Sending children to school without breakfast makes it difficult for them to make up lost nutrients later in the day and deprives them of energy needed for good school performance, according to Eleanor Whitney, a registered dietitian and textbook author with the Dairy Council of California.
"Children who skip breakfast perform poorly in tasks of concentration, have shortened attention spans and lower IQ test scores than those of their well-fed peers," Whitney said.
"Breakfast should provide about one-fourth of a day's nutrients," Whitney said. "Unless a child eats a hearty lunch and dinner, and snacks in between, a skipped breakfast can result in the loss of a significant amount of nutrients needed to stay healthy and active--especially if this meal is routinely skipped," she said.
"Up to about age 10, the average child needs to eat every four to six hours to maintain a blood glucose concentration high enough to support brain and nervous system activity," she added.
Boosting Classroom Performance
Even children who have eaten breakfast can benefit from a mid-morning snack to boost classroom performance until lunchtime.
A good breakfast for a child might consist of a bowl of unsweetened cereal with strawberries or raisins, a glass of milk, a slice of whole-wheat toast with a little butter or jam and an orange.
This meal provides calcium, Vitamin C, fiber and plenty of complex carbohydrates to provide a steady stream of energy. It also contains foods from three of the four nutrient-based food groups--milk, meat, vegetables and fruits, and breads and cereals.
Need some ideas for a nutritious mid-morning snack? Try a hard-cooked egg, nuts, a large celery stalk stuffed with cheese or peanut butter, a piece of fruit, cheese and crackers, or a whole-wheat roll with a tablespoon of peanut butter and banana slices.
Add a carton of milk or orange juice to the snack, and a child will have plenty of energy to perform well until lunchtime.