Five Worst School Breakfasts: Ham-Egg Biscuit Tops the List

School Breakfast, Child Health, Sodium, Fat, Cholesterol, Childhood Obesity
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Every day, 12 million students eat breakfast in their school cafeteria before classes begin. The goal of the National School Breakfast Program is to provide kids with a low-cost nutrition option, as breakfast is the most important meal of the day and can have a beneficial influence on school performance.

But unfortunately, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that 93% of these school breakfasts serve processed meats, excess cholesterol and calories from fat, and much more sodium than a child should consume in one meal. The non-profit health organization surveyed 30 school districts across the country and whittled their list of options down to the worst 5 school breakfasts in America.

“The most important meal of the day shouldn’t be a nutritional nightmare,” says PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “Breakfasts full of fat, sodium, and processed meat can lead to obesity and put children at risk for diabetes and heart disease later in life. Healthier school meals help kids concentrate and do better in class.”

Although the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently unveiled new guidelines for school meals, schools do not have to begin phasing in the improvements until next year and have up to three years to fully comply with the new Breakfast Meal Pattern, outlined below:

Grades K-5: Minimum calorie level – 350, Maximum calorie level – 500
Saturated fat (as % of total calories) must be less than 10%
Sodium (mg) – less than 430 mg

Grades 6-8: Minimum calorie level – 400, Maximum calorie level – 550
Saturated fat (as % of total calories) must be less than 10%
Sodium (mg) – less than 470 mg

Grades 9-12: Minimum calorie level – 450, Maximum calorie level – 600
Saturated fat (as % of total calories) must be less than 10%
Sodium (mg) – less than 500 mg

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The school districts surveyed were from all regions of the continental United States and included rural, urban and suburban schools. Nutrition information was obtained by reviewing the analysis available on the school district websites and data from the USDA. The five worst breakfasts were:

1. Ham, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit. This breakfast sandwich, served in more than half of the school districts surveyed, contained 438 calories and 1792 milligrams of sodium. The calories from fat (49%) are double the Institute of Medicine’s maximum recommendation. It also contains the most saturated fat of any other item in the report.

2. Cheesy Scrambled Eggs. This one course derives 63% of its calories from fat and has more than 6 times the IOM’s recommended maximum amount of cholesterol.

3. Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Whole-Grain Sandwich. Don’t let the term “whole grain” fool you; this sandwich is even worse than a similar fast food sandwich for its sodium content (1079 mg). It also contains 17 grams of fat with 9 grams of that saturated.

4. Maple-Flavored Pork Pancake Wrap. 93% of schools serve sausage or other processed meats at breakfast, such as in this wrap which contains 43% of calories from fat and 470 mg of sodium. It also contains 8 grams of sugar.

5. Glazed Raised Donut. The 13 grams of sugar in this breakfast item is more than a male adult should have in a day as part of a heart healthy diet. Excess sugar can also interrupt the learning process, as the sugar crash can cause difficulty in concentration and irritability later in the morning.

For school children, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Studies show that children who eat breakfast are more attentive in the classroom, earn higher grades (particularly in math) and have significantly fewer behavioral issues.

However, eating an unhealthy breakfast could result in poor school performance, so better choices would be lower glycemic foods such as oatmeal and whole grain cereals, fruit, and a protein such as plain scrambled eggs or low-fat milk.

Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

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