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Ask people what they consider the most important meal of the day for children, and many will say “breakfast.” Kids who eat a healthy breakfast have better attention spans and healthier body weights. But with busy morning schedules, many parents and caregivers find it challenging to feed their school-aged children a healthy breakfast before whisking them away to school.
With the start of the school year right around the corner, we asked Patricia Cantrell, MD, a pediatrician who is a champion of childhood obesity prevention at Kaiser Permanente San Diego, to weigh in. She noted that, in addition to grains like cereal and toast, kids benefit greatly from consuming protein, calcium, and a fruit or vegetable at breakfast. These food groups equip kids with the energy they need to get through the morning.
Breakfast for All
Decades of research have shown that students who don’t eat breakfast find it hard to focus and struggle to learn. The federal School Breakfast Program was created to address this problem by providing free or reduced-price breakfasts to children from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
The School Breakfast Program is administered at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which provides funding in the form of cash reimbursement for each meal served) and at the state level by the state department of education or agriculture. To find out if your school participates in the School Breakfast Program, call your school or school district, or view this list of state administering agencies.
If school breakfast is not offered in your school or state, visit the Food Research Action Center website to find tools that can help you advocate for the creation of a program.
Here are some of Dr. Cantrell’s favorite ideas for easy, healthy breakfasts. Serve them with some fruit and a glass of milk to ensure kids are eating a nutrition-filled meal. The first couple require a little bit of adult preparation beforehand, but kids can quickly grab them out of the fridge in the morning:
- Yogurt parfaits: You can make these with your kids and store them in the fridge for breakfast.
- Hardboiled eggs: Boil eggs the night before and keep in the fridge. They will be ready to go the next morning.
- Whole wheat toast: Top with peanut butter or almond butter.
- French toast: This only takes a few minutes. Beat the eggs with a tiny bit of vanilla in a shallow dish. Dip in some whole grain toast. Most slices of bread will soak up one egg.
- Veggie egg scrambles or omelets: Cut up vegetables the night before and put them in containers. In the morning, the scramble or omelet will only take a few minutes to make.
- If you’re in a pinch, grab a granola bar — the less sugar, the better!
While smoothies take a little bit longer to prepare, they are another way to pack many nutrients into one delicious treat! Check out these recipes from our Food for Health blog:
Looking for more ideas? Check out the ChopChopKids website or search “quick, easy healthy breakfasts for kids” on the internet.
Some key takeaways:
- Plan and prepare breakfast the night before for a less hectic morning.
- Quick meals should still be balanced.
- Model healthy eating habits, and empower children to make good choices by keeping healthy options within easy reach.
Summer is a great time to try out some of these breakfast ideas and see which ones you and your kids like best. Want to tackle lunch next? Get started with some healthy school lunch tips from dietician Ricia Taylor of Kaiser Permanente Georgia.