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April 19th, 2013

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Blackpool Council recently announced a three month pilot program to provide free breakfast to every primary school pupil in the area. This was in response to reports from teachers of children coming to school without having eaten anything at home. The reasons for this varied from families not being able to afford breakfast, to children being left to get their own breakfast without any encouragement or guidance from their parents.

So what is so important about breakfast and why should we make sure our children start the day with a nutritious meal in their tummies?

It’s a cliché to say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but in this case it’s a true one. Our bodies haven’t usually had a meal for around twelve hours by breakfast time and we are running on empty. At this time our bodies are best able to absorb nutrients from the food we eat, so if we have a healthy breakfast it can set us up for the day. However if we don’t eat at all, or eat something of no nutritional value it can adversely affect our day. Here are some of the reasons a child needs breakfast:

Improved concentration. Children who have eaten a healthy breakfast are more alert and able to learn. Studies within schools have shown that children can perform better in tests just by having a satisfying meal. On the other hand children who are hungry are disinterested in learning and find it hard to concentrate.

Happier mood. What we eat can really affect our mood and we are generally happier when we have eaten well. A hungry child is more likely to be grumpy, irritable and emotional which may impact the friendships and relationships they form with other children, carers, or teachers.

Increased energy. Food provides energy and with a good breakfast inside them your children will be ready to tackle whatever the day throws at them. Children that don’t eat breakfast are likely to be lethargic and apathetic, finding it difficult to deal with simple everyday tasks.

A positive start. Sitting down together to eat breakfast can be a great start to the day. Whether a child sits with parents, siblings, their nanny, or another carer, breakfast can be a social occasion and a chance to talk about the day ahead. It is also a chance for adults to set a good example and eat a healthy breakfast too.

Here are a few breakfast time tips from the NHS Change 4 Life Good Breakfast Guide:

  • Base breakfast on starchy foods such as wholegrain cereal or wholemeal bread
  • Add fruit to cereal, eat it cut up on toast, or buy bread with fruit in it
  • Make fruit smoothies out of fresh fruit, tinned fruit, yogurt and milk
  • Add protein to breakfast with poached eggs, cheese, meat, fish or unsalted nuts
  • Avoid sugary cereal with low nutritional value that can cause a blood sugar dip by mid morning
  • For breakfast on the go make a healthy sandwich the night before instead of a breakfast bar
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