesterol levels, which can increase their risk for heart disease.

Breakfast skippers tend to snack more on high-fat, low-nutrition foods and are more likely to overeat at lunch because of excessive hunger. This is possibly why breakfast skippers are more prone to overweight than breakfast eaters. According to the National Weight Control Registry, 78% of people who lose weight and keep it off eat breakfast every day.

Helping athletes
Breakfast eaters have better hand-eye coordination, which is a critical element of success in many sports. Skipping meals causes the body to rely on glycogen storage in the liver and muscle for energy. To train and perform your best, you need both the energy from food and that which is already stored in the muscle. That is why it is especially important for athletes who train in the morning to eat breakfast.

Making breakfast part of your routine
A healthy breakfast should include foods from a variety of food groups, such as whole grains, fruit, and dairy, to ensure that you get a good mix of both nutrients and fiber. If eating breakfast is new to you, give your body a couple of weeks to get adjusted. The key to fitting in a healthy breakfast is to plan ahead.

Try these breakfast ideas, which can help you become a healthier individual, better student, and more energized athlete:
• Ready-to-eat cereal, preferably one that is high in fiber, low in sugar, and made of whole grains
• Hot cereal
• Bagel with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter
• Yogurt with sliced fruit
• Fruited low-fat muffin or bread
• Fruit and yogurt smoothie
• Peanut butter or hummus on whole-wheat toast
• Cheese pizza
• Breakfast quesadilla with low-fat cream cheese and sliced fruit
• Breakfast burrito or taco
• Toasted whole-wheat English muffin with lean ham and low-fat cheese
• Toasted pita with scrambled egg and low-fat cheese
• Low-fat milk
• 100% fruit juice

Choosing a healthy breakfast cereal
In addition to great taste and flavor, select your cereal based on the following label criteria:
• More than 3 grams (g) of fiber
• Less than 2-3 g of fat
• A ratio of greater than 4 g carbohydrate:1 g sugar (for example, if the label reads 28 g of carbohydrate, it should not contain more than 7 g of sugar)

Adapted from fall 2009 newsletter produced by E2: Eating and Exercise for Optimal Nutrition (

References and recommended readings
BreakfastFirst. The benefits of breakfast. Accessed May 2, 2013.

US Dept of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Benefits of breakfast. Accessed May 2, 2013.

Submitted by Sheryl Lozicki, RD, MBA
Updated by staff
Review Date 5/13