Why breakfast is important
Breakfast gives children the energy they need to handle their busy days. Children who eat a healthy breakfast go longer without feeling hungry. This means they can concentrate on playing, learning, remembering and solving problems better.
Research shows that a healthy breakfast can help children perform better at school.
Breakfast eaters also tend to:
- have better school attendance than those who regularly skip breakfast
- be more emotionally healthy than non-breakfast eaters
- be less likely to snack on sugary or fatty foods, which helps them stay at a healthy weight.
What a healthy breakfast looks like
A healthy breakfast needs to have a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat to keep energy levels steady all morning.
For babies and toddlers, breakfast might be rice cereal, milk and fruit. School-age kids and teenagers might like to choose from porridge, low-sugar wholegrain cereal, a boiled egg, an omelette, wholegrain toast, fruit and yoghurt.
Choosing healthy foods
and eating enough breakfast will help your child get through the morning. Highly processed, sugary cereals won’t give her as much energy and will make her feel hungry sooner.
Encouraging reluctant breakfast eaters
You’re an important role model when it comes to eating. Showing your kids that breakfast can be yummy and that it’s an important part of your day is a good way to encourage them to eat it. You can talk about its benefits with them too.
Here are more ways to encourage good breakfast habits:
- Make breakfast a time to sit and eat with your kids. Being a good example is a powerful way to change their habits.
- If your child says he’s not hungry in the morning, try making a healthy smoothie, with milk, yoghurt and fruit, instead of a more traditional breakfast ‘meal’.
- Another option is for your child to eat a small meal at home, such as a small bowl of cereal or a piece of fruit. You can then give your child a healthy snack to eat before school starts – for example, a sandwich, muesli bar or wholegrain fruit bun.
- If a hectic morning schedule gets in the way of breakfast, try setting your child’s alarm 10 minutes earlier, or packing your child’s bag and laying out his clothes the night before. You could even get the next day’s breakfast ready at night, putting dry cereal in a covered bowl, or placing toppings like sliced fruit, nuts or raisins in a muffin tray.
Fussy eaters often respond better at meal times if the food is more interesting than usual. Young children love toast or fruit, and older kids can occasionally prefer ‘non-breakfast’ foods, like leftover pasta.
- Older children and teenagers might refuse to eat breakfast as a way of showing their independence. Try not to make a big deal about this. You could suggest your child takes a piece of fruit, a smoothie or a muffin to have on her trip to school instead. She might also like to choose her own healthy breakfast options when out shopping.
A recent study showed that children who skipped breakfast were more likely to have parents who didn’t encourage them to eat in the morning.
Nutritional benefits of breakfast
Human bodies make energy from carbohydrates, breaking them down into a sugar called glucose. After a night without food, your body has used up this glucose. It starts to use stores of energy from your muscles instead, like glycogen and fatty acids. This is why we need a fuel top-up before we tackle the day.
Eating breakfast will give your child energy and get his metabolism started. It will help his body use the food he eats more efficiently throughout the day. Also, children who miss breakfast don’t ‘catch-up’ on those missed nutrients during the rest of the day.
getting your child to eat well
‘Your children see what you do, and they want to do it too.’
Many of the mums and dads in this short video say that their best advice for getting young children to eat well is to eat well yourself. Their other tips for getting kids to eat a balanced diet include eating the same things as your children, eating together, and involving children in meal preparation.
The video also covers how much food children should eat and common concerns you might have about your child’s weight.