Students skipping breakfast on the rise

AS MANY as one in seven Australian school children admit to heading to school without breakfast, according to ABS data released on Tuesday.

The annual CensusAtSchool survey was based on responses from more than 16,100 Australian schoolchildren.

The results revealed 15.2% of respondents did not eat breakfast on the day they completed the survey.

Dietitian and director of the Australian Breakfast Cereals Manufacturers Forum Leigh Reeve said the unhealthy trend was on the rise.

"Since the survey began six years ago, we've seen the number of schoolchildren skipping breakfast steadily climb, up from 10.8% in 2008," Ms Reeve said.

"It means more children are starting the day on the back foot.

"Research links eating breakfast with improved cognitive performance, particularly in relation to memory and test results."

South Australian students recorded the worst results, with as many as one in five skipping breakfast.

Among breakfast foods, breakfast cereal remained the most popular choice with more than a third (35.7%) eating breakfast cereal on the day they took the survey, followed by bread or bread products (26.3%) and milk or milk products (12.4%).

"Breakfast cereal is popular because it's a tasty option that's quick and easy to manage as part of the morning rush," Ms Reeve said.

"Importantly it also provides essential nutrients in particular B group vitamins, iron and fibre, and accounts for almost a third of daily milk intakes for Australian children.

"Children who eat breakfast cereal are likely to have better nutrition, a lower body mass index and are at a lower risk of being overweight or obese." 


Dietitian Leigh Reeve's tips for encouraging children to eat breakfast:

- Limit after-dinner snacks. If your calls for breakfast are met by "I'm not hungry", try cutting back snacks after dinner.

- Leave it to the kids. Breakfast cereal is one of the first meals kids can make for themselves, so encourage them to do so. You can even set out bowls and cereal the night before so all they need to do is grab the milk.

- Lead by example. Resist the urge to just grab a coffee, instead take five minutes for a bowl of breakfast cereal or a piece of toast.

- Be ready to run. Dietitians always recommend sitting down to eat breakfast, but sometimes that's just not possible. Brekkie on the run is much better than none at all, so for chaotic mornings try a travel-friendly option like a liquid breakfast drink, a sandwich or even a piece of fruit.