Originally posted here by Kristi King, clinical dietician at Texas Children’s Hospital

Young boy and girl enjoying their breakfast before school

I get asked on a daily basis about breakfast for kids as well as for mom and dad. Here are some frequently asked questions I thought I’d share with you!

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

For adults, breakfast is the most important meal, only if it is the healthiest meal of the day. For children, breakfast is very important to help meet all of their nutrient needs and get their brains going for school. Breakfast is a great time to get much-needed nutrients into your diet including vitamin D, fiber, vitamin C and B vitamins to help get you through the day.

What happens to your body when you skip breakfast?

Many things happen to the body when you skip breakfast. Most people tend to notice it in their mood and brain ability. Our brain requires carbohydrates for energy and complex thinking. Without an energy source you may find yourself having difficulty concentrating. Your blood sugar will also drop which may affect your mood – think irritable and grumpy.

Skipping breakfast may have long-term effects. Breakfast skippers have been found to have higher risk of type 2 diabetes, higher risk of obesity as well as increased risk for heart attacks and hypertension. Skipping breakfast may cause you not to consume adequate amounts of vitamins and other nutrients that could contribute to preventing long-term health effects.

Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast in the morning perform better in school. Providing the body and brain with enough fuel allows them to concentrate on the board and not their rumbling tummies!

My child doesn’t like to eat breakfast in the morning. What can I do?

Ideally, our children will go out the door with a full tummy. However, that isn’t necessarily reality! If time is of the essence for your family in the morning or you have a child who needs to wake up considerably prior to consuming food, consider packing a breakfast for your child to eat in the car/on the bus or allow them to eat breakfast at school. For parents who don’t want to eat breakfast – consider waiting an hour or two prior to eating.

Is cereal OK for my child to eat?

Cereal can be a great choice and is very budget friendly but it can also come with a lot of sugar.

Good guidelines to aim for – look at the label. It should have less than six grams of sugar per serving and more than three grams of fiber. This will guarantee the cereal is low in sugar and higher in fiber to help keep you full throughout the morning.

What makes up a “good” breakfast?

Ideally, aim for three different food groups:

  1. Protein serving
  2. Grain serving
  3. Fruit serving

This will ensure you are getting protein and fiber to fill you up.

For mom and dad aim for 25-30 grams of protein at breakfast – there are studies that show this amount of protein in the morning can aid in weight loss and weight maintenance.

Breakfast examples:

Berry shortcake
1 whole wheat waffle
4 oz. light vanilla yogurt
Strawberry slices or blueberries
Toast the waffle and spread the yogurt on top. Top it off with berries.

Eggs and toast
1-2 scrambled eggs
English muffin or toast with butter
1 piece of fruit

Peanut butter banana smoothie
1 cup, low-fat vanilla yogurt
½ cup skim milk
1 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
½ banana
3-4 ice cubes
Mix all the ingredients in the blender.

What about breakfast on the go ideas? 

  • Nut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Yogurt with a handful of cereal and fruit
  • Whole wheat toast with mashed avocado and hardboiled egg
  • ½ whole grain bagel w/ 1 tbsp. cream cheese and apple slices

Any other breakfast “life hacks” that can make my life easier?

  • Have your kids take responsibility for helping prepare breakfast or packing their breakfast to go.
  • If you are making pancakes on the weekend make a few extra. They freeze great, so just microwave when ready to eat!
  • Hard boiled eggs are great to have on hand and super easy to grab and go.
  • Scrambled eggs can be made in the microwave!
    • Crack 1-2 eggs in a microwave safe mug, add a splash of milk, salt and pepper to taste.
    • Stir vigorously with a fork. Microwave for 45 seconds.
    • Stir eggs.
    • Microwave for another 30 seconds. If you wish to add cheese to your scrambled eggs you can add shredded cheese prior to this last step.

About Kristi King, clinical dietitian

I am a clinical dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital and a Clinical Instructor of Pediatrics for Baylor College of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.

My interests are in general pediatric nutrition, pediatric nutrition support, and Intestinal Rehabilitation for those children who malabsorb vitamins & nutrients.

I was honored to be the Houston Area Dietetic Association’s Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year in 2008 and was a graduate of the Inaugural Class of the Texas Children’s Rising Leader Program in 2010.

I am a registered dietitian and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.