Breakfast is considered to be the most important meal of the day. However, many school children either eat an unhealthy breakfast filled with processed foods and sugar or do not eat breakfast at all. Children’s brains require essential nutrients to operate properly. A child who does not eat breakfast is more likely to feel fatigued and distracted during school hours. A study from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that children who ate breakfast did better in school.
As a parent, you can ensure your child gets the best start to his or her day by making a healthy breakfast a priority.
Nutrients commonly lacking in children
Children often do not get enough protein, vegetables, or omega-3 fats. All of these foods are essential for healthy growth and development. When possible, have your children eat vegetables and protein every day, and try to offer a source of omega-3 fats to children several times a week. The most common source of omega-3 fats are fish, but you can also find them in walnuts, greens like kale and spinach, and some nut oils.
Children may also be lacking in fiber and minerals like magnesium and potassium. The best sources of these nutrients are vegetables and fruit. Give your children a serving of vegetables and fruit with every meal.
Easy steps to simplify the breakfast routine
Use these tips to make a healthy breakfast a part of your daily routine:
Make food in advance: On the weekends, make a large batch of healthy muffins and freeze them for future use. You can also cut up vegetables and fruit ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator. These will give you the makings of a healthy, instant breakfast that you can eat on the go.
Make some compromises: Although sugar is bad for children in large amounts, a compromise might get your children to eat their vegetables. For example, you can allow children to eat butter or jelly with their gluten-free muffins and toast in the morning. If your children do not want to eat vegetables in the morning, allow them to eat fruit instead as long as they eat their vegetables later in the day.
Make sure you provide enough calories: Children, particularly active children, require a lot of calories during the day to stay healthy. Provide plenty of sustainable sources of energy, such as protein and healthy fats. Offer foods like cheese, meat, yogurt, milk, nut butters, oatmeal and plain nuts at breakfast to make sure your children stay full until lunch.
Make time for breakfast: Older children and teens may feel they do not have time for breakfast, but it is important to make time to eat. If children do not want to sit down for a meal, give them on-the-go snacks they can munch on the way to school, such as veggie sticks, hard-boiled eggs, almond butter on a gluten-free English muffin, or a handful of trail mix. Vegetable and fruit smoothies are also easy to whip up (if you cut the fruit and vegetables in advance) and are car-friendly in to-go cups.
Simple ideas for healthy breakfasts:
- Yogurt and fruit
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Vegetable and fruit smoothies
- Gluten-free whole-grain muffins
- Gluten-free English muffins and almond butter
- Oatmeal with fruit or nuts
- Fruit-and-nut trail mix
- Leftover meat, cheese, and veggies wrapped in a gluten-free tortilla
Use these ideas as a starting point to keep your kids’ brains fueled throughout the school year. With the right balance of vegetables, fruit, protein, and healthy fats, your children will be prepared to do their best in school without feeling lethargic, getting headaches, or being distracted from a lesson due to hunger.
—The Alternative Daily