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Can eating breakfast help kids at school?

As well as giving you energy to start the day, breakfast plays a crucial role in powering your brain. So, it adds up that a healthy breakfast habit can help children and teens do better at school. 

There is a wealth of scientific research linking breakfast with improved brain function and academic performance, including a review of 41 studies that showed eating breakfast was the number one dietary factor linked to better marks.

So, can you eat your way to better grades?

An Australian study of 824 children in grades three to seven found breakfast was critical for school performance in children. Specifically, it showed the combination of regularly eating breakfast, especially a good quality breakfast, and being active boosted both literacy and numeracy skills. It also helps kids to beat the ‘fuzzies’, or poor concentration, that can set in with the mid-morning hunger pangs.

So what’s a ‘good quality’ breakfast? Well, it should be well-balanced, nourishing and delicious. So wholegrain cereal with dairy or soy milk topped with fruit or blended together as a smoothie; wholegrain toast with peanut butter; baked beans and avocado on toast with a grilled tomato; or a berry breakfast trifle are all great options.

What to eat before exams?

If you have teens that are heading into exam time, be sure to keep up good breakfast habits. Feeding the brain is essential for good cognitive function and has been shown to help with attention, memory and recall, as well as academic performance.

The trouble is that as kids get older, they are more likely to skip breakfast missing essential nutrients, which become even more important during puberty when rapid growth spurts kick-in.

A recent UK study of teens looked at their breakfast habits and their exam results. It found students who rarely ate breakfast achieved nearly two grades lower than those who rarely missed brekkie.

So, what’s the best breakfast before an exam? There’s some emerging evidence a low GI breakfast helps provide a slow release of energy and steady blood sugar levels for optimal cognitive function.

A low GI brekkie could include your favourite low GI breakfast cereal topped with unsweetened yoghurt and berries, bircher muesli topped with canned fruit and nuts, avocado and eggs on sourdough toast or chia pudding made on soy milk topped with sliced banana and cinnamon.

Simple breakfast gets the tick

A bowl of cereal before your child rushes off to school is a great start - well done! A study of Australian data showed children that started their day with breakfast cereal had the highest intakes of dietary fibre and nutrients including calcium and iron - key nutrients Australian and New Zealand children fall short on.

In fact, compared to children that ate other foods for breakfast, cereal eaters had 32% more iron, 30% more riboflavin, 23% more calcium, and 9% less salt in their daily diets. It also found the nutritional benefits were consistent, regardless of the total sugar content of the breakfast cereal eaten.

Why breakfast programs are so important

Studies show school breakfast programs play a vital role in improving grades, which could be attributed to children eating breakfast (rather than skipping) and more regular school attendance.

It’s for these reasons that Sanitarium has supported the Good Start Breakfast Club for almost 20 years, working closely with Foodbank Australia to help 1,750 breakfast clubs across the country, and a further 300 breakfast clubs through a partnership with Kickstart for Kids in South Australia.