Eating Breakfast Benefits Children in Many Ways

Routines are important to help kids thrive.

Children do better when they eat healthy foods at regular intervals, get enough sleep, get some physical activity, and know what to expect from their days. Routines help to ground them and give them a sense of security.

A study was released by Harvard Medical School on the effects of students who routinely ate breakfast. They found that children scored higher in assessment tests, and across the board, they performed better than those children who had skipped breakfast.

Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day, and there are good reasons for that. When you wake up in the morning, your body has been fasting, or going without food, during the hours you were asleep. Eating breakfast means you ’break the fast’ and give your body and brain the energy they need to function.

A healthy breakfast for your children does not have to be complicated, extravagant, time-consuming, or even homemade. Start the day off right with a breakfast that includes protein and carbohydrates that will provide the fuel important to help kids stay focused on what’s going on in class.

Avoid breakfast sweet treats that are loaded with refined sugar, like doughnuts, pastries, breakfast bars, muffins, and cereals high in sugar. Refined sugar gives children a quick energy boost, but the energy surge doesn’t last long. Children’s blood-sugar levels will drop quickly, causing them to tire and become irritable, moody, and unable to concentrate.

If eggs and cereal don’t fit into your morning schedule, a good option is peanut butter on whole-grain toast. Other options to consider are whole-wheat bagels; greek yogurt; a smoothie made with bananas, blueberries, and a handful of homemade granola; whole grain, low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk and fresh fruit; or even a non-traditional breakfast like a grilled-cheese or turkey sandwich with juice.

Starting a child’s day with a healthy meal may even help combat obesity. Research suggests that those who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight than those who do not. The theory is that breakfast plays an important role in regulating appetite, hormone levels, and the amount of calories we burn throughout the day.

Check with your school to see if they offer students a school-breakfast program. It is required that these programs provide at least 25{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the daily recommended levels of key nutrients and contain no more than 30{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of calories from fat. Some children qualify for reduced-price or free breakfast. Schools with breakfast programs report less behavioral problems and visits to the school nurse.

Children are not the only ones who will benefit from eating a healthy breakfast. Studies have shown that adults who eat a healthy breakfast are more efficient during their workday than those who do not.

There are always going to be glitches in the morning routine. To ensure that there’s time for breakfast, don’t put off the big things until the morning. The night before, lay clothes out, prepare backpacks, make lunches, and sign papers. A few minutes extra before heading to bed can help prevent a hungry belly and many a headache the next morning. –

Dr. Kirti Nagpal is a pediatrician with Baystate Medical Practices – Quabbin Pediatric at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware.

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