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The Science Behind Why Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Break-Facts. Bring On Breakfast. Nourish Kids for What’s Next. Trix yogurt, Cocoa Puffs cereal cup, muffin tops, and blueberries. Apple and spoon illustrations on blue and yellow background.

Why breakfast is crucial for kids

For years, we've been hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As we dive into the science behind this age-old saying, it becomes clear that breakfast plays a crucial role, especially for K-12 students, in providing essential nutrients and energy to kickstart their day. In this article, we'll explore the significance of breakfast and its impact on the overall well-being and academic performance of young individuals.

Breakfast sets kids up to be ready to learn

Research has shown students who eat breakfast are more likely to concentrate better, retain information effectively, and demonstrate improved problem-solving abilities.¹

Eating breakfast helps kids get important nutrients

One of the primary reasons breakfast holds such importance is that nutrients missed during this meal are rarely made up for throughout the day. As children and adolescents engage in their daily activities, their growing bodies require essential vitamins and minerals to support their growth and development. Skipping breakfast can lead to missing out on important nutrients. Research has shown that kids who eat breakfast have higher nutrient intakes and are more likely to meet nutrient recommendations compared to those who skip breakfast.²

Breakfast provides the nutrients needed for bone health

Another crucial aspect of breakfast is its role as a significant source of vitamin D and calcium. Breakfast contributes 29% of daily calcium intake and 45% of daily vitamin D intake in the diets of breakfast eaters. ²These nutrients are essential for developing strong bones and maintaining overall bone health. During childhood and adolescence, when the body is growing rapidly, ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intake becomes even more critical. Many kids fall short on meeting the daily calcium and vitamin D recommendations and this is particularly true in teen girls. Ninety percent of teen girls, age 13 – 18, fall short of meeting the calcium recommendation and 99% fall short of meeting the vitamin D recommendation. ²The good news is many breakfast options, such as milk and fortified cereals, provide these vital nutrients, laying the foundation for lifelong bone health.

Breakfast foods are an important source of whole grains

Breakfast eaters have higher intakes of whole grains compared to breakfast skippers and, in fact, breakfast contributes over 40 percent of daily whole grain intake. In kids and teens, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals stand out as an important source of whole grains - it’s the top source of whole grains at breakfast!² Whole grains are an important source of fiber and essential nutrients, and higher whole grain intake has consistently been associated with health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease.³ By choosing whole-grain cereals over refined options, students can develop healthier eating habits from an early age, reducing the risk of various health issues later in life.

Encouraging breakfast supports student well-being

Encouraging breakfast consumption can lead to better behavior, improved academic performance, and increased nutrient intake among students. Increasing breakfast consumption can help to support student’s well-being and learning! Serving breakfast in the classroom or breakfast after the bell are service models many schools have implemented to help ensure kids are starting their day with breakfast and reaping all the benefits breakfast has to offer!

Given the benefits breakfast provides to K-12 students, fostering good breakfast habits from a young age is an important step to ensuring kids are ready to learn for the day and setting the stage for a healthier future. Let’s prioritize breakfast and empower our future generation to reach their full potential. General Mills Foodservice is here to support your K-12 operation with recipes, resources, and regulation-ready breakfast options from brands kids know and love! Explore products now.

¹National Library of Medicine
²NHANES 2017 - 2018
³Eating more whole grains linked to lower heart-related risks. Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed from: Eating more whole grains linked to lower heart-related risks - Harvard Health