Note:  I originally published this a few days ago.  However, I did a little further “research” which I added at the end.  So I’m changing the date/time so it’ll be at the top for awhile.

The zigzag pattern of conversation is interesting.  One topic/thought leads to another and then another until the conversation is about something totally separate from the original topic.

The other day the children in one of my reading groups were reading about the Revolutionary War.  There was a paragraph about the Quakers and how they were pacifists during the war.  One girl mentioned that the drawing of the Quaker man in the history book resembled the man on boxes of Quaker oatmeal.  A couple of the kids remarked that they liked oatmeal, and I told them that RT had made Quaker oatmeal for our breakfast that  morning.   Of course the second I told what I’d eaten for breakfast, the children had to tell me what they’d had for breakfast. 

It was an enlightening conversation.  So enlightening that I grabbed pen and paper and wrote down what they told me.  Later, I asked the children in the next reading group to tell me what they’d had for breakfast, too.

Out of the eleven children in the two reading groups, three are significantly overweight.  What did these significantly overweight elementary children have for breakfast?  One had two Pop-Tarts, although she said that usually she has a ham & cheese Hot Pocket.  Another had a bowl of Cap’n Crunch cereal, and the third had a S’mores Pop Tart, a bottle of Yoo-hoo, along with sausage and bacon.  All three ate breakfast at home.  About half of the other children had eaten breakfast in the school cafeteria.

A too-thin child had had no breakfast. She said she skips breakfast about half the time, and that when she does have breakfast, it’s usually a bowl of cereal.  The other children had things like French toast sticks and syrup, Eggo waffles, eggs, sausage, Froot Loops.  One boy had a corn dog for breakfast.  Another boy had a donut, cereal and apple juice.

Are there any conclusions to be drawn from this extremely limited sample of elementary school children? Nothing scientific – that’s for sure.  However, here are a few observations:

I was surprised at the amount of junk food – toaster pastries, donuts, cereals like Froot Loops and Cap’n Crunch.  Lots of processed foods and sugar.  NONE of the children ate what I consider a healthy breakfast – whole grains, fruit, milk.  As a matter of fact, none of the children had milk except with cereal, and the only fruit was the one child who drank some apple juice.

The amount of food was surprising, too – from the child who skipped breakfast half the time to the child who ate not only a Pop Tart but drank a bottle of Yoohoo and had bacon and sausage, too. 

I guess the main thing is that if these eleven children are representative of other elementary school children, then the breakfast habits of American children are abysmal, and it’s no wonder that Americans have become so overweight.

Another thought I had is that these children come to me for reading help because they’re struggling readers.  I wonder if the children who excel in reading would have different patterns of eating.  Tomorrow I’ll meet with a group of 15 high readers.  I’ll be asking them about what they eat for breakfast.

Monday, 3/5/07 Update:  Okay, folks, here’s the update with the high readers.  Out of a group of 15 high readers, there is only one child who is overweight.   That child had what I call a “double breakfast.”  She had sausage, eggs, chocolate milk AND a bowl of Cocoa Krispies.  The other breakfasts in the groups were similar to that of the children I mentioned earlier (pancakes, Lucky Charms, toaster strudel, Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops, chocolate chip muffin, etc.)  There was one notable exception. 

I was eager to learn what one particular child had for breakfast because she was recently  identified as “gifted” and is way above all the other children – even in the high group – in reading and other subjects, as well.  Her breakfast?  Yogurt, fruit and water.  She was the only child out of about 30 children who had what I would consider a healthful breakfast.  She also happens to be thin.

It’s totally unscientific, but I think you can draw some broad tendencies from my “research.”  Out of 30 children, only one had eaten a healthful breakfast.  All the others had eaten over-processed, high-fat, high-sugar foods for breakfast.

I also wondered about the children in the low groups.  Out of eleven children, there were three that were significantly overweight, and one that was borderline.  Out of a group of 15 high readers, only one was overweight.  I wonder if there are any correlations there, too.  I know excess weight makes me have less self-confidence and I don’t feel as alert and eager to learn.  It likely has a negative impact on children, too.

My daughter-in-law is in the last few weeks of her nursing degree program, and they’re doing clinicals.  One of the clinicals is in public health where they go to elementary schools to do body fat measurements.  She said it is amazing the terrible physical condition (in terms of weight and lack of exercise) of many children.

