How Breakfast Effects Kids’ Social And Emotional Health

What and where kids' breakfast is eaten doesn't just affect physical health, but social and emotional development as well.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

Kids That Walk To School Live Healthier Lives As Adults

kids' breakfast

While the old adage, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” was only just a marketing campaign, there is some truth to it. Children need proper meals in order to develop healthy social and emotional health. Kids’ breakfast affects how they think, and it’s not just what they eat that matters, it’s also where they eat as well. 

A 2017 study from Spain is gaining more traction in modern times as Americans focus on socio-emotional health. Throughout this study, 3,772 children between the ages of four and 14 were researched. From their eating habits to their behavioral patterns, scientists found that kids’ breakfast does have a serious effect on psychosocial outcomes. 

Eating meals at home produces more positive results. Children who skipped breakfast or ate away from their families were more likely to have behavioral issues or psychological struggles. Family meals have proven to build stronger bonds at home, encourage children to achieve higher grades in school, relieve stress, and ensure that meals — starting with kids’ breakfasts — are healthier. 

While kids’ breakfast at home is more likely to improve their well-being, eating away does not. This could be due to a variety of factors. School lunches have been under scrutiny for some time, but breakfast is even more concerning, especially in America. The American diet is carbohydrate centric. Giving children sugary cereals or even pastries right before they are expected to sit and behave in school hinders their ability to listen because complex carbohydrates give the body a burst of energy.

Children who have too much energy and struggle sitting still in class are more likely to act out and be reprimanded for not following directions. But while this is a serious issue, kids who skip breakfast altogether also have many struggles. Hunger increases stress levels. Children who have not had enough to eat, or anything at all, often become angry and frustrated. Young children are more likely to have a temper tantrum when they’re hungry because their body is not being properly fueled and that makes it difficult to control themselves. 

What’s more, childhood hunger has been linked to an increased rate of violence later in life. Children who grow up angry and frustrated, without the proper nutrients to think clearly are more impulsive and become more likely to experience social and emotional issues as that age. So kids’ breakfast is essential to their short-term and long-term success. 

kids' breakfast

Kids’ breakfast influences how they behave and what they will do in the future. While it may not seem like a serious issue, families that eat together and provide healthy nutritious meals aren’t just feeding their children, they are offering support and care that affects kids well into their adult life. Just as ensuring that children eat something before they start their day, discussing events and future hopes sets them on a better path. The Spanish research conducted in recent years also reminds Americans that getting proper nutrients is an important component of ensuring that children get a proper education, giving weight to another adage, “You are what you eat.”