Kids and Breakfast: Real Life Advice

Kids and breakfast, it’s an uneasy alliance. On a typical school day, breakfast often gets shelved in favor of a few extra minutes of sleep, an “I’m not hungry” claim, or a waiting school bus. And when kids do eat, parents pat themselves on the back because At least they ate something before their kids went charging out the door. But just because a belly is full, doesn’t mean the brain and muscles are getting the fuel they need.

Recent studies have been conducted with parents of children aged 6-12 to get an idea of how many kids usually have breakfast at home in the morning before school, and also to find out what they’re typically eating. Overall results have shown that more than 70 percent said their kids ate breakfast at home every day before going off to school, while only about 5 percent reported that their kids always skipped it.

That’s the good news. But what kids have been eating has cast a bit of a shadow on these facts. Most kids are having plenty of refined carbs with their morning meals, but not much protein. And fruit intake is pretty scanty, too.

Kids’ top breakfast choices are refined grain products, foods like cold cereal, waffles, pancakes, toast and bagels. Fewer than half of those surveyed said that their kids typically ate protein-rich foods, like eggs or yogurt in the morning. And only about 40 percent said that their kids eat fruit before leaving for school.

There’s more to breakfast than a full stomach. Kids need healthy carbohydrates, like whole grain breads and cereals and fresh fruits, to provide fuel to active muscles and busy brains. And a good shot of protein in the morning from foods like eggs and low fat dairy products not only keeps kids from getting too hungry, it also helps to keep them mentally alert. A recent USDA report said that our kids aren’t getting nearly enough calcium, vitamin D, potassium or fiber in their diets. All of these could be supplied by a breakfast that included fruit, dairy products and whole grains.

We’re all busy in the morning, and it may be tempting to take the path of least resistance when it comes to making sure that kids eat. If they say they’re not hungry, why push? If they’re in a rush, busy parents may find it easier, or believe it’s faster, to pick something up than to help kids put together a healthy breakfast at home.

But I wonder.

The newsstand I walk to every morning is right next to a donut shop, around the corner from my neighborhood elementary school. I’m always astonished at how many parents are buying their grade-school kids greasy donuts and sugary coffee drinks at 7:30 in the morning. Does it really take that much longer to prepare a bowl of high-fiber cereal and fruit, to make a slice of whole grain toast to be eaten with a carton of yogurt, or whip up a quick protein smoothie in the blender?

Written by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

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