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Nutritious Breakfast Gives Kids Fuel for the Brain

By Debra K. Whaley, M.D.

Nutritious Breakfast Gives Kids Fuel for the Brain image

An alarming number of school-aged children do not eat breakfast each morning. In fact, according to the American Dietetic Association, more than 40 percent of girls and 32 percent of boys skip breakfast on a regular basis.

Many parents wonder why not eating breakfast is such a problem, especially if their children eat a midmorning snack instead. The reason is simple. Children who do not eat breakfast do not consume the necessary nutrients for their bodies to produce the energy needed to concentrate in school and to adequately complete learning responsibilities.

School Performance

Breakfast affects children’s overall performance during school by:

  • Eliminating hunger symptoms such as headache, fatigue, sleepiness and restlessness.
  • Helping them to think faster when doing school work and respond more clearly to teacher questions.
  • Increasing mental performance.
  • Causing them to be calmer and less anxious.

Overall Health

Children who eat breakfast:

  • Are more likely to consume nutrients important to healthy growth, including iron, calcium, fiber and vitamins.
  • Are better able to keep their weight under control.
  • Have lower blood cholesterol levels.

Healthy Breakfast Choices

When the morning is rushed, it is easy to grab something quick that is likely to be packed with sugar and fat. Keep the cabinets and refrigerator stocked with quick and healthy choices such as:

  • Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal − top with fruit and low-fat milk.
  • Hard-boiled eggs − boil the night before and serve cold with a slice of toast.
  • Whole-grain bread or bagels − toast and top with peanut butter or low-sugar jam.
  • Breakfast bars − eat a fruit-filled breakfast bar with low-fat milk.
  • Fruit − consume fresh, frozen, dried or as a juice.
  • Rice cakes or muffins − serve with low-sugar jam, peanut butter or other low-fat spreads

Set a Good Example

Encourage your child to eat breakfast by:

  • Sitting down as a family to eat breakfast each morning.
  • Having your child help you plan the week’s breakfast menu.
  • Making breakfast foods conveniently available by placing foods on low cabinets and refrigerator shelves, keeping a bowl of fresh fruit on counter and buying single serving containers of milk and breakfast bars for mornings when the family is rushed.

If you find that mornings are a rushed, look into your child’s school breakfast program. Studies show that children who eat breakfast at school are less likely to arrive late or miss school and may perform better in certain subjects, such as math and reading, than those who don’t eat breakfast.​