Many children and young people in the UK do not have access to a range of healthy foods which may affect their brain and overall development.
A large-scale study found that up to 30% of children and young people were skipping breakfast, starting their school day on an empty stomach.
A typical, balanced breakfast provides one third of a school child’s recommended daily food intake. In a large-scale study that compared nutritional intake and breakfast habits:
Breakfast eaters (of fortified cereals and other typical breakfast foods):
- had higher intakes of nutrients such as vitamins A and C, B vitamins, iron, calcium, iodine, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
- had a higher daily intake of important macronutrients, such as carbohydrate, fibre and protein, compared with breakfast skippers.
- were more likely to develop positive dietary habits, such as higher daily intakes of fruit and vegetables, dairy products and fortified cereals.
- consumed more fat, salt and sugar (from soft drinks) overall, with more of their daily calories coming from unhealthy snack foods.
Various studies demonstrate that eating breakfast regularly has a positive impact on learning behaviours and attainment, particularly in children and young people from low socio-economic families.
- University of Leeds research suggests the clearest effects of introducing a free school breakfast were on mathematics and arithmetic grades in undernourished children.
- Conversely, skipping breakfast on school days was associated with poorer GSCE mathematics attainment in adolescents from low/middle socio-economic families.
Hydration is often overlooked, yet being hydrated is key to ensuring pupils can focus on a range of cognitive tasks (paying attention, short-term memory, reaction times, problem-solving). The availability of water (and/or milk) at schools in the morning is important for learning.
Drinking water or milk is a simple, effective way to improve cognitive performance in school.