We often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The Fountain Valley High School cafeteria features posters encouraging students to eat breakfast. But is there truth to this emphasis on breakfast?
One of the biggest advantages to eating breakfast for students is that it improves concentration. Studies have shown that children who rarely eat breakfast on school days more often score lower on exams compared to those who do eat breakfast. These effects go beyond students, another study found that employees with poor health habits such as not eating breakfast have lost productivity equivalent to 20,000 American workers. This equates to students doing better on tests, improved cognitive function, and memory.
Students who do skip breakfast are less able to discern between visual images and more likely to make errors. There have also been links to teens experiencing hunger being more likely to be suspended, having difficulty getting along with others, and experiencing behavioral problems.
Breakfast foods such as cereal or toast have important nutrients meaning that students who do eat breakfast get more fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, zinc, and iron in their diets. Also, these students tend to keep their weight under control, have lower cholesterol levels, and have fewer absences in school. Furthermore, eating breakfast has been shown to improve digestion, improve metabolism, strengthen bones, and promote heart health.
Eating breakfast also improves mood as people with full stomachs tend to be happier and less cranky. Skipping breakfast could mean feeling tired, restless, and grumpy — ultimately harming one’s social life and productivity.
Many Americans do begin their day with nothing more than a cup of coffee. One 1999 study tested adults that had no breakfast, only coffee in the morning, and a moderate breakfast in the morning. It found that the adults with no breakfast had high levels of fatigue at noon and the coffee group had no fatigue, but slightly lower mental skills. The end conclusion was that skipping breakfast only had short term effects on memory and energy level meaning it’s okay to skip breakfast as long as you have other meals throughout the day.
Overall, there is still widespread disagreement if breakfast is really the most important meal of the day. Some have argued that the claim is a marketing myth, and others have even proclaimed that breakfast is harmful arguing that it raises glucose levels too high and contributes to too much calorie intake. However, the majority of the studies on breakfast have a positive outlook on it.
“Having something in the morning will jumpstart your metabolism and give you the energy and fuel you need to be alert and participating in school,” FVHS nurse Marci McLean-Crawford said. “Did you know that one apple can give you the same energy burst as a cup of coffee?”
Nurse Marci added that skipping breakfast can have definite downsides.
“Not eating can also lead to stomachaches and headaches,” Nurse Marci said. “Often, when students come up the first thing we do is give them water and something to eat. More times than not, that is all they need to help alleviate their issue.”
For many students, breakfast is indeed an important part of the morning.
“I eat breakfast in the morning because I have practice after school and I need the fuel,” sophomore Hillary Tran said. “I usually have eggs, a bagel, or anything I can put together. I don’t think breakfast is the most important meal just because a lot of people sleep in past breakfast time.”
Sophomore Keith Bui expressed a similar appreciation of breakfast’s energy benefits, and went further in emphasizing its importance.
“I eat breakfast in the morning because it is essential and important for my health and usually keeps me energized for school,” Bui said. “I usually eat cereal or a banana and I agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it breaks the fast you take when you’re sleeping.”
While Tran and Bui emphasized the importance of breakfast as a source of energy, sophomore Peter Lam touched on its emotional impact.
“Breakfast sets my mood off for the day and if I don’t have breakfast I get very grumpy and out of it,” Lam said. “I have a rotation of protein shakes and bananas, eggs with toast and milk, or just plain Cheerio cereal. I agree that breakfast is very beneficial to my health and mind and it also lowers my chances of overeating throughout the deal. I believe that eating meals throughout the day helps with portion control.”
For others, however, breakfast never enters the equation.
“I don’t eat breakfast in the morning because after I brush my teeth in the morning, I already have enough energy,” sophomore Noah Nguyen said. “Breakfast isn’t important to me because I don’t find it different from any other meal.”
For sophomore Kayleen Duong, a daily breakfast is too time-consuming.
“I know it’s bad to skip breakfast, but because of school and my schedule, I just tend to skip it and go straight to lunch,” Duong said. “‘It’s important to eat breakfast since it’s the first meal of the day and you need that energy to help you until lunch!’ That ‘claim’ is told everywhere and I do see where it’s coming from. I used to eat breakfast everyday, but as I got busier, I started skipping it.”
Similarly, sophomore Evelynn Pham said that while she understands why breakfast is so lauded, she doesn’t feel the need to partake herself.
“I don’t eat breakfast because I’m not much of a morning person,” Pham said. “For me, living without breakfast hasn’t caused any problems, so I feel like the choice is personal. My doctor said breakfast is important, so I do believe breakfast is super important because it starts everyone off on their day healthy! I love breakfast foods and I bet everyone who has breakfast is probably successful and happier throughout the day!”
Nguyen, Duong and Pham’s choice, according to Nurse Marci, is likely a common one among many students at FVHS.
“I do believe many students at FV are not eating breakfast and my guess is that they are rolling out of bed and not leaving time to eat before they have to jump on Zoom or attend in person,” Nurse Marci said. “This makes them sluggish, more tired, and have a foggy brain.”
Nurse Marci, however, encourages students to find ways to work breakfast into their lifestyle, and even has some specific recommendations for breakfast foods.
“Good options are oatmeal (hot cereal or overnight oats), juice, toast, fruits, hard-boiled eggs, pizza, breakfast burritos, yogurt and fruit, smoothies — adding a handful of spinach is always a good idea to mix in with your smoothie and it really doesn’t affect the taste,” Nurse Marci said. “Breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated, you just have to give yourself enough time to grab it and maybe prepare it the night before.”
For students who don’t have breakfast foods at home, FVHS offers free grab-and-go meals. Hybrid learners can pick up lunch and a breakfast for the next day on Tuesdays through Fridays from the cafeteria or a food cart by the Administration building as they leave school. Distance learning students can partake in drive-through curbside meal pickup from 1-1:30 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays.