As well as giving you energy to start the day, breakfast plays a crucial role in powering your brain. So it adds up that a healthy breakfast habit can help children and teens do better at school.
Can you eat your way to better grades?
An Australian study of 824 children in grades three to seven found breakfast was critical for school performance. Specifically, it showed the combination of regularly eating breakfast—especially a good quality healthy breakfast—and being active boosted both literacy and numeracy skills. It also helps the little ones to beat the “fuzzies” that can set in with the mid-morning hunger pangs while they wait to crack open their lunchbox.
What to eat before exams?
If you have teens who are heading into exam time, be sure to keep up good breakfast habits. Feeding the brain is essential for good cognitive function and has been shown to help with attention, memory and recall, as well as academic performance.
The trouble is that, as kids get older, they are more likely to skip breakfast or become picky eaters, missing essential nutrients that become even more important during puberty when rapid growth spurts kick-in.
A recent UK study of teens looked at their breakfast habits and their exam results. It found students who rarely ate breakfast achieved nearly two grades lower than those who rarely missed their daily dose of granola or their early morning omelette. Even a quick breakfast whipped up on a busy morning can be helpful (though a quick helping of chocolate chip donuts or an extravagant feast of maple syrup and ice cream waffles or French toast may not yield much in the way of quality results)
So what’s the best breakfast before an exam? There’s emerging evidence a low GI breakfast helps provide a slow release of energy and steady blood sugar levels for optimal cognitive function.
Simple breakfast recipes get the tick
A bowl of cereal before your kiddo rushes off to school is a great start! A study of Australian data showed children who started their day with breakfast cereal had the highest intakes of dietary fibre and nutrients, including calcium and iron—key nutrients Australian and New Zealand children fall short on.
Kid-friendly breakfast ideas
Good quality breakfast. Think well-balanced, nourishing and delicious. Try wholegrain cereal with dairy or soy milk topped with a healthy snack of fresh fruit or blended together as a smoothie, wholegrain toast with peanut butter, baked beans and avocado on toast (whole wheat not white bread) with a grilled tomato, or a berry breakfast trifle. Breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated. An easy breakfast can be equally as helpful as long as it has the right balance.
Stay hydrated. Don’t forget the drinks! This is just as important as the food. Evidence suggests dehydration impairs cognitive function leading to poor exam performance. Water is always a winner.
Low GI. A low GI brekkie with slow-release energy could include low GI breakfast cereal topped with unsweetened yoghurt and berries, bircher muesli topped with canned fruit and nuts (try pecans!), avocado and eggs on sourdough toast, or chia seed pudding made with soy milk and topped with sliced banana and cinnamon. Who knows, maybe one of these meals may even end up becoming their favourite breakfast