A high-protein breakfast may keep children fuller longer

February 8, 2016

A study published in Eating Behaviors shows that a breakfast high in protein may keep children fuller longer than cereal or oatmeal, causing them to eat fewer calories at lunch. The study also concludes that the effects of a protein-rich meal don’t last throughout the day—it only impacts a mid-day meal.

The researchers recruited 40 children, aged 8–10, to consume one of three 350-calorie breakfasts (eggs, oatmeal, or cereal). Once a week for three consecutive weeks, the children ate the assigned breakfast followed by a lunch at midday. On each occasion, every participant had to eat their entire breakfast, but could eat as much or as little lunch as desired. Throughout the morning, they answered questions like, “How hungry are you?” and “How much food do you think you could eat right now?” 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.

“I’m not surprised that the egg breakfast was the most satiating breakfast,” said Tanja Kral, associate professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. “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. 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.”

The researchers concluded that 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.

The study was supported by a research grant from the American Egg Board/Egg Nutrition Center, who had involvement in the study design, but had no role in data collection, analysis, interpretation of the data, writing of the manuscript, and the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.