Many people underestimate the value of breakfast. They may only have a glass of juice or a cup of coffee and eat nothing at all. However, research has shown that this type of routine is not the best habit to get into. Eating a substantial meal within the first few hours of waking up is much healthier for you and your child.
Imagine you are a car. After a long night of sleeping, your fuel tank is empty. Breakfast is the fuel that gets you going so you can hit the road. You need to provide enough new energy for your body to get started and to keep you functioning until lunch.
A six-year study compared the mental and physical efficiency of a group of adults throughout the day, some of whom ate healthy nutritious breakfasts while others did not.
When compared to those who ate breakfast, the people who did not became less efficient as the day went on. Their productivity improved after eating lunch, but by the end of the day their work completion was slower than those who had eaten breakfast.
For children, a good breakfast is even more important. Children who do not eat a good breakfast become tired in school and have shorter attention spans, especially late in the morning. In one study, test scores of children who did not eat breakfast were generally lower than those who had eaten a well-balanced morning meal. Another good reason to make sure that children have a balanced breakfast is that four out of five children do not get enough vitamins and minerals from lunch and dinner alone. By adding breakfast, children are more likely to get the vitamins and minerals they need. Also, children who don’t eat a good breakfast tend to eat more junk food during the day — snacks that are high in fat and sugar and low in nutritional value.
Breakfast improves academic performance and diet
Breakfast helps improve mental performance and concentration during morning activities. Children who skip breakfast will be more sluggish, less attentive, and have less energy to carry out their morning tasks. Teachers observe that children who come to school hungry experience more learning difficulties compared to well-nourished children. Studies show that breakfast eaters perform much better in their school work and show extra energy in sports and other physical activities. Besides assuring optimal development and growth, positive effects on alertness, attention, performance on standardized achievement tests, and other skills important for academic success are enhanced for those who eat breakfast on a daily basis.
Breakfast and weight loss – what is the connection?
Some teenagers choose to skip breakfast as a means to lose weight. However, skipping breakfast actually makes people more likely to snack throughout the day and eat a larger meal at lunch and dinner. As a result, skipping breakfast may cause weight gain by making them eat excessively later in the day.
High-fibre, carbohydrate-rich breakfasts help kids feel full longer thus they may snack less.
Be creative with your breakfast choices
It’s easy to squeeze a good breakfast in, even if your child isn’t that hungry. First, have your child drink a glass of liquid such as water or orange juice. This will help increase his appetite. If he is not used to eating breakfast, you can start by having him eat a small amount at first and then have the rest of the meal mid-morning. As your child gets used to eating breakfast, slowly increase the amount of food he eats in the early morning.
A good breakfast should include nutritious foods from three of the four food groups.
Whole-grain bread or cereal, fruit, milk, yogurt, or eggs are good breakfast options. For children older than two years, 1% low-fat milk or non-fat milk is a good beverage to include with breakfast. If your child doesn’t enjoy the types of foods generally associated with breakfast, consider a sandwich or a serving of leftovers that may appeal to him more.
Some foods might surprise you. For example, many toaster waffles are actually quite low in fat. Top them with some fresh fruit, add a glass of low-fat milk and you have a quick and easy breakfast that combines good taste and good nutrition.
The point of breakfast is to feed your child’s body the protein and energy it needs to start the day and to carry him through to lunch. Of course, children often learn most by example, so it’s important for parents to set a good example and have a nutritious breakfast each day too.
Did You Know?
- Only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day.
- Less than 50% of the time spent in sports practice, games, and physical education class involves moving enough to be considered physical activity.
- Children and teens spend more than 7 hours per day on average using TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices for entertainment.
- About 1 out of 3 children is either overweight or obese in the United States.
- Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
Parents can play a key role in helping their child become more physically active.
Here are 11 ways to get started:
- Talk with your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor can help your child understand why physical activity is important. Your child’s doctor can also suggest a sport or activity that is best for your child.
- Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that she enjoys. The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely she will continue it. Get the entire family involved. It is a great way to spend time together.
- Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is not ready for weight lifting or a 3-mile run, but soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are all appropriate activities.
- Plan ahead. Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
- Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child’s equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe. Make sure your child’s clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
- Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes, and other active toys.
- Be a role model. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
- Play with your child. Help her learn a new sport.
- Turn off the TV. Limit TV watching and computer use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, computers, and video games, each day. Use the free time for more physical activities.
- Make time for exercise. Some children are so overscheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
- Do not overdo it. When your child is ready to start, remember to tell her to listen to her body. Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it. If your child’s weight drops below an average, acceptable level or if exercise starts to interfere with school or other activities, talk with your child’s doctor.
Exercise along with a balanced diet provides the foundation for a healthy, active life. This is even more important for children who are obese. One of the most important things parents can do is encourage healthy habits in their children early on in life. It is not too late to start. Ask your child’s doctor about tools for healthy living today.