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Kids breakfast: make it delicious but nutritious too!

You generally know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but now you can also learn that it offers greater school performance for your child as well as improved dietary habits!
Breakfast feeds our brain after multiple hours of continuous sleep and it looks like children who consume breakfast regularly concentrate better and also memorize more effectively. On the other hand, the contribution of breakfast to the daily intake of nutrients and energy is not at all minor. It actually seems that children who have established the habit of breakfast, likely follow a more nutritious diet during the rest of the day with less snacking, fat and sugar and more vitamins and fibers.

Make sure that breakfast contains

  • Protein which makes meals more substantial and full: Egg, cheese, yogurt, milk, nuts
  • Whole grain (bread, cereals, toast etc.) for stable energy supply and smooth glycemic response (desired blood glucose levels) to ensure that children remain concentrated and alert for more time.
  • One of three sources of calcium required daily, at the least, in order to get calcium which is essential for good skeletal health, strong teeth and a well-functioning muscle system: milk, yogurt or cheese.
  • Fruits or vegetables for more vitamins and dietary fibers to ensure a perfectly functioning digestive system and good health.

How can you make it attractive?

By taking into consideration study findings for approximately 2000 school-age children in Greece, the larger the portion of dinner and the later the hour of its consumption, the more likely it is for the child not to eat breakfast or eat a smaller breakfast. So if you want your child to crave for breakfast, the first and most important step is to make sure they have consumed a relatively light dinner, early in the evening of the previous day. Then, look at all the ingredients above and combine different colors, make shapes, regulate food temperature and crunchy textures, involve your child in the preparation process and introduce ingredients that they love in each “recipe”…A few examples:

  1. Homemade cake with 1 glass of milk and one fruit.
  2. Bread with tahini or peanut butter and honey and 1 glass of milk and 1 fruit
  3. Milk or yogurt with one part chocolate whole-grain cereals for kids and the rest with granola, muesli or plain whole-grain cereals and some dried fruits.
  4. Homemade pancakes with honey, banana, and nuts and 1 cup of yogurt with 1 spoon of cherry jam.
  5. Grilled sandwich with cheese and tomato, some mustard, and 1 fresh fruit.
  6. Sandwich with boiled egg, grated cheese, lettuce and yogurt sauce with herbs or mustard
  7. Poached eggs or fried eggs, whole grain bread, cheese and 1 glass of natural fruit juice
  8. A couple of bread sticks or a slice of bread with cream cheese and a small cucumber and 1 fresh fruit

Why does my child avoid breakfast?

It is important to look at the reason due to which your child avoids breakfast. If your child consumes large portions of dinner quite late in the evening (for instance before it goes to bed), then you should probably change its dinner habits. If that is not the case, and your child simply cannot eat when it wakes up, let some time pass and then offer a neutral, in terms of temperature, breakfast by making sure you include flavors that it likes in a relaxed and stress-less environment, without rush! Of course this may be difficult during weekdays, but you could split breakfast consumption between early-morning home and school hours, before classes start. Besides, breakfast is not necessarily a meal consumed in the morning at home when waking up. It can be “anything consumed within the first 1-2 hours after waking up” regardless of where we choose to consume it.  This means, for example, that your child could drink a glass of milk at home and on the way to school have a koulouri or a cereal bar.

It is not easy at all to make a child crave for breakfast, and typically, health or school performance motivation “works” on them as it does on you! You should first listen to your child’s excuse for avoiding breakfast and then recommend the appropriate solution without pressure or doubting your child but instead by considering about changing your family’s dinner habits.

Indicative bibliography

  1. Adolphus K, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013;7:425. Published 2013 Aug 8.
  2. Edefonti V, Rosato V, Parpinel M, Nebbia G, Fiorica L, Fossali E, Ferraroni M, Decarli A, Agostoni C. The effect of breakfast composition and energy contribution on cognitive and academic performance: a systematic review. Am J ClinNutr. 2014 Aug;100(2):626-56.
  3. Hopkins LC, Sattler M, Steeves EA, Jones-Smith JC, Gittelsohn J. Breakfast Consumption Frequency and Its Relationships to Overall Diet Quality, Using Healthy Eating Index 2010, and Body Mass Index among Adolescents in a Low-Income Urban Setting. Ecol Food Nutr. 2017;56(4):297–311.
  4. Karatzi K, Moschonis G, Choupi E, Manios Y; Healthy Growth Study group. Late-night overeating is associated with smaller breakfast, breakfast skipping, and obesity in children: The Healthy Growth Study. Nutrition. 2017 Jan;33:141-144
  5. O’Neil CE, Nicklas TA, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Nutrient Intake, Diet Quality, and Weight Measures in Breakfast Patterns Consumed by Children Compared with Breakfast Skippers: NHANES 2001-2008. AIMS Public Health. 2015;2(3):441–468. Published 2015 Aug 3.
  6. O’Neil C.E., Byrd-Bredbenner C., Hayes D., Jana L., Klinger S.E., Stephenson-Martin S. The role of breakfast in health: Definition and criteria for a quality breakfast. J. Acad. Nutr. Diet. 2014;114:S8–S26.
  7. USDA, My Plate; Guide to School breakfast for families (infographic), August 2016

Ms Christina-PolinaLambrinou
PhD, Clinical Dietitian Nutritionist
Scientific Associate at Horokopio University

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