Breakfast may be your child's most important meal of the day, but it is often skipped. Sleep is an all-night fast, so “breaking the fast” plays a key role in re-fueling the brain with vital carbohydrates to maintain blood sugar levels and protein to prepare muscles for the day ahead.

Research has shown that breakfast meals can improve focus and concentration, help with problem-solving and the completion of complex tasks. For children, sleep can improve test performance. Other benefits of proper nutrition are enhanced muscle coordination and even a decreased likelihood of being overweight or obese.

What if your child is not hungry in the morning?

  • Close the kitchen after dinner! Late night snacks can interfere with hunger signals in the morning.
  • Give them a chance to wake up. Try setting the alarm clock 10 minutes earlier and have children wake up by getting dressed before breakfast.
  • Get organized. Set out bowls, spoons and whole grain, low-sugar cereals the night before. Just add low-fat milk or yogurt and you’ve got a balanced meal.
  • Be consistent with breakfast. It may take time to develop this habit, but regularly eating at a set breakfast time will help to encourage that feeling of hunger upon waking, support a balanced eating pattern and may prevent overeating later in the day.
  • Be a role model! Children will model positive eating behaviors, so go ahead and enjoy that bowl of cereal with your child.
  • Pack breakfast to go. No time to eat at home? Plan a balanced portable breakfast or look into the breakfast menu at your child’s school.

Proper balance builds a satisfying breakfast!

  • Carbohydrates, protein, fat and natural fiber from fresh fruits and veggies can provide lasting energy that will deliver all the important nutrients.
  • Protein-rich foods and whole grain carbohydrates can help your child feel fuller longer.
  • Aim for three to four food groups (milk, grains, fruit, meat/beans, vegetables) for a balanced breakfast.
  • Choose high fiber, whole grain cereals that have no more than 7 grams of total sugar/serving for lighter cereals or 11 grams for heavier cereals such as granola.

Grab a glass of low-fat milk for a calcium boost and add it to these great balanced breakfast ideas for a wonderful start to the day.

  • Make a yogurt parfait with plain or low-sugar yogurt, fruit, and low-sugar cereal.
  • Add fresh or dried fruit and maybe some nuts to plain instant oatmeal.
  • Wrap a wheat tortilla around scrambled eggs or black beans with grated cheese.
  • Whip up some homemade trail mix with whole grain low-sugar cereal, shelled pistachios, favorite dried fruits and add a cup of low-fat milk or yogurt.
  • Serve high-fiber, low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk and berries.
  • Spread two tablespoons of nut butter or nut-free alternative on a wheat tortilla, wrap around a whole banana and add a dash of cinnamon for extra flavor.
  • Offer whole wheat toast, English muffin or mini bagel with a cheese slice or eggs and a clementine.
  • Combine an apple or banana with peanut butter and whole grain rice cakes.
  • Add cottage cheese and berries to a whole grain waffle.

As this is National School Breakfast Week, it’s a great time to develop a new, healthy habit for you and your family! So enjoy breakfast, and make it a great day.

Maria Santini RD, LDN, CNSC

Maria Santini, RD, LDN, CNSC, is a licensed dietitian/nutritionist and certified nutrition support clinician. Maria is also the supervisor of clinical nutrition for Hasbro Children's Hospital.