Why Skipping Breakfast Puts Kids on the Wrong Track

Why is breakfast so important for kids (and adults)?  In this article, Dr Muireann Cullen of the Nutrition and Health Foundation tell us why skipping breakfast puts kids on the wrong track for the day and gives some healthy breakfast ideas:

Children Who Eat Breakfast Perform Better

After fasting all night, we can often feel tired, sluggish and irritable on waking due to the body’s energy stores being low.

Eating breakfast gives children a much needed energy boost and can help improve mood and concentration levels.

A developing body and brain needs a fresh supply of energy each day to keep going.

Dozens of studies have consistently shown that children who eat breakfast perform better than those who don’t.

Other studies also show that kids and adults who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight or obese.

Don’t forget breakfast even if it’s the holidays

During the holidays, it is as important as during the school term that kids continue to kick start the day with a healthy breakfast.

With many kids sleeping on longer during the holidays and busy parents rushing to leave the house in the mornings, thought needs to go into what the children are eating.

Getting the Most out of Breakfast for Your Child

The statistics on childhood obesity are worrying. However, the benefits kids get from eating breakfast are immense as almost 20 per cent of kids’ energy intake is coming from breakfast. It is high quality energy intake and reduces the need for snacking on empty calories.

96% per cent of Irish kids are eating breakfast, this is very good news as breakfast is a low fat meal and it makes a really positive contribution to the daily diet, the problems in the overall daily diet are not coming from breakfast, in fact breakfast is a protection against what is happening elsewhere in the day.

  • Introduce wholegrain foods to young children slowly and work up from there. To get the most out of breakfast, foods that are high in fibre and low in fat such as wholemeal bread and high fibre cereals, fruit, low fat/diet yoghurts and low fat milks (skimmed can be used after the age of 5) should be eaten. High fibre foods give a sustained slow release of energy.
  • We know that younger kids are eating breakfast but this is not necessarily continuing through to the teenage years where there is less parental control and where we know ‘skipping’ meals is an issue. Parents should ensure that their teenagers are getting breakfast before they go out the door in the morning, otherwise they are ‘running on empty’, which will hamper their performance through the rest of the day
  • Ensure that your child is drinking enough fluids, ideally water, to help prevent constipation as you increase the fibre content of their diet.

Tips for Breakfast

Breakfast is a good time to start meeting the Nutrition and Health Foundation’s healthy eating recommendations: “five a day for fruit and vegetables”, “three a day for dairy” and “choose high fibre options”.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Wholemeal cereal and low fat milk
  • Glass of unsweetened fruit (it can damage little teeth when taken on its own.  If you do give your toddler juice, keep it to mealtimes, and always dilute it one part juice to ten parts water).
  • Tinned, dried or fresh fruit & low fat yoghurt
  • Wholemeal toast with a boiled egg
  • If you’re offering them the full Irish, why not poach the eggs and grill the bacon and sausages to reduce calories and fat?

When to Give Treat Cereals 

Whilst there are cereal products available that contain added chocolate and sugar, these would be in the treat category of cereals and therefore should only be consumed on occasion. It is important to recognise though that all ready to eat cereals have added vitamins and minerals and therefore are an important source of nutrients and provide extra calcium for kids since the majority are consumed with milk which itself provides additional calcium and protein amongst other nutrients.

If you are concerned that your child is consuming the treat type cereals too often, why not add in some high fibre cereals into the bowl as well? This will help slow down the release of the sugar. Over time slowly increase the proportion of high fibre cereal to the treat variety until you are at a stage where the kids are consuming the treat version on occasion.

Do you have a tip to share on how to avoid skipping breakfast?  Share it with us in the comments box below

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