Breakfast boosts a successful start to the day

August 25, 2004|BY LYNN F. LITTLE

People who skip breakfast typically fall short on energy early in the day. Many also start overeating before lunch to compensate for the missed meal. Breakfast breaks the overnight fast and provides energy needed for successfully starting the day. Children who eat breakfast seem to do better in the classroom.

A Tufts University study of Boston-area students ages 9 to 11 compared the classroom performances of students who ate a breakfast of oatmeal to those who either chose cold cereal or skipped breakfast. The students who ate oatmeal were better able to perform in areas that require cognitive function. Math class is an example.

From a nutritional perspective, that should come as no surprise. As a whole grain and a complex carbohydrate, oatmeal is digested slowly. The delayed release of glucose provides lasting energy. Studies at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital also found that students who ate breakfast had improved math scores and were more likely to be on time, have regular attendance and exhibit fewer behavioral problems.


A Baylor College of Medicine study in Houston found that teens who ate breakfast consumed less fat during the day and also were more likely to meet two-thirds of the daily recommendations for vitamins and minerals.

A traditional breakfast - cereal, milk and fruit or fruit juice - need not be difficult to prepare. Many hot cereals, which typically have a lower cost per serving, can be prepared quickly, either in the microwave or by mixing with boiling water.

As you plan breakfast, choose foods from three food groups to start the day:

1. From the grain group, choose a whole-grain breakfast cereal, toast, bagel, muffin, pancakes or waffles. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that break down slowly in the digestive system to provide fiber and glucose needed for lasting energy.

2. From the dairy group, choose low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese.

3. From the fruit group, choose fruit or 100-percent fruit juice.

For those who are short on time, try a homemade breakfast to go, such as graham crackers with peanut butter and milk, yogurt and fruit, or toast and a slice of cheese with fruit. Leftovers, such as a slice of cold pizza, also can make a good choice for an occasional breakfast.

Not hungry first thing in the morning? Pack a couple of slices of toast or raisin bread, a peanut butter sandwich, fruit or juice to take the edge off mid-morning hunger.

All foods can work for breakfast. The main thing is to include something to eat as part of your morning routine.

For ideas for breakfast on the go, send a self-addressed, stamped (37), business-size envelope to Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713. Mark the envelope "Breakfast."

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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