Breakfast literally means ‘breaking the fast’ after sleeping at night time. Most people do not eat for up to 12 hours between the time of their evening meal and breakfast on the following day – during this time their energy levels fall. The first meal of the day is the most important because it supplies the body and brain with the necessary nutrients after a night’s sleep.

Benefits of Breakfast

Eating breakfast is beneficial for both the body and the mind in several ways:

What you choose to eat at breakfast can affect your mood, physical and mental performance, weight, and your general and long-term health.

Eating breakfast is particularly important for active people who have high energy, vitamin and mineral requirements. In addition, eating breakfast can help improve mental alertness and physical performance (Benton, D., Parker, P.Y. 1998, Kennedy, E., Davies, C. 1998., Murphy, J.M., et al. 1988, Pollitt, E., et al. 1982, Wesnes, K.A., et al. 2003, Wyon, D.P., et al. 1997).

Breakfast is also an excellent occasion to eat together with the family, and indeed children who eat with their parents in the morning have more nutritious breakfasts (Serra Majem, L., et al. 2004). Eating a nutritious breakfast develops good eating habits that will last a lifetime (Kennedy, E., Davies, C. 1998).

Skipping breakfast means:

Less essential nutrients
Research shows that essential nutrients missed at breakfast are not compensated for during the other meals of the day (Cho, S. et al. 2003, Deshmukh-Taskar, P.R., et al. 2010, Gibson, S.A., O'Sullivan, K.R. 1995, Preziosi, P., et al. 1999, Williams PG. 2014).

Less control over appetite
Breakfast helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, which regulates appetite and energy. People who eat breakfast are less likely to be hungry and overeat during the rest of the day (De la Hunty, A., Ashwell, M. 2007, Deshmukh-Taskar, P.R., et al. 2010).

Higher Body Mass Index (BMI)
Breakfast consumption is associated with a lower incidence of people being overweight and obese. Over 53% of the EU population is either overweight or obese (International Association for the Study of Obesity. 2008). Data from the US has shown that children and adults who eat breakfast have healthier weights than children who skip breakfast (Deshmukh-Taskar, P.R., et al. 2010, Haines, P.S., et al. 1996, Wolfe, W.S., et al. 1994). This is supported by similar findings in Europe: a French study showed that obese and overweight children eat less at breakfast and more at dinner than their lean counterparts ( Bellisle, F., et al. 1988). In a Finnish study of 16 year olds and their parents, breakfast skipping among adolescents and adults, was associated with having a high BMI (Keski-Rahkonen, A., et al. 2003). Overall, breakfast cereal consumers also tend to be slimmer and have a lower BMI than non-consumers (Bertrais, S. et al. 2000, Croezen, S., et al. 2009, Gibson, S.A., O'Sullivan, K.R. 1995, Hirschler, V., et al. 2009, Kosti, R.I., et al. 2008, Lightowler, H.J., Henry C.J.K. 2009, Matthys, C., et al. 2007, Tanaka, M, et al. 2008, Williams PG. 2014).

Reduced cognitive abilities
Skipping breakfast is particularly worrying among children, as breakfast helps to improve concentration at school. Research shows that children who skip breakfast are not as efficient in the selection of critical information in problem-solving as those who eat breakfast. (Pollitt, E., et al. 1981, Pollitt, E., Mathews, R. 1998) Eating breakfast helps children to perform better in school, in both mathematical and creative tasks. (Kleinman, R.E., et al. 2002, Wyon, D.P., et al. 1997).

Despite these facts, skipping breakfast is common practice in Europe:

  • Europeans on average skip breakfast 20% of the time and over 61% of Europeans miss breakfast more than once a week (CEEREAL. 2007).
  • In France alone, 38% of children aged 12-17 and more than 42% of young adults aged 18-24 skip breakfast at least once a week (Hebel, P. 2010).
  • 12% of Dutch children aged 10-18 also skip breakfast (Zo eet Nederland. 1998).

A recent German study finds that 1 out of 3 children miss breakfast completely, or rarely ever enjoy the meal before leaving the house on school days (DAK, 2010).