You probably heard it from your own parents: Breakfast is the most important meal
of the day. But now you're the one saying it — to your sleepy, frazzled, grumpy
kids, who insist "I'm not hungry" as you try to get everyone fed and moving in the
Even if you eat a healthy morning meal every day, it can be tough to get kids fueled
up in time for school, childcare, or a day of play. But it's important to try. Here's
how to make breakfast more appealing for everyone.
Why Bother With Breakfast?
Breakfast is a great way to give the body the refueling it needs. Kids who eat
breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical
activities — two great ways to help maintain a healthy weight.
Skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, or irritable. In the morning,
their bodies need to refuel for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12
hours during sleep. Their mood and energy can drop by midmorning if they don't eat
at least a small morning meal.
Breakfast also can help keep kids'
weight in check. Breakfast kick-starts the body's metabolism, the process by which
the body converts the fuel in food to energy. And when the metabolism gets moving,
the body starts burning calories.
Also, people who don't eat breakfast often consume more calories throughout the
day and are more likely to be overweight.
That's because someone who skips breakfast is likely to get famished before lunchtime
and snack on high-calorie foods or overeat at lunch.
Breakfast Brain Power
It's important for kids to have breakfast every day, but what they eat
in the morning is crucial too. Choosing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains,
fiber, and protein while low in
added sugar may boost kids' attention span, concentration, and memory — which
they need to learn in school.
Kids who eat breakfast are more likely to get fiber, calcium, and other important
nutrients. They also tend to keep their weight under control, have lower blood cholesterol
levels and fewer absences from school, and make fewer trips to the school nurse with
stomach complaints related to hunger.
Making Breakfast Happen
It would be great to serve whole-grain waffles, fresh fruit, and low-fat milk each
morning. But it can be difficult to make a healthy breakfast happen when you're rushing
to get yourself and the kids ready in the morning and juggling the general household
So try these practical suggestions to ensure that — even in a rush —
your kids get a good breakfast before they're out the door:
stock your kitchen with healthy breakfast options
prepare as much as you can the night before (gets dishes and utensils ready, cut
up fruit, etc.)
get everyone up 10 minutes earlier
let kids help plan and prepare breakfast
have grab-and-go alternatives (fresh fruit; individual boxes or baggies of whole-grain,
low-sugar cereal; yogurt or smoothies; trail mix) on days when there is little or
no time to eat
If kids aren't hungry first thing in the morning, be sure to pack a breakfast that
they can eat a little later on the bus or between classes. Fresh fruit, cereal, nuts,
or half a peanut butter and banana sandwich are nutritious, easy to make, and easy
for kids to take along.
You also may want to check out the breakfasts available at school or daycare. Some
offer breakfasts and provide them for free or at reduced prices for families with
limited incomes. If your kids eat breakfast outside the home, talk with them about
how to make healthy selections.
What not to serve for breakfast is important too. Sure, toaster
pastries and some breakfast bars are portable, easy, and appealing to kids. But many
have no more nutritional value than a candy bar and are high in sugar and calories.
Read the nutrition labels
carefully before you toss these breakfast bars and pastries into your shopping cart.
Breakfast Ideas to Try
The morning meal doesn't have to be all about traditional breakfast items. You
can mix it up to include different foods, even the leftovers from last night's dinner,
and still provide the nutrients and energy kids need for the day.
Try to serve a balanced breakfast that includes some carbohydrates,
protein, and fiber. Carbs are a good source of immediate energy for the body. Energy
from protein tends to kick in after the carbs are used up. Fiber helps provide a feeling
of fullness and, therefore, discourages overeating. And when combined with heathy
drinks, fiber helps move food through the digestive system, preventing constipation
and lowering cholesterol.
Good sources of these nutrients include:
carbohydrates: whole-grain cereals, brown rice, whole-grain breads
and muffins, fruits, vegetables
protein: low-fat or nonfat dairy products, lean meats, eggs,
nuts (including nut butters), seeds, and cooked dried beans
fiber: whole-grain breads, waffles, and cereals; brown rice,
bran, and other grains; fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts
Here are some ideas for healthy breakfasts to try:
whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk topped with fruit
whole-grain waffles topped with peanut butter or ricotta cheese and fruit
whole-wheat pita stuffed with sliced hard-cooked eggs
hot cereal topped with nuts or fruit sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice,
half a whole-grain bagel topped with peanut butter and fresh fruit (banana or
apple wedges) and low-fat milk
breakfast smoothie (low-fat milk or yogurt, fruit, and teaspoon of bran, whirled
in a blender)
vegetable omelet with whole-wheat toast
bran muffin and berries
sliced cucumbers and hummus in a whole-wheat pita
lean turkey and tomato on a toasted English muffin
heated leftover rice with chopped apples, nuts, and cinnamon
low-fat cream cheese and fresh fruit, such as sliced strawberries, on whole-grain
bread or half a whole-grain bagel
shredded cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla, folded in half and microwaved for 20
seconds and topped with salsa
And don't forget how important your good example is. Let your kids see you making
time to enjoy breakfast every day. Even if you just wash down some whole-wheat toast
and a banana with a glass of juice or milk, you're showing how important it is to
face the day only after refueling your brain and body with a healthy morning meal.