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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Is Breakfast an Important Part of Children's Diets?

By Eric Ciappio

We’ve been told since we were children that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but why? What have you done for me lately, breakfast? Recently published data shows us that for children and adolescents, regular breakfast consumption is associated with a healthier diet.

Barr and colleagues analyzed data from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey, a nationally representative survey which collects health and diet related information from a large sample of Canadians. The goal of their analysis was to determine whether breakfast consumption among children was associated with the prevalence of nutritional inadequacy, i.e., having a nutrient intake that is below the estimated average requirement (EAR).

When they dove into the data, the investigators found that children who consumed breakfast had a significantly lower prevalence of inadequate intake for nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, and Zinc. Furthermore, among children whose breakfasts included ready-to-eat cereals, the prevalence of inadequate intake for nutrients including Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium is even lower than those consuming other breakfasts.

So this analysis begs the question – what’s so special about breakfast? Why would it be linked to improving nutritional adequacy? Smart money says the answer is nutrient fortification. For Americans (who, from a diet perspective, aren’t so different from our Canadian friends), consumption of fortified foods makes a major impact on nutrient inadequacy, and the same is especially true among for children and adolescents. What’s more, consumers tell us that breakfast is the preferred time of day to eat nutrient fortified/functional foods, and that consumers believe that children are the group that benefits the most from fortified/functional foods. Taken together, it’s a smart bet that these children consumed fortified foods at breakfast, and that fortification helped them to improve their nutrient intakes.

So what can we take away from all this? Three things: 1) Nutrient inadequacies are still observed in North American children; 2) Fortified foods help children improve their diets and meet their nutrient needs; and 3) consumers recognize that children can benefit from fortified foods, and they want those fortified foods at breakfast.

Now that’s a great thought to start your day off right.


Main Citation:

Barr SI, DiFrancesco L, Fulgoni VL III. Breakfast consumption is positively associated with nutrient inadequacy in Canadian children and adolescents. Br J Nutr 2014; epub ahead of print.


Supporting Citation:          

Fulgoni VL III, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer J. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr 2011; 141(10): 1847-1854.

Berner LA, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer JT. Fortified foods are major contributors to nutrient intakes in diets of US children and adolescents. J Acad Nutr Diet 2014; 114(7): 1009-1022.