Kids who fuel up in the morning focus and concentrate better in the classroom and perform better on math, reading and standardized tests. They also have fewer behavior problems and are less likely to be tardy. Eating breakfast also can help children maintain a healthy weight. Unfortunately, studies show many children don’t eat breakfast every day.
While breakfast might seem like a hurdle in your busy morning, nutritious food doesn't need to take extra time to prepare. Try the following tips to enjoy a healthful breakfast on busy mornings.
- Get organized the night before. Get out a pan for pancakes or a blender for smoothies. Prepare muffin or waffle mix so it's ready to cook in the morning. Set out a few boxes of whole-grain cereal for kids to choose — all they'll have to do in the morning is add milk.
- Set the alarm 10 minutes earlier. Hectic mornings can make it difficult for kids (and parents) to find time for breakfast. Waking up just a few minutes earlier provides time to squeeze in a quick morning meal.
- Keep breakfast simple. Get the family going with something as quick as a bowl of whole-grain cereal with a banana or a mini meal of yogurt topped with granola, a sandwich on whole-grain bread or a slice of leftover veggie pizza.
- Remember protein and carbohydrates. A high-octane carbohydrate source energizes the body and brain for a busy day with fiber and nutrients. Think whole-grain cereal (hot or cold), bread, tortillas, muffins, waffles or even leftover rice or pasta. Protein often is the missing link in most morning meals and it’s needed to go strong until lunch. Think a slice of Canadian bacon, an egg, a slice of lean deli meat or low-fat cheese, a container of low-fat yogurt, a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese, a cup of milk or a handful of nuts.
- Start the day with an extra helping of fruits and vegetables. Breakfast is a perfect time to enjoy fruits and vegetables children need for optimal health. Try fresh seasonal fruit alone or in cereal, add frozen fruits to yogurt or toss chopped vegetables into an omelet.
- Pack your breakfast to go. If there's no time to eat at home, plan a nutritious option to eat in the car or bus. Busy teens can grab a banana, a bag of trail mix and a carton of milk. Don't forget to see if your school offers a breakfast program.
- Help make sure your kids have an appetite. Many kids aren't hungry for breakfast because they snack too much at night. Try only offering lighter snacks in the evening and you might be surprised how much hungrier they are in the morning. In addition, try having your children dress first and eat second. Kids are more likely to feel hungry once they have a chance to wake up.
- Be a good role model. Children will mimic their parents' behavior, so make it a habit to sit down and eat a nutritious breakfast with your kids every morning.
Whatever your morning routine, remember that breakfast is an important meal for the family, and doesn't have to be very time-consuming. When you eat well in the morning, you and your family will be on the nutrition fast track for a high-energy day.