There’s a reason why breakfast is called the “most important meal of the day”: studies conclude children who eat breakfast tend to have more adequate nutrient intakes and be more productive in the classroom than children who do not.
When compared to their breakfast-skipping peers, school children who started the day with a healthy breakfast of cereal and milk consistently showed improved attention and memory over the morning. A review of more than 40 studies relating breakfast consumption to nutrient adequacy and academic performance found that children who eat breakfast show improvement in memory, achievement test scores, grades, school attendance and tardiness rates compared to children who skip breakfast.1 Hungry kids are more likely to display higher levels of hyperactivity (reported by teachers) and spend more time in the principal’s office. Breakfast eaters are more likely to have better overall diet quality and nutrient intakes that align with current nutrient recommendations. Furthermore, children who skip breakfast are less likely to make up the nutrient deficit later in the day.1
Milk is one of the most commonly consumed foods by children at breakfast.1 A nutritious breakfast can provide children with at least one of the recommended three daily servings of nutrient-rich dairy foods. The 2010Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products as a food group to encourage because consuming them may have important health benefits, such as improved dietary quality and bone health. In addition, dairy foods provide three of the five “nutrients of concern” for which children have low intakes: calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Make Breakfast a Healthy Habit:
Keep breakfast foods on hand and be a role model – parents should eat breakfast too! Here are some ideas to help make breakfast a habit at home:
• Have at least two easy-to-serve items from each food group ready to go, such as milk, fruit, whole grain cereal, yogurt, wheat toast or instant oatmeal.
• Keep breakfast foods, such as grab-and-go milk in single-serve, resealable plastic containers, string cheese or whole grain breakfast bars, in convenient spots in the pantry or refrigerator for kids to serve themselves.
• Eat breakfast together as a family – even if it’s just 15 minutes. Use it as an opportunity to get ready for the day ahead while eating a delicious breakfast.
• If time gets short, make it easy for kids to grab breakfast for themselves or when in the car with these portable ideas:
• Place single portions of dry cereal, fruit, cheese cubes, or trail mix in a plastic resealable bag.
• Pack grab-and-go items for the car, like drinkable yogurt, string cheese, fresh fruit and whole grain crackers perfect for cup-holders or tossing in backpacks!
• Take advantage of school breakfast programs. School breakfast programs offer another nutritious option for busy families on the go. Breakfast served in schools offer a wide variety of foods and must provide at least one-fourth of the recommended daily intakes of calories and key nutrients children need, with no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and 10 percent from saturated fat.
Quick and Easy Recipe Ideas:
• Breakfast sandwiches or burritos, using cheese and lean meat
• Whole-grain waffles spread with peanut butter/jelly (or topped with banana slices), served with milk
• Turkey sausage link and a piece of string cheese in hot dog bun, served with milk and fruit
• Cheese pizza on English muffin or bagel, served with milk and fruit
• Toaster-ready French toast or pancakes served with yogurt and fruit topping
• Oatmeal made with milk topped with fruit, walnuts and/or raisins
• Cereal topped with seasonal fruit or bananas
• Breakfast split – Skewer a medium banana, roll in flavored yogurt then favorite cereal or low-fat granola
• Smoothies – fresh, seasonal fruit, milk and/or yogurt.
• Cheese and crackers with apple slices
The Take Home Message:
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so remember the A-B-Cs:
A – Add it up, 3 of the 5 food groups for breakfast
B – Be sure to include a serving of dairy for calcium
C – Cash in on the value of your school breakfast program if you child does not have time to eat
1Rampersaud, Gail C., et al. “Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight and academic performance in children and adolescents.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2005; 105 (5):743-60.