It’s that time of year when schools will soon be opening their doors for a new season. Parents and kids alike eagerly anticipate a fresh start to a new beginning of a successful school year. And one way to spell success for your child begins first thing in the morning by feeding them a balanced breakfast. No doubt, you’ve heard this message before – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast should be a priority for all children whether starting out as a kindergartner or finishing off as a senior.
Why is a balanced breakfast so important for children?
The word “breakfast” literally means “breaking the fast’ of having gone without eating since the previous day. Your body is like a machine. It needs energy to help it move and think. Food is what gives us that energy. If breakfast is skipped, it’s similar to not charging your cell phone where it eventually runs out of energy. When your child heads off to school without eating breakfast, they won’t have the energy and stamina needed to perform their best both academically and physically.
Various research studies have demonstrated why your child will likely have better academic performance when they regularly eat breakfast:
· Eating breakfast helps improve reading, math and standardized test scores
· Students who eat breakfast have longer attention spans, are better at problem-solving tasks, and have better memory skills
· Eating breakfast results in fewer absences and incidents of tardiness
· Breakfast eaters have better behavior in school and improved socialization with other students
· Students show improved motivation and have fewer disciplinary problems
Other studies have shown the benefit of eating breakfast in enhancing a student’s dietary health:
· Students who eat breakfast on a regular basis have higher intakes of calcium, fiber, folate, vitamin C and protein
· Children who eat a balanced breakfast are less likely to be overweight. Consuming breakfast reduces hunger later in the day.
· If breakfast is skipped, it can increase the body’s insulin response increasing fat storage and weight gain.
· The rate of illness decreases due to better nutritional status resulting in improved school attendance
· Regularly eating breakfast as a child establishes healthy habits later in life
How to make a balanced breakfast happen in your household
Anyone can fit breakfast in with a little advanced planning and organization. Here are some ideas on how to do this:
· Get organized the night before. Set out bowls and spoons for cereal. Set out a pan for pancakes or a blender for smoothies.
· Keep it simple. Eat a quick bowl of whole-grain cereal with fruit or a slice of leftover pizza with 100% fruit juice or yogurt with walnuts and fruit are easy ways to start the day.
· No time at home? No problem. Pack your breakfast to go. This is great for busy teens as they can grab a banana, a bag of trail mix and a carton of milk.
Another suggestion to encourage balanced breakfast consumption is to role model eating breakfast yourself. If you’re not eating breakfast, there’s a good chance your child won’t either.
When planning breakfast, think protein, calcium, and fiber. Numerous studies have shown consuming protein at breakfast reduces feelings of hunger and increases fullness right away. Combining a protein source along with a good fiber source doubly creates a satiety sensation lasting for hours after eating breakfast.
Calcium is another key nutrient for building strong bones and teeth in children and also provides protein.
Here are some suggestions to get your child off to a good start with a balanced breakfast each morning:
· 1 cup of high fiber cereal (at least 5 grams per serving) with milk and a fruit of your choice
· 1 whole egg plus 1 or 2 egg whites, scrambled with diced peppers and tomatoes
· 2 slices of whole wheat toast with 100% fruit jam and 1 cup of milk
· 6 oz. of Greek yogurt (any flavor) sprinkled with chopped walnuts and fruit