A Farley Elementary School student takes a bite of pineapple in the school's cafeteria during the 2011-12 school year. Starting a student's day off right with a nutritiously balanced breakfast helps kick-start a day of learning, as students begin to head back to school.
It’s that time of year once again and as the kids head back to school with their books in hand, one of the best ways to prepare for a day of learning is with a nutritionally balanced breakfast.
While some students might simply wave off that bowl of oatmeal in the morning, studies show that even putting a little something in their fuel tank can make a world of difference for starting out the day.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom with more energy, better concentration and better problem-solving skills.
In fact, a well-documented, three-year study of school children in Minnesota — starting in 1997 — followed the students’ breakfast habits in correlation with their educational performance, said Renee Waggoner, a registered dietitian with Lourdes hospital.
For those students who ate breakfast regularly, the results indicated a general increase in math and reading grades, improved attendance, improved behavior and attention, and a 40- to 50-percent decline in disciplinary problems during periods of testing.
“Having breakfast really fuels the mind and helps start the day,” said Penny Holt, Paducah Public Schools food services director.
“Just prior to lunch your energy drops if you don’t have that fuel for your body and you can really see it in the students. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day because it jump starts the metabolism and gets the body started.”
The new school year will feature healthy options for students throughout the city district, Holt said. Students are offered more whole grain products, and foods with lower fat and sodium contents, as well.
Following a set of guidelines levied in 2011, students kindergarten-fifth grade receive no more than 500 calories for breakfast, sixth-eighth graders receive no more than 550 calories, and high school students, no more than 600 calories.
“We’re really excited about the new meal guidelines, especially with a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” Holt said.
While healthier options are always the best bet, Waggoner said students really eating anything in the morning is better than going without.
“Anything within reason,” she said. “It could be something that they can eat as they’re flying out the door. It shouldn’t be an excuse that you didn’t have time. Just eat something.”
Waggoner suggested the usual breakfast staples of milk and cereal, juice and pancakes, or breakfast bars, but also recommended yogurt and fruit parfaits, peanut butter, or even a slice of pizza for those who aren’t inclined to breakfast foods.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.