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Help your kids get a healthy breakfast, even when short on time

March 12, 2016

The morning alarm sounds as your sleepy teen rolls over and hits the snooze button for the third time, and then dozes off to sleep again. When the I-will-be-late alarm goes off, they are in a rush to shower, brush their teeth, get dressed, grab last night’s homework assignment and then make a beeline for the front door so they won’t be late for school. 

I am sure this sounds all too familiar for parents of children and teens. Can you guess what is missing from this daily routine? If you guessed breakfast, you are correct. Many kids find it challenging to even think about having breakfast in the morning. Late nights studying, early morning sports practices, lack of hunger, and getting those extra few minutes of sleep can make it difficult to eat a healthy breakfast, or even any breakfast in the morning. 

At the same time, these students wonder why they lack energy, have poor school performance, are always tired, have stomach aches, or are just plain grouchy. Once they know that adding a simple breakfast to their routine could possibly eliminate these issues and improve their mood and grades, they will feel happier and more in control.

What’s the big deal about breakfast?

As a Registered Dietitian for a program called Teen Xpress, I come across many teenagers who skip breakfast for many reasons, which are all understandable. Many students believe that breakfast consists of a large sit-down feast with waffles, bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese grits, and an extra-large glass of orange juice. It is not always true; sometimes simplicity can be the best way to make sure breakfast actually happens in the morning. 

You may be wondering what all this hype about breakfast is; isn’t it just one meal? Breakfast is a very important meal because it fuels the body with energy throughout the day. Like a car, without fuel (or food), we feel run down, cranky and tired, which is going to affect school performance and also energy levels. In addition to improved energy and school performance, kids and teens that eat breakfast daily tend to have healthier eating habits and maintain a healthier weight. They often choose healthier food throughout the day unlike those who skip breakfast, who tend to indulge on high fat and high calorie foods. 

What you eat for breakfast matters, too.

It is important for kids and teens to eat breakfast every day, but what they eat is even more important. Choosing foods with fiber, such as fruits and whole grains can help promote the feeling of fullness. Healthy fats such as peanut butter and other nuts provide healthy fats to help promote proper nervous system and brain development. Then whole grains such as whole grain toast, oatmeal and cereals provide B-Vitamins to help change food into useful energy. Choosing the right combination of food can help your child or teen start the day off on the right foot. 

Think simple. Simplicity is the key to a successful before-school breakfast. When thinking of some ideas for breakfast, having a goal of at least two food groups can help assure your child is getting the nutrients needed to grow.  Try finding meals that are simple, portable, and delicious that can be taken on the run. It is easy to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while walking to school or a homemade trail mix right before the final bell rings. Find something that works and stick with it. Encourage kids to take responsibility and plan their breakfast the night before. Place fruit on top of their backpack or prepare a sandwich that can be easily grabbed out of the fridge before running out the door. Kids and teens are more likely to eat breakfast if it does not involve waking up early or sitting at the breakfast table. 

Here are some simple and portable breakfast ideas for your family:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Waffle with peanut butter and banana
  • Peanut butter and honey sandwich 
  • Cheese and crackers 
  • Greek yogurt parfait with fruit and granola
  • Breakfast smoothie made with yogurt and fruit 
  • Dry cereal with a banana
  • Granola bar with milk 
  • Homemade trail mix with dry cereal, nuts, and dried fruit
  • Whole grain bagel with sliced cheese and deli-style turkey  
  • Leftover vegetable pizza 

As you can see, adding a simple yet nutritious breakfast can help kids and teens fuel their body throughout the day. This leads to improved school and sport performance, test scores and also mood. 

Simplicity is the key to a successful breakfast!