Kids and Breakfast: Why is Breakfast Important?

Everyone has heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. How do you decide if and what to eat for breakfast? Breakfast skipping is common in children and adolescents. Yet, breakfast is a fantastic opportunity for kids to get in their fruits, whole grains, and dairy. Give your mind and body much needed energy and nutrients by eating a healthy breakfast in the morning.

First Meal of the Day

Breakfast is important because it is the first meal of the day. Eating something whether at home, school or away from home is better than skipping breakfast. The timing and what you eat depends on YOU!

Eating Away from Home

Going through the drive thru or stopping at the convenience store? Look for fruit, lean proteins, and whole grain foods. Skip the breakfast potatoes and hash browns and choose a fruit cup. Choose donuts, muffins, and sugary breakfast foods less often.

Eating at School

No time to eat before the school bus arrives. Both public and non-profit private schools provide students with a healthy breakfast. According to the National School Food Service Program (NSFSP), breakfast meals served must include three food groups: fruits (or vegetables), whole grains and milk (1). Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, school breakfasts reached 14 million children during the 2020-2021 school year. (2)

Importance of Eating Breakfast

Starting the day with breakfast is important for everyone, but especially children and teens. A well-nourished breakfast is beneficial for both health and academics.

Academic Benefits

Children and teens who eat breakfast have improved academic performance, better attendance, and improved behavior. (3)

Research shows eating breakfast may improve concentration, memory, and problem-solving ability, standardized testing scores, and reach higher levels of achievement in reading and math. (3)

Health Benefits

Beyond academics, there are also numerous health benefits associated with eating breakfast. Eating breakfast can improve weight, mental health, energy, dietary intake and protect against poor health outcomes. (3)

Those who eat breakfast have greater vitamin and mineral intakes than those who skip breakfast.

Barriers to Eating Breakfast

There are many reasons for skipping breakfast. Stop being a breakfast skipper with these easy solutions.

  • Not hungry in the morning? Have something light like low-fat yogurt, a piece of fruit or whole wheat toast.
  • Too busy in the morning? Not enough time? Make breakfast easier by having ready to eat foods such as sliced fruit, yogurt, cereal, instant oatmeal, or frozen waffles on hand. Try preparing breakfast such as overnight oats or a smoothie the night before.
  • Don’t like breakfast foods? Breakfast can be any food YOU choose. Have a quesadilla, soup, sandwich, or last night’s leftovers! Traditional breakfast foods getting boring? Change it up with new fruits, new flavors, switch from sweet to savory, or try something completely new.

What’s on the Menu?

A balanced breakfast should include 2 to 3 food groups. It does not have to be complicated or time consuming, there’s a healthy breakfast for everyone for whatever your morning looks like!

  1. Eggs Your Way. Scrambled, hard-boiled, in an omelet or a frittata. There are many ways to use this versatile breakfast protein. Try out these spinach frittata muffins.
  2. Yogurt Parfait. Alternate layers of yogurt, fruit and granola in a cup or bowl. Use fresh, frozen, or canned fruit in 100% juice or water. Don’t have granola? Try whole grain cereal. Alternate layers of low-fat vanilla yogurt, sliced bananas, sliced strawberry halves and bran flakes for a strawberry banana parfait.
  3. Toast Your Way. Go beyond butter or jam! Try banana and Nutella. What about hummus and arugula? Maybe berries and cream cheese. How does mashed avocado with bacon and tomato sound? There are hundreds of combinations to dress up your toast. Can even swap the toast for an English muffin.
  4. Breakfast Burrito. Skip the drive thru and make your own breakfast burritos. Add scrambled eggs, chopped vegetables, beans, Canadian bacon, and/or cheese to a whole wheat wrap. Serve with salsa or plain yogurt. Check out recipe one or two for inspiration. Save for later by wrapping burritos tightly in plastic wrap and foil then putting them in the freezer for up to a week. Reheat, without plastic wrap and foil, in the microwave for 90 seconds.
  5. Overnight Oats. Mix old fashioned oats, yogurt, milk, berries, and honey or maple syrup in a mason jar and refrigerate overnight. Wake up the next morning and breakfast is ready for you. Try any variety of oats and any variety of fresh or frozen fruit for a customized meal.

Serving Up a Healthy Breakfast

Breakfast is a commonly forgotten meal for not only adults, but children and adolescents too, but breakfast matters! Breakfast is an important part of a healthy diet. Consuming breakfast is not only good for your diet but also your body, mind and academic performance. With a little thought and effort, you can overcome the most common breakfast barriers. Your morning routine sets the tone for your day so eat something instead of nothing in the morning! Still hungry after eating breakfast, try a healthy snack.

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