Love Breakfast - ©

Breakfast Fruits And Veggies Key To Kids’ Well Being

A new study of British school kids reveals that those who eat more fresh fruits and veggies score higher on mental health and well being tests. Specifically, the survey found that what they eat for breakfast and lunch is particularly important to how they feel through the rest of the day…

Oatmeal Fruit and Nuts - © holisticdiabetessolutions.comOld Fashioned Oatmeal with Fruit and Nuts: A good breakfast by anybody’s standards…

“We know that poor mental well being is a major issue for young people and is likely to have long-term negative consequences,” says l ead researcher Prof. Ailsa Welch. “The pressures of social media and modern school culture have been touted as potential reasons for a rising prevalence of low mental well being in children and young people. While the links between nutrition and physical health are well understood, until now, not much has been known about whether nutrition plays a part in children’s emotional well being. So, we set out to investigate the association between dietary choices and mental well being among schoolchildren.”

What they did

Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UK) studied data from almost 9,000 children in 50 UK schools during October 2017.

The team looked at the association between nutritional factors and mental well being and took into account other factors that might have an impact – such as adverse childhood experiences and home situations.

What they found

“More than one in five secondary school children and one in 10 primary children didn’t eat breakfast. And more than one in 10 secondary school children didn’t eat lunch,” Welch reports.

Team member Dr. Richard Hayhoe notes: “We found that eating well was associated with better mental well being in children. And that among secondary school children in particular, there was a really strong link between eating a nutritious diet, packed with fruit and vegetables, and having better mental well being. We also found that the types of breakfast and lunch eaten by both primary and secondary school pupils were also significantly associated with well being.”

“Another interesting thing that we found was that nutrition had as much or more of an impact on well being as factors such as witnessing regular arguing or violence at home.”

The takeaway

“As a potentially modifiable factor at an individual and societal level, nutrition represents an important public health target for strategies to address childhood mental well being,” Welch concludes. “Public health strategies and school policies should be developed to ensure that good quality nutrition is available to all children both before and during school in order to optimise mental well being and empower children to fulfill their full potential.”

My take

Parents in the mainstream of modern life have always made sure their kids get a good breakfast. Or, at least, that their kids get what they (the parents) consider a good breakfast. That’s changed over the decades since I was a kid. My typical breakfast when I was in elementary school consisted of a bowl of cereal with skimmed milk and sugar, and two slices of cracked wheat toast with butter and jam. There was always a glass of skimmed milk on the side. The cereal was usually Bran Flakes or Shredded Wheat – not-bad sources of whole grain nutrients. The jam was the extent of the fruit I got – unless there were some blueberries, strawberries or banana slices on the cereal.

I never knew any kid at school who hadn’t started the day with some sort of breakfast. Even the ‘poor’ kids got something for breakfast. But now, for whatever reasons, many kids aren’t getting ‘breakfast’ for breakfast, and some are getting nothing at all. Yes, some ‘poor’ families just skip breakfast to save money. Others serve nutritionally-poor stuff (Pop Tarts, heavily-sugared cereals, and so on) because it’s convenient, and an avalanche of advertising has trained kids to demand it.

I think it’s important to recognise that the study team also found that, as Hayhoe notes, “[S]econdary school children who drank energy drinks for breakfast had particularly low mental well being scores, even lower than for those children consuming no breakfast at all.” Caffeine is no substitute for the real energy you get from the right foods, via a healthy metabolism – at any age.

So it’s clear – to me, at least – that feeding kids properly in the morning and at noon is essential to their overall success in school. And, if they form good breakfast and lunch eating habits when they’re young, they’ll be better off throughout their lives. But putting a good breakfast in front of kids may be much easier than getting them to eat it. Is that researchers I hear, over in the corner, muttering about another study?

~ Maggie J.