Help Kids Rise and Shine With Breakfast

Help Kids Rise and Shine With Breakfast

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, especially for children. Learn tips to help your kids get a healthy start on the day.

By Lila Havens, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

Do your children rush off to school most days without eating breakfast? If so, you should be concerned.

You've probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This may be especially true for growing children. Compared to those who skip breakfast, kids who eat breakfast:

  • Are more likely to meet their daily requirement for vitamins and minerals
  • Get more calcium, which is vital for bone growth
  • Get more fiber in their diet
  • Tend to do better in school

Girls especially say they don't eat breakfast because they're trying to lose weight. In fact, kids who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight. This may be because they make poor food choices later in the day, such as high-fat snack foods and high-calorie soft drinks.

What can I do if my child skips breakfast?
You can help your kids eat right in the morning, even when they're in a hurry:

  • Stock quick-to-eat breakfast foods. Buy whole-grain cereals, English muffins, and toaster waffles. Keep low-fat milk and calcium-fortified juice on hand.
  • Provide grab-and-go foods. Keep breakfast foods handy for your child to grab on the way out the door if there's no time for a full meal. A whole-grain bagel or toast, trail mix, or an apple can be eaten on the way to school.
  • Think outside the box. Some kids just don't like standard breakfast foods. So give them other choices, such as low-fat string cheese,a peanut butter sandwich,or leftover pizza. Make smoothies with fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and orange juice.
  • Pack a snack. Send kids to school with a healthy snack they can eat before lunch. Good choices are low-sugar granola bars, dry cereal, or dried fruit.
  • Urge them to eat at school. Many schools have breakfast programs. These can be a low-cost or free way for a child to get a good nutritional start to the day.

If your kids can make time for breakfast, here's how to help them get the most out of their morning meal:

  • Pick protein. Proteins and complex carbohydrates, such as cereal and milk, whole-grain bread with peanut butter, or scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast, are good ways to start the day. The protein takes longer to break down and gives kids energy until lunchtime.
  • Cut the fat. Processed meats that are high in salt and fat, like bacon and sausage, are best enjoyed once in a while, not every day. At restaurants, go with a breakfast sandwich with egg and cheese on a bagel or English muffin instead of a high-fat croissant.

Sources:

  • Rampersaud GC, Pereira MA, Girard BL, Adams J, Metzl JD. Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005;105(5):743-760.
  • Affenito SG. Breakfast: a missed opportunity. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2007;107(4):565-569.

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