Breakfast skipping means children may not be getting all the nutrients they need, warns new report.


A new scientific review* published today by the British Nutrition Foundation, in partnership with the charity, Magic Breakfast, highlights that many schoolchildren are skipping breakfast, making it harder to get the nutrients they need for healthy development and learning. Teenagers, especially girls, and children from households on lower incomes are particularly at risk. 

The review looked at the contribution of breakfast to nutrient intakes and diet quality in school-aged children aged 4-18 years. It also considered the effect of breakfast consumption on obesity and other markers of health as well as cognitive function, behaviour, and educational performance, with a focus on low socio-economic status households.

The authors found that continuously missing out on a nutritious breakfast can make it harder for children and young people to get enough of the nutrients they need for good physical and mental health and learning. This includes nutrients of concern for growth and development such as calcium and iron. Children and young people from lower socio-economic groups are less likely to meet dietary recommendations and nutritional targets. They are also more likely to have nutritional deficiencies such as iron deficiency anaemia and be living with obesity, compared to those from higher income households.

The evidence suggests that healthier breakfasts, can help children and young people to maintain a healthy body weight and can have a positive impact on school-related outcomes. Encouraging breakfasts that contain essential nutrients, are high in fibre and low in saturated fat, free sugars and salt, particularly in adolescence when lifestyle patterns are developing, may help contribute to well-being, both in the short and longer term.

Free school breakfast provision could help address health and educational inequalities for the most vulnerable children and young people by helping to reduce hunger and potentially providing a nutritional safety net in the context of a whole school approach.

Sara Stanner, Science Director at the British Nutrition Foundation explained: “Arriving at school hungry affects children’s ability to learn and process information. All children have the right to healthy food – tackling hunger and helping children get the nutrition they need should be a part of a whole school approach to enable all children to realise their potential.”

Dr Lindsey MacDonald, CEO of Magic Breakfast said: “The immediate benefit of school breakfasts is children are better prepared to learn, and focus on their education rather than being undermined and distracted by their empty tummies. This year, our annual survey revealed Magic Breakfast is a key contributor to learning, with 87% of our partner schools saying Magic Breakfast has a positive impact on educational attainment, whilst our What’s For Breakfast research, revealed that 85% of parents felt eating breakfast has a positive impact on their child’s attainment. We need to ensure that all children can access a healthy breakfast and maximise their potential.”