The Benefits of Breakfast Clubs at Work
With breakfast often considered to be the most important meal of the day, workplace breakfast clubs can help employees to start their working day fully fuelled, clear minded and ready to work. There are benefits for employers and employees alike.
Why Should We Eat Breakfast?
Breakfast consumption has been associated with a multitude of health-related benefits, including improved nutrient intake[i], increased moderate-to-vigorous physical activity[ii], and improved mood[iii]. Despite such benefits, breakfast remains the meal that is most regularly skipped[iv], which is concerning as breakfast omission has been linked to such problems as increased risk of coronary heart disease[v] and increased body mass index[vi][vii].
Research has shown that breakfast clubs in schools have been somewhat successful in encouraging children to make healthy breakfast choices. For example, studies have shown that children who attend breakfast clubs eat a higher proportion of healthy food items such as cereals and fruits for breakfast than children who do not attend breakfast clubs[viii].
Most people will consume about one-third of their daily calories at work so making changes to your breakfast routine can help to improve the physical energy levels of your body and also support the mind. Grabbing half a slice of toast and a gulp of tea as you rush to get yourself and maybe children out of the door in the morning, is always a stressful time. By the time you arrive at work you are often flustered, already feeling tired and your mind is buzzing and foggy. If you can have 15 minutes once you arrive at work to sit down, have a drink, eat a healthy breakfast and just let the stress levels decrease, you can think clearly and plan your day ahead.
What Should We Eat for Breakfast?
Choosing the right foods for breakfast can help you to look after your body and not have you reaching for biscuits and sugary snacks at 11 am. Porridge is a good healthy option and slowly releases energy so helps you to stay fuller for longer and does not cause the energy crashes that often hit mid-morning. Porridge oats are regularly chosen by athletes and dieters for breakfast because the high fibre levels give them energy for longer. High in iron, zinc, manganese, thiamine and copper, oats are nutrient rich. Combine porridge with some fruit or frozen berries; the more colour in your diet the better the balance of nutrients and vitamins for you. Porridge is quick and easy to make either with milk in the microwave or just pouring hot water from the kettle into a bowl with porridge oats and leave for a few minutes.
Starting the day with whole grains such as porridge oats can also have a healthy effect on your heart. Whole grains have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, boost bone density and promote healthy gut bacteria. Beta-glucan found only in oats can help to lower blood pressure and help protect against heart disease[ix]. Avenanthramides and phenolic acids found mainly in oats, have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-itch qualities but are also thought to help stop fat forming in arteries, preventing heart attacks and strokes. Scientists found that for each 28g of whole grains eaten a day – the equivalent of a small bowl of porridge – the risk of all death was reduced by five per cent and heart deaths by 9 per cent[ix].
How do Breakfast Clubs Work?
Breakfast clubs can work either by the employer providing a range of healthy breakfast choices or by encouraging staff who can come into work earlier, to bring their breakfast with them. Canteens can be encouraged to provide a range of healthy breakfast options. Breakfast clubs provide an allocated area where staff can sit, talk, team build and organise themselves for the day. This can provide a sense of being valued, looked after, part of a supportive team and help to create loyalty to the business. It can also provide staff with the opportunity to be ready and willing to start work and to work efficiently and effectively because they are not feeling stressed, harassed and possibly hungry from the morning, school run or journey to work and feeling negative about the whole situation.
In summary, allowing staff to join a breakfast club can lead to greater productivity, but it is also a demonstration of an employer’s intention to help boost and support the well-being and health of their staff and show them that they are cared about, creating a feeling of being valued and lead to staff loyalty.
[i] Source: Gibson SA, Gunn P. What’s for breakfast? Nutritional implications of breakfast habits: insights from the NDNS dietary records. Nutr Bull (2011) 36:78–86.10.1111/j.1467-3010.2010.01873.
[ii] Source: Corder K, van Sluijs EM, Ridgway CL, Steele RM, Prynne CJ, Stephen AM, Bamber DJ, Dunn VJ, Goodyer IM, Ekelund U, Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Feb; 99(2):361-8. Breakfast consumption and physical activity in adolescents: daily associations and hourly patterns
[iii] Source: Defeyter MA, Russo R. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013; 7():789. The effect of breakfast cereal consumption on adolescents’ cognitive performance and mood.
[iv] Source: Rampersaud GC. Benefits of breakfast for children and adolescents: update and recommendations for practitioners. Am J Lifestyle Med (2009) 3:86–103.10.1177/1559827608327219
[v] Source: Prospective study of breakfast eating and incident coronary heart disease in a cohort of male US health professionals. Cahill LE, Chiuve SE, Mekary RA, Jensen MK, Flint AJ, Hu FB, Rimm EB. Circulation. 2013 Jul 23; 128(4):337-43.
[vi] Breakfast skipping and change in body mass index in young children. Tin SP, Ho SY, Mak KH, Wan KL, Lam TH. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 Jul; 35(7):899-906.
[viii] A national evaluation of school breakfast clubs: evidence from a cluster randomized controlled trial and an observational analysis.
Shemilt I, Harvey I, Shepstone L, Swift L, Reading R, Mugford M, Belderson P, Norris N, Thoburn J, Robinson J
Child Care Health Dev. 2004 Sep; 30(5):413-27.