Kids eat right.

Breakfast: Key to Growing Healthy

Reviewed by Barbara Gordon, RDN, LD
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Breakfast is an important meal for growing children. Studies show that breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomach aches in the morning. Their overall test scores are higher, they concentrate better, solve problems more easily and have better muscle coordination. Children who eat breakfast also are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and get enough calcium, too. Whether your children eat at home or at school, be sure they eat a nutritious breakfast every day.

Whip Up a Quick and Easy Morning Meal

Start your child's day in a healthful direction with a balanced breakfast that incorporates a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Try some of these quick and easy options:

  • Peanut butter spread on whole-grain toast.
  • Iron-fortified cereal and milk or fortified non-dairy alternative with banana slices.
  • Instant oatmeal topped with chopped walnuts and sliced strawberries.
  • Smoothie including milk or fortified non-dairy alternative, spinach, frozen banana and nut butter
  • Parfait with layers of yogurt, whole-grain granola and blueberries

Make a Breakfast Bar

Let your kids build their own breakfast with a breakfast bar. Similar to a salad bar, a breakfast bar includes a variety of foods to mix and match. Little ones love to create unusual combinations by mixing, stacking and organizing ingredients. Will peanut butter glue the berries to a waffle? Or will yogurt smother nuts and fruit? No matter what nutritious combinations they create, they will love the sense of control a breakfast bar offers. Here are some ideas:

  • Whole-grain cereals, waffles, tortillas, bread or English muffins.
  • Peanut butter. 
  • Low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
  • Cottage cheese.
  • Variety of sliced fruit such as bananas or strawberries.
  • Cooked apples or fruit compote.
  • Cheese slices.
  • Chopped nuts.
  • Raisins and dried cranberries.
  • Low-fat or fat-free milk
  • Hard-boiled eggs.

Jazz Up Cooked Cereal

For a great grain-filled breakfast, add flavor and nutrition to cooked cereals (instant or not), such as oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits, brown rice or whole-grain couscous.

  • Use fruit juice — apple, orange or other 100-percent juice — or low-fat or fat-free milk as the cooking liquid.
  • For cooked cereal, stir in chopped fruit (apple, peach, banana, kiwifruit), dried fruit (chopped apricots, papaya, dates, raisins, cranberries) or nuts and seeds
  • Add dry milk powder to cooked cereal to boost calcium.
  • Liven it up with spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves.

If eating breakfast at home simply isn't an option for your child, find out if school breakfast is available. Or pack them a healthy breakfast-to-go that they can eat on the bus or when they get to school. You will not only be encouraging your children to eat nutritiously, but fueling their growing bodies and minds for success.