Having breakfast at home is associated with fewer behavioral issues in children, according to a recent nationwide study from Spain.
According to recent research published in Frontiers in Nutrition, young people who eat nutritious breakfasts at home have better psychosocial health. Although prior studies have noted the significance of a healthy meal, this is the first study to examine the reported impacts of whether children eat breakfast as well as where and what they eat. These findings provide valuable insight and recommendations for parents and their kids.
“Our results suggest that it is not only important to eat breakfast, but it’s also important where young people eat breakfast and what they eat,” states first author Dr. José Francisco López-Gil of the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Cuenca, Spain. “Skipping breakfast or eating breakfast away from home is associated with increased likelihood of psychosocial behavioral problems in children and adolescents. Similarly, consumption of certain foods/drinks is associated with higher (eg, processed meat) or lower (eg, dairies, cereals) odds of psychosocial behavioral problems.”
Eating breakfast matters
López-Gil and his colleagues analyzed data from the 2017 Spanish National Health Survey for this study. This survey included questionnaires regarding children’s breakfast choices as well as their psychosocial health, which included aspects like self-esteem, mood, and anxiety. 3,772 Spanish individuals aged four to fourteen participated in the survey, which was answered by the parents or guardians of the children.
Among the most noteworthy findings, López-Gil and his colleagues discovered that having breakfast away from home was almost as bad as missing it entirely. The authors speculate that this could be because eating out is typically less healthy than eating at home.
The findings also indicated a link between decreased behavioral issue risk and the consumption of coffee, milk, tea, chocolate, cocoa, yogurt, bread, toast, cereals, and pastries. Unexpectedly, greater chances of these problems were associated with eating eggs, cheese, and ham.
Impacts beyond nutrition
Although this study is confined to Spain, the results are consistent with other studies performed elsewhere. The availability of healthy meals in schools is likely to have an impact on the results in certain locations.
However, other variables, such as social and familial support that young people might get at home at breakfast, may also play a role in the reported benefits. The authors underline the need for more research to understand the cause-and-effect relationships behind their data, but they still suggest the use of these findings.
“The fact that eating breakfast away from home is associated with greater psychosocial health problems is a novel aspect of our study,” said López-Gil. “Our 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. Also, to prevent psychosocial health problems, a breakfast that includes dairy and/or cereals, and minimizes certain animal foods high in saturated fat/cholesterol, could help to decrease psychosocial health problems in young people.”
Reference: “Breakfast and psychosocial behavioural problems in young population: The role of status, place, and habits” by José Francisco López-Gil, Lee Smith, Rubén López-Bueno and Pedro Juan Tárraga-López, 23 August 2022, Frontiers in Nutrition.