Do not skip breakfast — or grades could pay a price.
Evidence suggests that eating breakfast really does help kids learn. After fasting all night, a developing body and brain need a fresh supply of glucose — or blood sugar. That’s the brain’s basic fuel.
Dozens of studies from as far back as the 1950s have consistently shown that children who eat breakfast perform better academically than those who don’t. In a recent study of 4,000 elementary school students, researchers measured the effects of eating breakfast by administering a battery of attention tests. They measured short-term memory and verbal fluency. Across the board, the breakfast eaters performed better than those children who had skipped breakfast.
So breakfast is important, but does what kind of breakfast kids eat matter? The answer is: Yes!
Finding a meal that has a low glycemic index will help keep a child more alert. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly the carbohydrates in food is absorbed into our bodies and converted to fuel. When it comes to sustained brain power, food that is low on the scale is preferable. Even though a bowl of sugary cereal and a bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal may have the same number of carbohydrates, they have very different glycemic loads.
Sugary cereals get into your body quickly and cause a peak in blood-sugar levels, but the levels then fall dramatically after two hours. This dip in blood sugar can bring a release of hormones that affect mood, and in some children, the hormones seem to affect concentration and memory. Oatmeal, on the other hand, is absorbed slowly, so there is a slow rise in blood sugar and enough energy to last through the morning.
Scientists have recently begun to study this phenomenon. One recent study had one group of children eat sweetened oatmeal for breakfast while another ate Cap’n Crunch cereal. Then both groups were given academic tasks, like memorizing the names of countries on a map. Both cereals had the same sugar content, but the oatmeal eaters did up to 20 percent better than the Crunch consumers. The reason being, the oatmeal had more protein and fiber, and therefore a lower glycemic index.
Families should start to make breakfast part of kids’ morning routines. There are some easy and quick meals that have low glycemic index that will help keep your child full without taking up too much time in the morning.
Smart Simple Breakfast
Banana with peanut butter
Banana sliced into yogurt
Oatmeal with fruit: apples, blueberries, or peaches
Small tortilla with a few tablespoons of nut butter and chopped strawberries. Roll it up, slice it.
Breakfast smoothies — berries, ice, and milk or yogurt.
You can also try making your own granola bars which will be less processed and contain less sugar. Try making the recipe below and get the kids involved in the kitchen!
1 & 3/4 C rolled oats
1 C crisp puffed brown rice cereal
3/4 C seeds (1/4 C each of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds)
1/4 C finely ground flaxseed
1/4 C unsweetened coconut
1/2 C brown rice syrup
1/3 C creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 T of mini chocolate chips
Directions: Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl. Mix them together. In a separate (microwave safe) bowl, mix together the wet ingredients, then microwave them for about 20 to 30 seconds. This will make it easier to mix and add to the dry ingredients since it’s really sticky! Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix! Keep mixing until the wet binding ingredients are as well distributed as possible. Put some muscle into it! Then, put the mixture into a shallow pan and flatten it down. Refrigerate. Done and done!