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Verified by Psychology Today

Timing is Everything

Do you know what time your
kids eat breakfast? It's
more important than you might think.

Pediatricians and nutritionists often stress how important it is for kids to eat a good breakfast. But the exact benefits of a morning meal may depend in part on how early breakfast is served.

While it's long been known that nutritional supplements given during infancy and early childhood can improve IQ and memory later in life, only recently have researchers begun investigating how nutrition affects kids' memory and learning in the short run. A team of Israeli pediatricians and psychologists, led by N. Vaisman, M.D., of the Kaplan Hospital in Rehvot, reports a study in which children took memory tests before being put on a daily at-school breakfast of corn flakes and milk. After two weeks on the diet, these children--as well as other kids whose meals had not been controlled--were re-tested.

The results, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, showed that the youngsters who ate at school enjoyed a significantly higher level of memory performance than children who skipped breakfast. No surprise there.

But kids who ate at home (roughly two hours before the memory tests were given, on average) also scored lower than the children who were given cereal at school (about 30 minutes before the tests). This suggests that when--and not just whether--kids eat breakfast determines how well they retain the day's lessons. Filling their cereal bowl several hours before school begins, the team concluded, may offer kids less of a benefit than a meal consumed a half hour or so before classes begin.