It’s no secret that breakfast may be the most important meal of the day—especially for anyone attending school—child or adult.
Here are a few of the consequences of not eating breakfast:
- Greater fatigue and sleepiness in the mid-morning hours
- Greater propensity towards weight gain because you tend to eat more junk food later and don’t get the nutritional requirements from two meals
- Reduced alertness and poor concentration resulting in poorer academic performance
- Greater hyperactivity and more disruptive classroom behavior
- Higher rate of irritability and anxiety
- Reduced memory
- Increased chance of becoming diabetic, having high cholesterol or high blood pressure
Need I say more? The case for eating breakfast is well-documented by many studies.
School systems always provide free breakfast on the days of TCAP testing because they know children perform better when eating before school is part of their routine. Parents need to be aware of this too.
Two problems (not addressing the cost of food) keep children from having breakfast: parents who don’t think they have enough time to fix breakfast in the morning and children who claim they aren’t hungry and won’t eat.
School cafeterias now cook a nutritious breakfast so that’s always an option.
At home, breakfast can be prepared the night before or even on the weekend before and refrigerated until the school day. Nontraditional foods can be served in the morning. Breakfast doesn’t have to be bacon or sausage or ham and eggs.
Here are some other suggestions: make a casserole or quiche on the weekend and warm up a slice on the school day. Another easy option is fruit and cheese with a glass of milk, or a bowl of cereal and a piece of toast with a glass of juice. A peanut butter sandwich is better than no breakfast at all. A toasted bagel with jam or peanut butter and juice or milk works fine.
Don’t count out vegetables in the morning if that’s what your child will eat. Instant oatmeal, grits or rice with melted cheese are other great choices. Pita bread with hard-boiled egg and chicken or tuna salad will work. Even a carton of yoghurt or a slice of banana bread or cheese and crackers or a fruit smoothie can start the day on a healthful note. I have one high-achieving student who eats biscotti and decaf coffee with milk every morning.
If your child is a picky eater, make breakfast fun. Paper plates that look like an animal can encourage a child to eat. Or send breakfast in a decorated bag to school so that the child can eat before class or can have a large snack later.
Another way to encourage a reluctant eater is to serve several different items in small rice bowls. Sometimes seeing a mountain of food on a plate is intimidating to a child. Being able to eat small bits of several foods is more enticing.
A child who comes to school without breakfast may be the child who ends up in tears before school starts. Somewhere inside, the child feels cheated whether or not he can verbalize that feeling.
A little girl told me recently that her family had no food at home. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of that sad occurrence.
In Clarksville, many church groups provide weekend food for children who formerly were going hungry when free and reduced lunches are not available on the weekends. The children are given peanut butter or cheese crackers, containers of fruits or puddings, granola bars, fruit drinks, etc. every Friday. They are called to the gym and have the foods loaded in their backpacks so that none is embarrassed.
Breakfast is so important for a child’s good health. We can’t let a busy schedule, a lack of planning ahead, or any other factor cheat our children out of not only what they need but what they deserve.
Don’t let your children skip breakfast. It’s vital to their health and well-being.