Breakfast is the most important meal for kids. Get tips for making quick, healthy morning meals.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
Want to know a simple way to help your children do better in school? Feed them healthy meals, especially in the morning.
Kids and Breakfast: Food for Thought
"Children need breakfast everyday for a variety of reasons," says Roberta Anding, a registered dietitian at the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. "Actively growing children need food at regular intervals to fuel their bodies and brains. Skipping breakfast gives as much as a 10- to 12-hour time frame with no food, and the potential for compromised school performance and irritability."
In addition, "for children who eat breakfast, there is better regulation of body weight," says Anding. Other benefits:
Eating breakfast increases the chances of an overall healthier diet.
Kids who start the day with a healthy meal are more likely to play sports and be more physically active.
Eating breakfast improves a child's ability to concentrate and perform in school.
Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Kids
Avoid giving children sweet foods for breakfast, like doughnuts or cereals high in sugar, because after the sugar high wears off, they are likely to get tired. "Healthy options include whole grain, low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk and fresh fruit, or a yogurt berry parfait with granola," says Anding. Or, you might offer your child a whole-grain English muffin with peanut butter or jelly and a glass of low-fat milk.
Other healthy meals for kids:
Scrambled eggs, toast with a little bit of butter, turkey bacon or sausage, and a side of fresh fruit.
Whole-grain bagel and cream cheese with a side of strawberries.
Low-fat cheese toast with a side of cantaloupe and blueberries.
Get creative, adds Anding, who recommends offering a breakfast burrito with scrambled egg and grated low-fat cheese and fresh fruit.
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"If time is a factor, make breakfast portable," she continues. "Try sandwiches, like peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese leftover from dinner. Dry cereal in a sandwich baggie and a 100 percent real-juice juice box can make breakfast stress-free."
Planning breakfast the night before can also save you time. "This will allow you to plan ahead and know how much time you need in the morning," says Arlene Kaufman, a busy working mother and director of Temple Trager Preschool in Louisville, Ky. "That way everyone isn't saying: 'I don't know what I want,' or asking for something you don't have."
Healthy meals for kids don't have to be hard or time-consuming — or even homemade. There are plenty of prepared healthy breakfast foods that can go in the microwave. Check the freezer section at your local grocery store for pre-made meals like whole-wheat bagels and cream cheese, pancakes, waffles, and frozen turkey sausage. Yogurt and fruit, along with a whole-wheat bagel, is also a quick and easy breakfast for kids.
And, if you’re in a hurry like most families in the morning, Kaufman says, "grab a banana and Nutrigrain bar to eat in the car — it's still healthy, even though it's on the go!"