Breaking For Your Kids Breakfast …Why Bother?

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, weary, grumpy kids, who insist “I’m not hungry” as you try to get everyone fed and moving in the morning.

Even if you eat a healthy morning meal every day, it can be tough to get kids powered 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 have a tendency to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities – two great ways to help uphold a healthy weight.

Missing breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, or short-tempered. In the morning, their bodies need to replenish for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during sleep. Their mood and energy can fall by midmorning if they don’t eat at least a small morning meal.

Breakfast also can help keep kids’ weight in check. Breakfast triggers 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. So one of the most significant reasons to eat breakfast is that it wakes up your metabolism.  During the night when you’re not eating, your body slows down its metabolic rate to compensate, meaning it burns calories and fat much slower.

Eating breakfast means you and your child are more likely to eat a healthy amount throughout the day.  If you skip breakfast you’re likely to be ravenous by lunch and this means you’re going to eat a lot more than you would otherwise… and probably be less perceptive about what’s healthy and what is not. That is why people who don’t eat breakfast often consume more calories throughout the day and are more likely to be overweight.

Consuming breakfast also gives the chance to add in extra fruit or health foods that you might not get the chance to eat later on in the day.

It’s been proven time and time again that eating breakfast improves performance at school.  Kids who eat breakfast do better in school exams and tests, are more alert and concentrate better.  It makes sense really – everyone knows it’s harder to focus when you’re hungry and that it can make you irritable.  Breakfast will help your child be happier and perform better at school.

Breakfast Brain Power

It’s vital for kids to have breakfast every day, but what they eat in the morning is crucial too. Electing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein while low in added sugar may lift kids’ attention span levels, concentration, and memory – which they require to learn in school.


It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of a healthy breakfast, and it’s even more critical for children. A few things to consider:

  • Studies have shown that children who regularly eat breakfast are more likely to meet their recommended dietary intake for vitamins and minerals
  • When children skip breakfast, they do not usually make up the lost nutrients at other meals of the day.
  • Children who skip breakfast also tend to fill up on nutrient-poor snacks at school and are less likely to consume the indorsed servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • Research points towards the concept that eating a healthy breakfast positively affects cognitive function and academic performance in children.
  • Evidence also seems to suggest that eating breakfast is associated with less likelihood of being overweight.
  • A good breakfast not only contributes to physical health, it also supports emotional stability and mental alertness.
  • Breakfast also helps promote regular meal patterns and consistent energy intake

Why do some children still resist breakfast?

Given the wealth of convincing information on the benefits of breakfast consumption, why does one out of eight school children start the day without eating breakfast? Some are not encouraged to do so by their parents, while others make arguments for avoiding breakfast. Some common arguments are lack of time, absence of hunger, and distaste for breakfast foods. No matter what the barrier, parents can and should find a way around them.

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But how do I get them to eat it? 

The best ideas are useless if you can’t get your family to try them. How do you encourage everyone in the house to actually eat a good breakfast?

It would be great to serve whole-grain waffles, fresh fruit, and low-fat milk each morning. But it can be problematic 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 chaos.

So try these practical suggestions to guarantee 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 (get dishes and utensils ready, cut up fruit, etc.)
  • get everyone up 10 minutes earlier - Start by setting aside enough time – just an additional 10 minutes can make a huge difference. If your kids are hooked on empty-calorie food like donuts or pastries, offer them their favorite non-breakfast foods, such as pizza, smoothies or any leftovers. To wean your family off sugary cereals, try mixing in increasing amounts of unsweetened cereals until their taste buds have adjusted.
  • 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
  • for those with little hunger in the morning, offer juice, milk or a fruit smoothie made with skim milk and fruit.
  • say no to TV, video games and computers in the morning

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 accessible 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 choices.

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 next to 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.

Okay, so breakfast is important. But what kind is best?

The ideal breakfast should have lots of fiber and whole grains, some protein and good fat, and as little added sugar as possible.

Breakfast Ideas to Try

The morning meal doesn’t have to be all about old-style breakfast items. You can mix it up to contain 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 arrange for a feeling of fullness and, therefore, dispirits overeating. And when combined with heathy drinks, fiber helps move food through the digestive system, preventing constipation and lowering cholesterol.

Great 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
  • hot cereal topped with nuts or fruit sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves
  • 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

Many typical breakfasts fall short on protein, so contemplate the following protein-rich foods to give you the wakeup you need:

  • Eggs, cooked any way you like them (hard-boiled eggs are easy to have around for a quick protein boost)
  • Unsweetened yogurt or cottage cheese with berries
  • Refried beans spread on whole grain toast or tortillas
  • Nut butters
  • Burritos with eggs or beans and cheese on whole grain tortillas
  • All types of natural meat, such as breakfast steaks, lean pork chops, or turkey bacon
  • Hummus on whole grain or corn tortillas
  • Yogurt, hot cereal, or cold cereal with nuts
  • Tempeh
  • Scrambled tofu
  • Unsweetened kefir
  • Cheese sticks with fruit
  • Cream cheese on whole grain crackers
  • Make a Green Smoothie

Need breakfast on the run? Here are a few that are fun.

  • Smoothie + a dollop of their favorite nut or seed butter
  • Hard-boiled eggs + whole grain crackers + fresh fruit
  • Whole grain toast + cream cheese + sliced strawberries

And don’t forget how essential 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 replenishing your brain and body with a healthy morning meal.


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