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SPOTLIGHT
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Skipping breakfast impairs learning

Published on -8/22/2013, 1:45 PM

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The rush to school and work each day means some things have to be sacrificed -- that often includes breakfast. Surveys show as many as 48 percent of girls and 32 percent of boys do not eat breakfast every day.

Eating breakfast improves concentration, problem-solving ability, mental performance, memory and mood. With breakfast, students think faster and clearer and have better recall. Breakfast eaters also score higher on tests and have better concentration and muscle coordination.

Children who eat breakfast are more alert and perform better on school tests than children who do not eat breakfast. They also are more creative and energetic.

Hunger, even short-term, decreases attention span and ability to concentrate. Hungry children just can't do their best work. They're easily distracted and become fidgety, irritable and tired. Also, children who eat breakfast are less likely to miss class, be tardy or report they are sick than children who miss the morning meal.

Teachers and parents also should not forget breakfast. Breakfast provides both children and adults with the energy and nutrients needed to start the day.

It's especially important for parents to eat a good breakfast every day, since parents are role models for their children.

If you skip breakfast, it means your body has gone many hours with nothing in its system. Getting the 40-plus nutrients needed each day is more likely for those who eat a morning meal. Breakfast skippers might never make up the nutrients they miss.

Breakfast should provide children with approximately a quarter of their daily calories. Children who skip breakfast might not get as much protein, carbohydrates, calcium, iron and vitamin C each day as children who eat breakfast.

Breakfast also provides glucose -- the fuel you need to think, walk, talk and carry on all activities -- because both the brain and central nervous system run on glucose. Skipping breakfast deprives your brain of nutrients, and your body has to work extra hard to break down stored carbohydrates or turn fat or protein into a usable form for your brain to function.

Some people believe skipping breakfast might help them lose weight. Skipping meals, however, often leads to overeating later in the day. Becoming overly hungry often leads to a lack of control and the inability to determine when you're full. This can result in taking in more calories.

If there's no time in the morning to eat breakfast, there are plenty of items you can bring along with you for the ride to school or work. For example, carry a bag of whole-grain cereal or crackers, string cheese, squeezable yogurt tubes, granola bars, a banana or a small box of raisins. Any of these simple foods can jump-start your day with minimum time and effort.

Try to start the morning with some fuel in your system. This can pay big dividends in increased performance for kids and adults alike.

Linda Beech is a Kansas State University Research & Extension agent in Ellis County specializing in family and consumer sciences.

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