A breakfast high in protein, like eggs, keeps children fuller longer than cereal or oatmeal, causing them to eat fewer calories at lunch, according to US nurse researchers.
The study, recently published in the journal Eating Behaviors, also concludes that the effects of a protein-rich meal does not last throughout the day and only impacts on the midday meal.
“It’s really important that we identify certain types of food that can help children feel full”
Researchers, led by Dr Tanja Kral, from the University of Pennsylvania’s school of nursing, recruited 40 children, aged eight to 10.
The children consumed one of three, 350-calorie breakfasts – eggs, oatmeal, or cereal. They then played games with research staff and then ate lunch, once a week for three consecutive weeks.
Throughout the morning, they answered questions on whether they were hungry or could eat any food. Their parents also logged in a food journal what the children ate the remainder of the day.
According to the research, after consuming the egg breakfast – scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast, diced peaches, and 1% milk – children reduced their energy intake at lunch by 70 calories, roughly equivalent to a small chocolate biscuit.
Moderately active children in the same age range as those who participated in the study generally need between 1,600 and 1,800 calories daily, said the study authors.
The 70-calorie drop at one meal equals about 4% of a child’s daily caloric needs, they said, noting that eating beyond the caloric threshold, if sustained, could cause excess weight gain.
However, there were no significant differences in children’s appetite ratings between the three breakfast types.
Eggs for breakfast keep children fuller for longer
Dr Kral said: “I’m not surprised that the egg breakfast was the most satiating breakfast. What does surprise me is the fact 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.”
She said: “We expected that the reduced lunch intake would be accompanied by lower levels of hunger and greater fullness after eating the high protein breakfast, but this wasn’t the case.”
Future research should study children over a longer period of time as these findings could have important implications for the prevention of obesity, particularly for young people, said the authors.
Dr Kral added: “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.”