Apr 9, 2018, 1:05:16 PM CDT Feb 23, 2023, 4:19:37 PM CST

The importance of breakfast for kids

Did you know the kind of breakfast your child eats can affect their performance at school? A Children's Health expert explains.

Father and daughter eating breakfast together Father and daughter eating breakfast together

For many students and their families, mornings are a race against the clock to get out the door and to school on time – and all too often, kids skip breakfast in the rush. However, research suggests that this habit can lead to decreased focus and learning and have a negative impact on school performance. Kids should eat breakfast every day. Learn what type of breakfast foods can boost your child's brain power.

What should you feed your child for breakfast?

Kara Gann, Clinical Dietitian at Children's Health℠, says that smart breakfast choices are carbohydrate-rich foods like fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Since these foods are more slowly digested, they provide a steady supply of glucose. Adding protein to the mix helps maintain the energy supply even longer, ensuring the brain has enough go-power to last until lunch. The list below provides healthy breakfast choices that are kid friendly. Choose a carbohydrate food to supply fuel and a protein/fat to sustain that energy flow throughout your child's day.

Carbohydrate-rich breakfast foods

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat bread, pita or tortilla
  • Corn tortilla
  • Fresh or frozen fruit
  • Whole grain cereals (low sugar)

Protein/fat energy supplier

  • Peanut butter
  • Eggs/egg whites
  • Canadian bacon/ham
  • Beans
  • Almonds/nuts
  • Avocado

Carbohydrate + protein

  • 1% or skim milk
  • Low-fat Greek or plain yogurt
  • Low-sugar fruit yogurt
  • Reduced-fat cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, etc.)

Breakfast and academic performance

Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast have higher test scores, retain information better and tend to have more focus than those who do not.

The reason for this is our brain requires food for fuel, just as our muscles do. While our muscles can use stored energy from food we ate yesterday, our brain prefers energy from food we have eaten recently.

When there is not adequate glucose, or blood sugar, for the brain to use as fuel, we don't concentrate as well or feel as alert. Eating breakfast ensures that blood sugar levels return to normal after the long time without eating while you were asleep. This is why you often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

The bottom line is that breakfast breaks the fast, waking up our bodies and brains to let them know it's time to get going. Even though mornings can be rushed, set your child up for success by making sure they start the day with a healthy, balanced breakfast.

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