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Feature Articles: Eating Well


Breakfast of champions – Not just for the few!

Alma Hopkins, M.Ed, R.D., L.D., former Associate State Specialist, Nutritional Sciences, University of Missouri Extension


There is a lot of evidence that suggests skipping breakfast makes for a “hard day at the office,” if you will. The primary source of fuel for the brain is known as blood sugar or blood glucose. Blood glucose feeds the brain a fresh supply of fuel especially after fasting (or sleeping) through the night. Without a fresh supply of blood glucose to start the day, our children pay the price at school.


A study released by Harvard Medical School involving 4,000 elementary school children showed how eating breakfast or skipping it affected performance on attention tests. Short-term memory was tested by asking children to repeat a series of digits out loud – 5, 4, 2 and so on – after they were read to them. The children were scored on how many digits they could remember correctly. In another test, the children were asked to name all the animals they could think of in 60 seconds. Across the board, breakfast eaters performed better than those children who had skipped breakfast.


So if there is little to argue about how important breakfast is, does it matter what children eat for breakfast?


The answer is: Yes.


It is best to avoid heavily sweetened cereals. Why? Aside from running a risk of dental cavities and the inclination to eat more sweets throughout the day, sugary cereals have a high glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly the carbohydrates in the food are absorbed into the body and converted to fuel. Merriam Webster defines glycemic as the “presence of glucose in the blood.” Sugar in cereals get into the body quickly and cause a peak in blood glucose. But then the blood levels fall dramatically after two hours or so.


When it comes to sustaining brain power, foods that have a low glycemic index or lower chance of “peak and flow” are the way to go! Oatmeal immediately comes to mind. Oatmeal is absorbed slowly because it provides more fiber and slightly more protein. The result is a slower rise in blood sugar and sustained energy to last through the morning. This sustained energy keeps children from becoming irritable, fatigued or moody and has better chance of keeping them going until lunch time.


But this is not only about what is good for our children. Adults need to heed this message: Eating breakfast does an adult good, too – for all of the above reasons, plus it keeps you trim! A study, in which close to 3,000 people in the National Weight Control Registry have lost 70 pounds of weight and kept it off for an average of 6 years, found that eating breakfast every day was a weight control strategy for 78 percent of the people in the registry. People who kept off weight long-term also reported eating a low-fat diet and exercising for an hour or more each day.

Try some of these healthful breakfast choices and see which ones become family favorites.


  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain toast, whole-wheat English muffin or whole-grain waffle topped with peanut butter or honey.
  • Whole-wheat tortilla or pita pocket with scrambled egg with or without salsa.
  • Whole-grain toast with melted low-fat cheese and tomato.
  • Whole-grain cereals, hot or cold, with low-fat milk or yogurt. Look for at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving.
  • Top cereals with choice of granola, fresh or dried fruit, and add milk or yogurt.


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Last update: Thursday, August 20, 2015