When our stomachs are running on empty, we may feel tired and unable to focus on our tasks. Our brain doesn’t function well, either. Refuelling your body and brain with nourishing food has many benefits for people of all ages.
Parents should remember the role of breakfast in school performance. Eating “something” is better than eating nothing. However, researchers have found that certain foods keep us energized longer.
Perhaps your mom or dad insisted that you eat your oatmeal when you were a child. As we learn with age, parents usually are right. Researchers have studied the role of breakfast composition on the ability of children to learn and pay attention, and the results were published in Physiology and Behavior.
For three weeks, 30 children ages nine to 11 had no breakfast, or had ready-to-eat (low-fibre) cereal or oatmeal. The children completed a variety of tests that assessed their ability to listen, think and remember.
In general, the children who had oatmeal had improved memory and better listening skills. Oatmeal is higher in protein and fibre content than many ready-to-eat cereals, providing a more sustained release of energy throughout the morning.
Fuel your body and brain with nourishing food every morning. Add variety to your diet by choosing foods from three or four different food groups, such as a grain, meat, fruit and milk.
Have some protein. Research shows that people who eat a protein-containing breakfast perform better on tests involving thinking and concentration. For example, having a glass of milk, container of yogurt, piece of cheese, peanut butter on your toast or a hard-cooked egg all will add protein.
Choose cereal wisely. When shopping, look high on the shelves instead of at eye level or lower, where the kid’s cereals often are placed. Read the labels carefully. Compare fibre, sugar content, vitamins and minerals.
Choose whole-grain cereals and whole-grain breads more often.
Try these sample breakfast menus:
Oatmeal with raisins and low-fat milk. Whole-grain cereal with sliced bananas and milk.
Peanut butter on whole-wheat toast, apple slices and low-fat milk.
Mini-pizzas made with English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese, Canadian bacon or other toppings and orange juice.
Scrambled eggs, whole-wheat toast, orange slices and low-fat milk.
Leftover pizza, sliced cantaloupe and low-fat milk.
Scrambled eggs with salsa wrapped in tortillas, sliced peaches and low-fat milk.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota
State University Extension Service food and nutrition
specialist and associate professor in the department of
health, nutrition and exercise sciences.