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The Importance of a Healthy Breakfast

Breakfast – the most important meal of the day?

Breakfast is often referred to as ‘the most important meal of the day’.  Is this clever food marketing or is there scientific evidence to support this claim?  Research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2005 summarised the results of 47 studies, which examined breakfast consumption with nutritional adequacy (9 studies), body weight (16 studies) and academic performance (22 studies).  The research shows children who eat breakfast on a consistent basis tend to have superior nutritional profiles than breakfast skippers.  Breakfast eaters were less likely to be overweight and evidence suggests that breakfast improves memory skills, test grades and is positively associated with school attendance.

Breakfast and weight management

Eating breakfast is associated with having a healthy body weight. Skipping breakfast may appear to be an easy way to avoid calories but it is not recommended as a way to lose weight.  Eating at breakfast time makes snacking on high calorie foods mid-morning or over-eating past the point of fullness at lunchtime less likely. 

Naturally, it is not a question of eating any type of breakfast food first thing in the morning.  Busy lifestyles can make choosing a healthy breakfast difficult. This is because many breakfast foods available in newsagents, at garage forecourts and from take-away cafes/restaurants can contain up to four times the calories of a porridge cereal breakfast. For example, a breakfast of porridge and orange juice has 168 kcal whereas a breakfast roll (with sausage and bacon in a demi-baguette) has 1,335 kcal and 66g fat - eight times the calories and 33 times the fat value.

Breakfast and fibre

The NCFS (National Children’s Food Survey) reported that sixty-one percent of Irish children have poor fibre intakes.  In line with knowledge that food habits learned early in life have lasting effects on eating patterns, it is no surprise to learn that Irish adults also have poor fibre intakes. The adult food consumption survey shows that 75 per cent of Irish adults have poor fibre intakes.  Breakfast time is an ideal meal occasion to help increase fibre intakes.  In particular, including wholegrain foods, such as porridge at breakfast can add a real boost to fibre intakes.