Breakfast helps you make the grade

Contributing writerApril 8, 2012 

Breakfast literally means “break the fast.” By the time breakfast rolls around, many people have gone 8-12 hours without eating. By comparison, we eat every three to five hours throughout the day. Breakfast makes an important contribution to both the mind and body, yet it is the most frequently skipped meal.

Between 10 percent and 30 percent of people head out the door in the morning running on empty because they have not eaten. This habit gets worse with age and is more prevalent in women. In fact, by the time a teen reaches high school, 59 percent of them will skip breakfast more than three times per week.

Breakfast eaters are healthier. They are more likely to meet the nutritional recommendations for their age groups, especially for vitamins A, C, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, iron, and fiber. Breakfast skippers have higher cholesterol levels, which can increase their risk for heart disease.

Breakfast may even make you a better student. Research shows that students who eat breakfast have greater attention spans, improved concentration, and perform better on spatial and cognitive tests. Breakfast skippers are more likely to get stomach pains and headaches caused by hunger, which can make learning and test-taking challenging. They tend to snack more on high fat, low-nutrition foods and are more likely to overeat at lunch because of excessive hunger.

Breakfast eaters have better hand-eye coordination, a critical element of success in many sports. Skipping meals causes the body to rely on glycogen storage in the liver and muscle for energy. To train and perform your best, you need both the energy from food and the energy that is already stored in the muscle. It is especially important for athletes who train in the morning to eat breakfast.

A healthful breakfast should include foods from a variety of food groups, such as whole grains, fruit, and dairy, to ensure that you get a good mix of both nutrients and fiber.

If eating breakfast is new to you, give your body a couple of weeks to adjust. The key to fitting in a healthful breakfast is to plan ahead.

The Thurston County Healthy Child Weight Coalition is leading the 7-5-2-1-0 initiative to grow happy kids. It includes eating breakfast every day. Here’s what the numbers stand for:

7: Breakfast every day of the week

5: Servings of fruits and vegetables daily

2: Hours or less of screen time daily

1: Hour physical activity daily

0: Sugary drinks on most days

To find out more, go to Consider entering the 7-5-2-1-0 video contest – it is your opportunity to show how you put the initiative into action. Local kids, families, and groups can enter. The contest deadline is April 20. You can share how you prepare a favorite healthful breakfast recipe, or write a song or do a dance about your favorite veggie. Get creative! Contest details are at I want to see “How do YOU 7-5-2-1-0?”

Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501 or

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