Why kids need breakfast
Amanda McCredie – Dietician
You probably heard it from your own parents, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. But, now you’re the one saying it — to your sleepy, frazzled, grumpy kids, who insist “I’m not hungry” as you try to get everyone fed and moving in the morning.
Unfortunately one in four Australian children leave home without breakfast. Studies have reported that children who skipped breakfast felt tired and irritable, had trouble concentrating on the morning’s lessons, and found complex mental tasks difficult. If you deprive children of breakfast, you may be depriving them of their ability to learn.
Breakfast is a great way to give the body the refuelling it needs. Kids who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities — two great ways to help maintain a healthy weight.
Skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, or irritable. In the morning, their bodies need to refuel for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during sleep. Their mood and energy can drop by midmorning if they don’t eat at least a small morning meal.
It’s important for kids to have breakfast every day, but what they eat in the morning is crucial too. Try to serve a balanced breakfast that includes carbohydrates, protein, and fibre. Carbohydrates are a good source of immediate energy for the body. Energy from protein tends to kick in after the carbohydrates are used up. Fibre helps provide a feeling of fullness and, therefore, discourages overeating. When combined with healthy drinks (water or milk), fibre helps move food through the digestive system, preventing constipation.
And don’t forget how important your good example is. Let your kids see you making time to enjoy breakfast every day. Even if you just have some wholegrain toast with avocado, a banana and a cup of tea/coffee, you’re showing how important it is to face the day after refuelling your brain and body with a healthy morning meal.
Here are some healthy ideas to try for breakfast:
- Raisin bread or fruit loaf, either plain or topped with ricotta cheese, and chopped strawberries or banana
- Wholegrain cereal with milk and chopped fruit such as banana or berries, or pureed fruit
- Hot porridge with milk, chopped banana or berries
- Yoghurt topped with a muesli style cereal and chopped or pureed fruit
- Baked beans with wholegrain toast and a glass of milk
- Scrambled or poached eggs with toast and a glass of milk
- Wholegrain muffins with a slice of cheese and tomato and a piece of fruit
- Wholegrain Toast with avocado and vegemite and a glass of milk
- Wholegrain toast with a thin spread of jam or honey plus sliced banana and a small tub of yoghurt
- Fruit smoothies – simply blend milk, yoghurt, soft fruit and some oats
- Home made muffins or pancakes (if time permits)
- Omelettes with cheese, ham and tomato and baby spinach (again if time permits)
Handy tip: Discourage your child from eating breakfast in front of the television. This can also help speed up your morning routines!