You might have heard from schools, other parents, or media that feeding your children breakfast in the morning is important for better academic performance. But why is it such a crucial meal, and how does it affect the body?
There are a few reasons why feeding your kids breakfast before sending them to school is important. After sleeping for around 8 to 12 hours, their body needs to be refueled and rehydrated. Drinking water first thing in the morning and then eating a healthy meal gives children the energy they need to get started with their day. Breakfast can also help with managing body weight and increase focus and memory. Here are some reasons why eating a healthy breakfast can benefit your children.
Kids who skip out on breakfast may tend to feel low-energy during mid-morning. They might seem fine at first, but with no fuel to burn, they’ll start feeling drained before their break or snack time. Generally, kids (and adults!) may seem more tired, irritable, or restless without any food in their system during those first few hours of their day.
However, it’s important to feed them healthy food to make sure they feel energized and not lethargic. Foods rich in carbohydrates or protein create a steady glucose supply as it is slowly digested, providing enough energy for the morning. On the other hand, junk food or unhealthy, sugary snacks lack nutrients and will actually make your child feel more fatigued than energized and potentially lead to obesity.
Better Focus & Performance
The right breakfast can enhance your child’s ability to concentrate and learn at school. Many of us were told growing up to get enough sleep and eat a healthy breakfast before taking an important exam, but the same is true for any day of the week.
Breakfast can affect a child’s attention span, memory, and executive function. Studies also showed that children who regularly ate breakfast before school performed better academically. These students also showed less off-task behaviors in the classroom.
Manage Weight & Activity
Eating breakfast starts your metabolism for the day and turns the food you eat into energy. That means you start burning calories sooner and continue processing food until late at night. Kids who start the day with more energy from eating breakfast are more likely to be more active and overeat less at other meals.
However, it’s important to feed your kids healthy meals and avoid greasy or unhealthy foods to maintain their weight and energy levels.
What to Do When Kids Don’t Want to Eat
Sometimes kids don’t feel hungry first thing in the morning, or they may not like eating breakfast foods. Even if they refuse a full meal, try to get them to eat something, even if it’s small. You can pack them a kid-friendly protein shake with low-fat milk, fruit like a banana, a smoothie, or a low-sugar granola bar. Make sure it’s nutritious, so their body starts moving with good vitamins and enough carbohydrates to burn.
If they still refuse to eat, have a talk with them about some other options they can come up with, such as compromising on the type of breakfast food or taking something quick on the go that they can snack on in the car or while they wait for school to start.
Healthy Breakfast Options for Kids
As important as it is to feed your child breakfast in the morning, it’s even more significant that what you’re feeding them is healthy and nutritious. The meal needs to have enough carbohydrates and protein to last your child until lunchtime.
Here are some kid-friendly options to consider:
- Low-sugar whole grain cereals with low-fat milk and fruit
- Oatmeal with fruit or nuts
- Whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and fresh fruit
- Smoothie with low-fat milk or yogurt and fruit and nuts
- Vegetable omelet with toast
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread
- Hard-boiled or fried eggs
- Quesadilla with reduced-fat shredded cheese
- Low-sugar yogurt
- Low-fat Greek yogurt
- Avocados on whole-wheat toast with tomatoes
No matter what the meal is, prepare a balanced breakfast that contains carbohydrates, protein, and healthy vitamins or fats.
When You’re Too Busy to Cook Breakfast
Many families may be too busy in the mornings getting the kids ready and dressed on time while also preparing for work. If that’s your situation, there are a few ways you can make enough time for a quick meal or take it on the go.
You might be used to prepping lunches the night before, but you can use that time to prep breakfast for the next day too. Chop up and pack fruits and veggies so you can quickly grab them before heading out the door, fill up bags of cereal or trail mix to take with you, or cook oatmeal in a slow cooker so it’s ready to eat in the morning.
You can also prepare hardboiled eggs or smoothies so you don’t have to think about preparing those during the morning rush. If it’s possible, waking up 10-15 minutes earlier to eat breakfast with your kids can also create a healthy routine for your whole family.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.