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11 Responses to “Breakfast of Champions? What kids eat for breakfast (Or how a discussion of the Revolutionary War led to a discussion about breakfast foods)”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    links from Technoratithat libraries are making kids obese by encouraging them to sit still and read?” Carol nodded her head. “There does seem to be a lot of junk food out there. Just last week I was working with some reading groups. We got to talking about theirbreakfast habitsand I was amazed at what they ate, if anything. It made me wonder if this was part of the reason they were low readers.” “Maybe parents just aren’t good at arithmetic these days,” said Mamacita. “You know, the kind that shows they

  2. What It's Like on the Inside Says:

    links from Technoratithat libraries are making kids obese by encouraging them to sit still and read?” Carol nodded her head. “There does seem to be a lot of junk food out there. Just last week I was working with some reading groups. We got to talking about theirbreakfast habitsand I was amazed at what they ate, if anything. It made me wonder if this was part of the reason they were low readers.” “Maybe parents just aren’t good at arithmetic these days,” said Mamacita. “You know, the kind that shows they

  3. Joan Says:

    VERY interesting! I’d be surprised if there is not a connection between the eating habits and the learning success.

  4. elementaryhistoryteacher Says:

    Junk food isn’t just for breakfast anymore……take some time and ask them what they have for dinner. If it isn’t drive-thru fare it’s processed from a box, bag or package.

  5. janjanmom Says:

    Very interesting. Could it be that America is dumbing down AND getting fatter in the process.

    I was an medium sized kid growing up, but we NEVER had any sort of processed food, except I guess cake was as processed as there was in my house. It was from a mix not from scratch. That was the extent of our convenience food. I take the same approach to food with my kids, sadly, not myself so much.

    Today’s yogurt is not exactly healthy. Kids in my scout troop love yogurt, not the real low-fat, low sugar kind but the trix and go-gurt. No real nutritive value there-but still better than a pop-tart. Pop tarts are as rare in this house as a hot-pocket. Maybe a once a year splurge if it is on sale and we have a hefty coupon…then it comes with many lectures about how it is not any different than a cookie/junk food.

  6. Ruth Says:

    A most interesting and surprising post. Like Joan, I thought you would probably find the high achievers has a healthier breakfast. I thought college educated mothers would do bettter..prehpas we need to bring “Home Economics”
    back to the curriculum

  7. Lyn Says:

    Interesting. I think you’d find that most kids eat like that every day – and often junk food (like elementry historyteacher said above) for supper, too. Many families are so rushed, the main focus of eating is fast not healthy.

  8. quxing Says:

    and the problem isn’t going to go away — these kids are not learning how to PREPARE healthy food, so it’s likely that they will continue to make poor food choices as adults, too. Do they know how to put a slice of whole wheat bread in the toaster, slice a banana on top, and add a touch of honey or jam? How about yogurt and fruit (not that awful pre-flavored junk)? Hard-boiled eggs, made the night before and ready to go in the frig? All of these are just as convenient, and hey, the eggs even come in their own little wrapper, called a “shell.”

    TMS: I agree with you. They’re not going to learn how to prepare healthful food. They’ll continue the cycle. I’ve become obsessed with this and have asked all the children I work with to tell me what they eat for breakfast. So far, that one little girl is the only one who has had a breakfast that wasn’t filled with over-processed, sugary stuff. And the only milk has been strawberry milk and chocolate milk – again lots of sugar added.

  9. Mrs. Bluebird Says:

    Between sugary over-processed foods, sitting in front of a video game all afternoon and evening, and then elimination of recesses and reduction of physical education programs…it’s a wonder these kids don’t drop dead before they hit middle school.

  10. ricki Says:

    Wow. How times have changed. As a kid, I regularly ate cream of wheat (which my mom fixed for me and now I realize how grateful I should be to her for going to that trouble) or Post Toasties or raisin bran or something like that…my parents would NOT buy sugary cereal, only in rare instances when I was sick and not eating, and then they’d buy Capn Crunch or something, with the understanding that it was just because I was sick and just to get me to eat…

    as an adult, I tend to favor wheat squares or granola. Or whole wheat toast if I have good bread in the house.

    When I was a kid it was just taken for granted that your parents fixed healthy meals for you and saw to it that you ate them. And I’m not that old! (still less than 40). I learned to cook at my mom’s knee and I still like to cook today. It makes me sad when I see the next generation growing up on fast food and instant stuff and not knowing how to cook for themselves, and apparently they don’t know or don’t care about nutrition.

  11. graycie Says:

    It would be interesting to cross-correlate among three variables: family food choices, reading ability, and family income/education levels.

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