This year’s mantra for National School Breakfast Week, March 4 – 8, is “Be a Star with School Breakfast” and is strikingly appropriate. Eating a nutritious breakfast is an essential component of academic success as it gives the body the jump start it needs to get going and the nutrition it needs to keep going. In addition, a healthy breakfast keeps the hunger pangs away that cause students to lose focus on their lessons because they are more concerned about meeting the first element of Maslow’s Hierarchy of need—food.
Eating a healthy breakfast doesn’t mean grabbing a Pop-Tart, Nutri-Grain Cereal Bar or a bowl of Frosted Flakes, although all three are advertised as being good breakfast foods. The problem is that they are too high in sugar: 17 grams, 13 grams and 11 grams per serving, respectively. Throwing all of that sugar into your body all at once, so early in the morning, does more harm than good, as sugar actually increases hunger and offers a burst but then a sharp decline of energy.
When thinking of a healthy breakfast, think of foods that spoil or need to be cooked such as fruit, eggs and dairy products, excluding sugar-laden yogurts that tend to contain twice as much sugar as a bowl of sugar coated Frosted Flakes. As with any meal, try to make your breakfast complete by including protein, fruit or vegetable, and whole grain in order to give your body the nutrients and long lasting energy it needs to perform at its best. And don’t forget to drink water. A dehydrated brain is no way to begin your day.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, students who skip breakfast show increased errors in school work and have slower memory recall, lower math scores and poorer cognitive functioning than those who do eat breakfast. Studies also show that students who eat a well-rounded breakfast work faster and actually make fewer mistakes in math. Eating a good breakfast also improves performance on demanding mental tasks. Overall, eating breakfast has been proven to markedly increase cognitive function, comprehension and learning in general.
No matter what kind of star you want to be, academic or otherwise, it all begins with a healthy, well-balanced breakfast, whether you eat it at home or in your school cafeteria!
By Lora Incardona