By Keri Layton, MS, RD, CSO, LD, director of science and nutrition at SOMMA Foods
A healthy and balanced breakfast is essential for children and adolescents to maintain their attention, concentration and alertness throughout the day. Over time, this may lead to positive changes in attitude, drive, productivity and overall academic performance. In fact, there are more than seven decades of rigorous groundbreaking studies to prove it.
Today kicks off National School Breakfast Week, an annual celebration of the first meal of the day. Since 1986, nutritionists, researchers, school administrators, teachers and parents have used the first full week of March to educate students and their families on the importance of a healthy breakfast and how it can impact their day.
Researchers have found that students who eat school breakfast daily achieve significantly higher math and reading scores, and test higher in IQ tests, compared to those who only occasionally eat breakfast, regardless of socio-economic status. This research began in 1943, when medical and nutritional experts worked with educators to uncover the fact that at the time, only one out of five school-aged children and adolescents ate breakfast.
More recently, researchers have focused their studies on the composition of breakfast foods to understand just what creates the optimal metabolic conditions for intellectual, psychological and physical development. What they have learned is that a mixture of protein and complex carbohydrates, such as fiber, with a low Glycemic Load will not only improve academic achievement, but will actually lower anxiety, depression, and hyperactivity, allowing children and adolescents to focus on their studies and interact more effectively with their teachers, peers and environment.
Glycemic Load (GL) is the measurement of the amount of carbohydrates in each serving of food, while the Glycemic Index (GI) is a measurement of how quickly the body breaks down carbohydrates into sugar and absorbs it. This is important because breakfast foods that have a low GI rating and a low GL deliver a slower, more sustained source of energy to fuel learning straight through to lunch.
Conversely, foods that have a high GI rating and a high GL deliver a lot of sugar into the bloodstream very quickly. When children and adolescents eat a sugary breakfast, they quickly experience a burst of alertness and energy, but suffer an energy crash rather quickly, leaving them feeling sluggish, less alert, cranky and with poor attention.
The addition of protein to breakfast can also have a positive impact. Studies have suggested that a protein packed breakfast may reduce hunger because is slower to digest, which helps students to focus less on their grumbling stomachs, and more on the subject at hand. Protein may also increase alertness, as it slows the absorption of sugar into the blood stream, again leading to a slower, more sustained energy source, especially when eaten with high carbohydrate foods, in place of just the high carbohydrate foods alone.
Children and adolescents also need the essential vitamins A, B, C and D as well as minerals such as calcium and iron to help build healthy bodies and happy minds. At SOMMA Foods, we are proud to provide highly nutritious products that are served to students across the country.
Our chickens are raised cage-free and on a 100% vegetable diet, with absolutely no antibiotics, ever. Chicken naturally has very little carbohydrate, thus no real impact on GL or the GI, by itself. It most importantly provides us with a lean protein source that is packed with important vitamins such as niacin (B3), B6, and B12, all of which support metabolism, energy production, cellular growth and boost the immune system. Chicken also delivers phosphorus, which promotes calcium absorption for strong bones and teeth. Chicken tenders are a good source of protein and vitamin B, and meet the minimum 1 GB credit due to breading.
Merrywod Farms low-fat, grab-and-go yogurt parfaits with dried fruit and granola also deliver calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and fiber. Yogurt has a high GI, but because its GL is very low, it provides a sustained energy source and not a large blood sugar spike. It too is a great source of protein, and a great alternative to meat. It is also fan excellent source of probiotics – the friendly bacteria that live in our gut that have a strong connection to healthy immune systems, among other benefits.
To find out more about how we can provide nutritious, clean label products for your school district’s breakfast and lunch, contact us at 214.984.3600 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.