Is Breakfast Really Necessary for Students? A Memorial Dietitian Weighs In

We’ve heard it over and over again: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But let’s face it — it’s not always easy to get your kids moving in the morning. 

Here is a great motivator:  According to Karen Ansel, MS, RD, with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, kids who fuel up in the morning have better focus and concentrate in the classroom and perform better on math, reading and standardized tests. Breakfast eaters also have fewer behavior problems and are less likely to be tardy. That’s enough to make any parent get breakfast on the table!

The key to breakfast is variety; include carbohydrates and proteins as well as fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates energize your body and feed your brain, while proteins keep you full until your next meal. Adding in fruits and vegetables help get those much needed vitamins and minerals, while adding an array of colors to your meal.

For those not used to getting that a.m. meal on the table, remember breakfast doesn’t have to be a large, well orchestrated meal. 

  • Start small! Make a meal out of yogurt topped with low-fat granola and fruit or pick a nutritious cereal containing at least 3 grams of fiber with low-fat or fat-free milk and topped with fruit.
  • Plan ahead! Boil a dozen eggs for the week and give your child a hardboiled egg and wheat toast with peanut butter for breakfast and ¾ cup of fruit. Or make an egg scramble with low-fat cheese and veggies such as peppers, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms the night before, then wrap in a whole wheat tortilla in the morning for a fun breakfast burrito. 
  • Most importantly, eat breakfast yourself. According to Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RD, also with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, kids mimic their parents’ behavior, so make it a habit to sit down and eat breakfast with your kids every morning.
  • And remember, you may have to wake up earlier, so bedtimes may need adjusted. The studied benefits of children who eat breakfast are well worth the alarm clock blaring 10 minutes sooner than it used to. 

Emily Bailey, RD, LDN, is a Clinical Dietitian III at Memorial Medical Center.