How Skipping Breakfast Takes A Toll On Children's Mental Health

Catherine Caruso,Aug. 24, 2022 12:34 pm EST,1,020

Skipping breakfast may be detrimental to children's mental health and psychosocial behavior, according to a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. Researchers in Spain examined data from a 2017 survey that included questions about children's breakfast habits and psychosocial health, like mood, self-esteem, and anxiety (via HealthDay News). The survey questions were answered by the parents and guardians of 3,772 children between the ages of 4 and 14.

Researchers found that it is not only important that children eat breakfast in the morning, but it also matters what they eat and where they eat it. "Skipping breakfast or eating breakfast away from home is associated with increased likelihood of psychosocial behavioral problems in children and adolescents," Dr. Jose Francisco Lopez-Gil, a professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Cuenca, Spain, and the study's first author, said in the report. The study's findings also revealed that certain foods, like processed meats, were associated with a higher risk of psychosocial behavioral problems, while cereal and dairy products appeared to lower the risk of such issues.

The importance of eating a healthy breakfast

While the study has its limitations, Lopez-Gil said that the findings "reinforce the need to promote not only breakfast as part of a healthy lifestyle routine but also that it should be eaten at home" (via Healthline). Eating breakfast at home often means healthier food options, according to Katie Tomaschko, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Buffalo, New York. It can also give children some time to connect and check in with their family before the school day and help lay the groundwork for healthier eating habits in the future.

Tomaschko told Healthline that "skipping breakfast leads to low energy levels when we start our days," which can affect a child's mood, cognitive function, and ability to focus or concentrate. However, she doubts that eating breakfast away from home could somehow be worse than skipping it completely. While children may be tempted to eat more processed foods when they're not at home, Tomaschko argues that "having breakfast (anywhere) is better than no breakfast."