PhotoOn busy mornings, it may be tempting — necessary, even — to send kids off to school with a quick bowl of cereal or a grab-and-go breakfast bar. But how long can breakfasts like these stick to their ribs? It may not surprise you to learn that they'd be better off come lunchtime if they'd had a higher protein breakfast like eggs.

New research shows, however, that the effects of a protein-rich breakfast don’t linger past mid-day. Children will eat less at lunch than if they’d had cereal or oatmeal in the morning, yes — but only their mid-day meal will see the effects of a protein-filled breakfast. 

This discovery, researchers claim, could have important implications for the prevention of obesity, particularly for young people, as even a small amount of excess calories can cause weight gain and obesity if sustained.

Only affects lunch

A team of researchers, led by Tanja Kral, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing recruited forty 8- to 10-year-old children to consume one of three 350-calorie breakfasts (eggs, oatmeal, or cereal).

The children were then allowed to eat as much or as little lunch as they desired, while answering questions like, “How much do you think you could eat right now?” Their parents also logged in a food journal what children ate for the rest of the day.  

The researchers found that, after consuming the egg breakfast (scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast, diced peaches, and one percent milk), children’s energy intake at lunch was reduced by seventy calories. That 70-calorie drop translates to about four percent of a child’s daily caloric needs.

Didn’t feel “fuller”

Kral said it wasn’t a surprise that the egg breakfast was the most satiating. What she was surprised to discover was that, according to the children's reports, eating the egg breakfast didn't make them feel “fuller” than cereal or oatmeal, even though they ate less for lunch.

“We expected that the reduced lunch intake would be accompanied by lower levels of hunger and greater fullness after eating the high protein breakfast," said Kral, “But this wasn't the case."

The study, recently published in Eating Behaviors, could be the precursor to future research on the subject of foods that help children feel full. Such discoveries could help children — especially those who are prone to weight gain — reduce excessive eating.

"Approximately 17 percent of US children and adolescents are considered obese," Kral says. "It's really important that we identify certain types of food that can help children feel full and also moderate caloric intake, especially in children who are prone to excess weight gain."

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