This lesson helps young people understand the importance of eating a healthful breakfast every day. The youth will plan and research a breakfast meal and create a poster or digital presentation including nutrient information.
Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about breakfast habits for young people. These facts can be shared with the youth during your discussions.
- Studies show that kids who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities which helps in maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Kids will often skip breakfast, which makes them feel tired, restless, and irritable.
- Breakfast gives the body the refueling it needs for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during sleep.
- What they eat in the morning is important too. Choosing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein while low in added sugar may enhance their attention span, concentration, and memory — which they need to learn in school.
- Ask the youth, what does the word “breakfast” mean?
Break = to separate or divide.
Fast = a period of time without food.
Breakfast means to break the fast.
- How many hours does your body normally fast from suppertime to breakfast? How about from breakfast to lunch?
- Why is “breaking” your fast by eating in the morning so important? Young people can share ideas and brainstorm why it is important. Possible answers include: less tired, less likely to overeat later in day, more likely to choose healthful foods, think more clearly, perform better at school and extra-curricular activities.
- Explain to the youth that our bodies were not designed to go from suppertime to lunch the next day without eating so our brain and body go into what is referred to as a “starvation mode”. This is where your brain and body starts to conserve energy as a natural mechanism to protect your from starvation, which may leave you feeling more tired, irritable, less able to concentrate, and overall sluggish.
Activity: Calculate Your Basal Metabolic Rate
- Show the formulas for estimating Basal Metabolic Rate, which is the baseline number of calories our body’s burn in a day when we are being sedentary. Exercise and other activity will increase this, but it gives a starting point. Point out that each person is different. Here are the formulas:
[Basal Metabolic Rate] = (Body Weight (kg) x 10) + (Height in centimeters (cm) x 6.25) – (Age x 5) + 5
[Basal Metabolic Rate] = (Body Weight (kg) x 10) + (Height in centimeters (cm) x 6.25) – (Age x 5) – 161
- ***Body weight in kilogram (kg) = Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 (Example: 130 lbs ÷ 2.2 = 59 kg body weight.
- ***Height in centimeters (cm) = Height in inches x 2.54 (Example 5’5 ft tall = 65 inches x 2.54 = 165 cm tall.
- Ask young people to calculate their personal Basal Metabolic Rate, using calculators if necessary and available. They can keep their height and weight private during this activity.
- Once they have done this, explain that the BMR gives a general idea of how many calories they need to consume each day in order to effectively fuel their bodies. However, if we go too long without eating (for most people between 8 and 12 hours) our BMR drops because our body begins to go into “starvation mode.” That means it burns fewer calories in order to protect itself. This can be bad for weight control, as the body naturally fights back, doing everything it can to make you stop losing any weight. The body and brain may respond by making you hungrier so that your will eat more and at the same time hold onto more of the calories you consume to protect you from losing weight. It also will likely have many other effects on you such as lower energy levels, poorer concentration, poor memory, and feelings of irritability.
- The bottom line of all this is that breakfast is a very important meal, perhaps the most important of the day.
Activity: Breakfast Recommendations for Young People
- Ask the youth for some reasons why young people don’t eat breakfast. Possible answers include: want to sleep more, not enough time, nothing to eat at home, not hungry that early in the morning, takes too long to prepare, don’t like typical breakfast foods.
- Ask the youth for some solutions. Possible answers include:
- Go to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier.
- Get up 15 minutes earlier or set out clothes and shower the night before.
- Eat school breakfast.
- Pack breakfast or a snack to eat on way to school.
- Plan three easy quick breakfasts ahead of time.
- Eat leftovers from last night’s dinner.
- Ask, what makes a healthful breakfast? A healthful breakfast is one that has many nutrients, includes foods from different food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein). It should be low in added sugars and fats, high in vitamins and fiber.
- Introduce the poster activity and have the youth plan and research a breakfast meal and then create a poster or PowerPoint including nutrient information. Grade his or her recommendations by breakfast completeness (at least three of the five food groups included), taste, appearance, and time it takes to prepare.
- Assign a day to have young people present their breakfast idea to the group.
Breakfast is a critical piece of the Health Powered Kids puzzle. Without breakfast our bodies don’t get the jumpstart they need to operate at their fullest potential throughout the day. Encourage young people to share with their families the ideas they gained through this activity, and to work on making breakfast a routine part of their day.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families continue discussing the importance of breakfast at home.
Additional Instructor Resources
Article: Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents
There Are Sneaky Sugars! – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)