You can give kids a strong start to their day with a simple, nutritious breakfast — and the rewards are great. A healthy first meal gives kids energy and balanced nutrition. Research shows that eating a good breakfast may help with thinking, memory, academic performance, attendance and mood.
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“Your brain needs fuel to think and perform optimally during the school day,” says pediatrician Richard So, MD.
Breakfast may also be associated with a healthier body weight in kids. According to research that compiled results from 47 other studies, children who reported eating breakfast on a consistent basis tended to have superior nutritional profiles than their breakfast-skipping peers. Breakfast eaters generally consume more daily calories yet are less likely to be overweight.
Start a new breakfast routine early
Like getting back into a regular sleep routine, kids need to have their bellies reset, too. “About a week before school starts, get up earlier and eat breakfast on time,” suggests Dr. So.
Help your child focus better in class by adjusting when they eat breakfast and lunch to their scheduled meal times on school days. The later the lunch, the more protein your child needs at breakfast. Since most schools don’t allow snacking, make sure breakfast and lunch can hold your child until after school.
A few tasty suggestions
For a quick breakfast, simple foods work well. Breakfast with a little protein plus a carbohydrate – preferably a whole grain or piece of fruit – will help keep kids feeling fuller for longer.
Some high-quality options include:
- A piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter
When you choose peanut butter, simple is best. Check the label to find a jar which has only one ingredient: peanuts (and maybe salt). For the what toast, check to see that all ingredients are 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain. This combo will keep your kids fuller longer and may even lower their risk for obesity.
- Plain oatmeal with some peanut butter or mixed nuts
Oatmeal is a nutrient-dense breakfast that offers a warm filling meal full of whole grains. Add peanut butter or nuts for a protein boost and you can enhance the taste further with fresh fruit. Blueberries work especially well because there is no slicing needed as with other fruits and they taste sweeter when you mix them into hot oatmeal.
- A hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit
This breakfast is an easy one to prepare in advance. You can boil eggs and store them in the refrigerator to grab and eat. Eggs offer a complete protein as well as many nutrients, including lutein (fosters eye health), choline (builds cell membranes), Omega 3’s and vitamin D.
- Greek yogurt and fruit
Like regular yogurt, Greek yogurt contains important nutrients such as calcium and B vitamins. But it provides double the protein of regular yogurt. Stick with plain greek yogurt rather than fruit-flavored varieties, which are loaded with added simple sugars. Instead, add your own flavor with berries, banana slices or a handful of granola or walnuts.
Remember, the work to create healthy routines, such as a daily, nutritious breakfast, won’t just help your kids today, but it also can help them throughout their lives.