DAA Says Back-To-School Breakfast Is Critical For Children

This article was updated February 2024.

The Dietitians Association of Australia is calling on parents to make eating breakfast ‘non-negotiable’ for school-aged children after recent research highlighted the huge pitfalls for students who start school hungry.

Why is breakfast critical for children attending schhol?

The research, released by Foodbank, found teachers noticed most students who skipped breakfast had low energy levels and difficulty concentrating(1).

It also showed three children in every classroom were arriving at school hungry or without breakfast, and for many of these students, this happened more than three times a week(1).

These alarming figures are something nutrition experts do not find surprising.

Kate Di Prima, Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, said skipping breakfast will make children feel ‘fuzzy’ in the head and lethargic because their brains are being starved of energy.

“The brain requires energy in the form of glucose to function at its best throughout the day. Nutritious breakfast foods such as grainy bread, breakfast cereals, fruit, and milk provide healthy sources of glucose. A healthy breakfast gives kids the right fuel to start the day, helping them to fully participate in class and achieve the best grades possible.” said Ms Di Prima.

Research shows eating breakfast to be linked with an improvement in literacy and numeracy skills in school children, potentially impacting their long-term employment options(2).

breakfast is critical for children

“Breakfast should not be optional for school children. To put it simply, their growth and development depends on getting enough of the right nutrients – and without breakfast, they will really struggle to get their daily quota,” said Ms Di Prima.

So what is the best breakfast for school?

According to the DAA, the best breakfast for growing children is one that is high in fibre, contains low glycaemic index options, and includes protein.

Top options for a brain-boosting breakfast:

Wholegrain cereal with milk, topped with fresh fruit

  • Wholegrain toast (or if time is tight, a sandwich made the night before) with cheese, avocado and tomato, and a piece of fruit
  • Wholemeal muffin or crumpet with baked beans and Greek yoghurt
  • Poached or scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast with a glass of milk
  • A smoothie made from milk, fresh fruit, and yoghurt.

Recipe: Apple & Sultana Bircher Muesli

Makes: 4 serves

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 2 cups vanilla yoghurt
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 apples (peeled and grated)
  • Pepitas to sprinkle on top

Method

  • Place the oats, sultanas, yoghurt, apple juice, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix well.
  • Leave to sit in the fridge overnight or for at least six hours.
  • Once the bircher has soaked overnight, stir through all of the apple.
  • When serving, top with a small handful of pepitas. The bircher will keep for a few days.

This recipe was provided by Anna Muir, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

References
(1) Foodbank, 2015, Hunger in the Classroom: Foodbank Report 2015, viewed 25 Jun 2015
(2) O’Dea J & Mugridge AC (2012). ‘Nutritional quality of breakfast and physical activity independently predict the literacy and numeracy scores of children after adjusting for socioeconomic status’, Health Education Research. pp. 1-11, viewed 26 June 2015.

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