It’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Countless studies have shown that people (and children) who eat breakfast are healthier and less prone to weight gain than those who skip breakfast. (Gibson & O'Sullivan (1995). Breakfast cereal consumption patterns and nutrient intakes in British schoolchildren. Journal of Royal Society of Health 115 (6): 366-370.)
Children who eat a healthy, balanced breakfast each day are more likely to meet their daily requirement of vitamins and minerals . In fact a US study found that breakfast skippers are unlikely to make up missed nutrients during the rest of the day. ( Mathews R (1996). Importance of breakfast to cognitive performance and health. Perspectives in Applied Nutrition, 3 (3): 204-212.)
Also, studies have shown that children who skip breakfast are not as efficient in the selection of critical information in problem-solving as their peers who have had breakfast. (Pollitt et al (1981). Brief fasting, stress and cognition in children. Am. J. of Clin. Nutr. 34: 1526-1533; Pollitt et al (1982). Fasting and cognitive performance. Journal of Psychiatric Research 17: 169-174.)
These are just a few of the many benefits of breakfast that we as mums hear about. However, you’re also told not to force your child if he or she doesn’t want to eat. It’s a classic catch 22 situation.
The truth is, it may not be as much about when your child eats as what he or she eats. Some children don’t like a heavy breakfast, and choosing something lighter may be the answer. Here are a few ideas:
Cereal with milk is always a good choice. Choose a fortified cereal (this means cereals that have vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium added to them) to help ensure your child is getting the vitamins and minerals they need. Be sure to give your child whole fat milk at least until the age of two. You can then switch to low fat milk if you prefer. Adding chopped fruit and berries or a splash of warm milk is another way to ensure your child enjoys a healthy, nutritious and varied breakfast.
Fruit or yogurts are two more light and easy breakfast choices. Chop up an apple, pear, banana or an orange as your child is more likely to eat small, manageable portions.
A breakfast smoothie, with yogurt, fruit and even oats is another great light breakfast option.
Getting your child involved in breakfast preparation, whether its whisking eggs or choosing the fruit is another way to encourage your child to eat breakfast.
You should also remember that if you eat breakfast, your child is more likely to mimic you, so make the time to sit down and enjoy breakfast with your child. Lastly, if you really can’t get your child to eat breakfast shortly after waking, pop a breakfast bar or a yoghurt and a piece of fruit in a lunchbox and let your child eat it on the way to school or crèche.
Did you know that eating breakfast helps children to concentrate in school, in both mathematical and creative tasks. Teachers are well aware of the benefits of breakfast in that hungry children do not learn! ( Wyon DP, Abrahamsson L, Jartelius M and Fletcher R. (1997). An experimental study of the effects of energy intake at breakfast on the test performance of 10-year-old children in school. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition; 48: 5-12.)