Breakfast means “break the fast”, as the previous meal is typically 8–10 hours before waking up in the morning. Breakfast is important in re-fueling the body with energy and nutrients, kick-starting the day. Breakfast is an excellent occasion to eat together as a family when possible. Establishing good breakfast habits in childhood and maintaining them throughout adolescence may be an important factor in reducing the prevalence of breakfast skipping and developing good eating habits that last a lifetime.
Why is breakfast important for children?
Breakfast provides children with energy and essential nutrients, including iron, calcium and vitamins B and C, which are necessary for growth, development and good health. Children who eat breakfast each day are much more likely to meet their daily nutritional requirements, as a good quality breakfast can provide a child with up to a third of their daily nutrient needs. Children who do not eat breakfast at home or at school were less able to learn. Hunger can lead to lower math scores, attention problems, behavior, emotional, and academic problems. Furthermore, studies show that children who are consistently or often hungry are more likely to repeat a grade also, Children who don’t eat breakfast may not make up for the nutrients not consumed within the rest of the day’s intake. Eating breakfast can also reduce the risk of overweight and/or obesity, as breakfast is often replaced by mid-morning snacks that tend to be high in fat, sugar and salt. Skipping breakfast can also lead to over eating throughout the rest of the day, increasing the risk of becoming overweight or obese.
How can breakfast affect children while at school?
Children who have eaten breakfast can concentrate better and have a longer attention span, helping them to learn and study better. They can also perform better physically after eating breakfast as there is more energy available to their muscles. Breakfast can improve behavior and mood, as children have better concentration and aren’t tired or hungry.
Suggestions to get your children to eat breakfast each morning:
- Mixing a variety of healthy cereals, especially those that are lower in sugar, are a good source of carbohydrate and fibre for children. In addition, skim or 1% milk supplies needed calcium and protein.
- If pressed for time in the morning, try cutting up fruit the night before, so it’s ready to add to cereal or yogurt
- Make breakfast a time to sit and eat with your kids. Being a good example is a powerful way to change their habits.
- If your child says he’s not very hungry in the morning, try making a healthy smoothie, with milk and/or yogurt and include cut-up fresh or frozen fruit such as a banana, strawberries or blueberries.
- Another option is for your child to eat a small meal at home, such as a small bowl of oatmeal or a piece of wholegrain toast with nut butter. You can then give your child a healthy snack to eat before school starts – for example, a sandwich or some natural yogurt with fruit.
- If a hectic morning schedule gets in the way of breakfast, try setting your child’s alarm 10 minutes earlier, or packing your child’s bag and laying out her clothes the night before. You could even get the next day’s breakfast ready the night before – mix pancake batter and have it ready for the morning or make egg and veggie frittatas in a muffin pan to warm them in the microwave.