Kids Need to Eat Breakfast

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The house is alive with a flurry of activity. A young girl is quickly shoving papers into a backpack while her mother is finding her car keys. The girl’s brother still looks slightly dazed as he finishes putting on his clothes while his father exhorts him to get ready to go. In a short-time, the bus arrives to pick up the children and the parents get leave for work.

Despite all of the activity, no one in the family took the time to eat breakfast. Roughly 8-12% of schoolchildren skip breakfast each morning. This occurs despite the fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Eating breakfast in the morning provides kids the fuel they need to do their best in school. Breakfast consumption has been linked to better attention span, memory, and learning. In addition, breakfast helps kids keep a healthier body weight and improves their overall nutrition level.

Given all of the advantages of eating breakfast, parents need to make it a priority for their kids to eat before heading off to school. A few changes to the family’s schedule can ensure everyone is well fed before starting their day.

A good place to start is to make sure everyone is getting enough sleep. Kids who are not getting enough sleep tend to wake up cranky. Cranky kids are much less likely to sit down for a healthy breakfast as they will be far more interested in laying back down to sleep. Parents need to make sure their kids get to bed in a timely manner so they will feel well rested and awake in the morning, hungry and ready to eat breakfast.

Another step that can be taken is to schedule breakfast into the morning routine. While a shared family meal may be too time consuming, parents should carve out enough time in the morning to allow kids to eat without feeling the pressure to hurry. This may mean getting up a bit earlier. It can also mean preparing breakfast the night before such as boiling eggs, preslicing fruit, or pouring a bowl of cold cereal so it is ready to go in the morning.

Occasionally there will not be enough time to have breakfast at home. In this case, parents should stock some grab-and-go breakfast items such as granola bars, dried fruit, sliced apples, or homemade muffins. Another alternative is to have the kids eat breakfast at school or daycare as many schools have breakfast options.

The main goal is to have kids eat something healthy and nutritious to start their day. Even a simple glass of milk or piece of wheat toast can be enough to make a difference. Once the kids start eating breakfast regularly, parents should start to see an improvement in their energy level which can make all the difference in doing well in school.

Start the day off right and begin a breakfast routine with your family. If you already have a routine, look at the food you typically eat and see if there are some healthier options available. Everyone should be able to start out the day fully energized.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on March 8, 2015

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