Breakfast Linked to Better School Performance

By Dr. Katy Roberts, EdD, MPH, MCHES

Breakfast is considered one of the most important meals of the day because of the timing.  It occurs after we have slept through the night without any food, so, in essence, we’ve had a mini-fast.  Every morning when we wake up, it’s time to “break that fast” and get our bodies ready for the day.

Research has shown that skipping breakfast can affect cognitive performance including reduced alertness, attention, memory, and problem solving as well as on-task behavior in the classroom.1,2  The quality of the breakfast matters too.  There is some evidence that students who consistently consume three or more food groups at breakfast have better mental health (e.g., less depression, aggression) and higher average grades than those who skip breakfast or eat one food group.2,3  In addition, if we eat a healthy breakfast, we can reduce hunger, so by the time lunch comes around, we aren’t so famished that we grab for anything, which usually means consuming highly processed food.

Unfortunately, the majority of students are not eating breakfast every day.  Only 38% of high school students stated that they ate breakfast every day of the week.4  Nutrition in young people is especially important because their bodies and brains are developing.  Their behavioral patterns and social skills are also developing.  If they come to school less likely to cognitively function, less able to pay attention and more likely to have emotional distress, they won’t do as well socially or academically.

Eating a healthy breakfast can give us a better chance to do well in school and in our jobs.  It doesn’t have to be complex.  Put all the ingredients of the Ironwill Kids Purple Blast Smoothie (see below) in a blender and refrigerate the night before.  Wake up, open the refrigerator, run the blender and voilà, a breakfast with three food groups in it:  Vegetables, fruits, and grains (rice milk) or protein (almond milk).

Purple Berry Blast

1 cup frozen blueberries
1 large ripe banana
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1½ cups vanilla rice milk or almond milk
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp honey


  1. Basch, C.E. (2011). Breakfast and the achievement gap among urban minority youth. Journal of School Health, 81(10), 635-640.
  2. Adolphus, K., Lawton, C.L., Dye, L. (2013). The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 7, 1-28
  3. O’Sullivan, T.A., Robinson, M. Kendal, G.E. et al. (2008). A good-quality breakfast is associated with better mental health in adolescence. Public Health Nutrition, 12(2), 249-258.
  4. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2012). Youth risk behavior surveillance–United States, 2011. MMWR Surveill Summ, 59(4), 1-162.