Back to School Nutrition Part 1: Breakfast


Breakfast is a term coined from breaking a fast of 8-12 hours overnight. A healthy breakfast kick starts metabolism for the day and provides a significant portion of daily nutrient needs. If you have a child that balks at the idea of breakfast, let them help choose a healthy snack or mini breakfast, which they can eat within an hour or two of waking.

When it comes to children, a well nourished child who consumes a healthy breakfast is ready to learn, as they have more energy, stamina, self-esteem, especially if they are physically active on a daily basis. Studies show that kids who eat a healthy breakfast have higher attendance rates, less tardiness, higher test scores, keen concentration, increased ability to solve problems and better muscle coordination.

Kids who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight, consume lower fat diets and cholesterol and more likely to meet nutrient needs, especially iron which plays a critical role in carrying oxygen to body cells important for energy and concentration, along with increased calcium and vitamin D intakes which are important for strong bones. Skipping breakfast regularly can lead to iron deficiency, improper growth, poor mental development, low energy, poor behavior and lack of concentration which all harm a child’s ability to learn and achieve.


When choosing a breakfast cereal, look for a one serving size portion that contains 6g or less of sugar, 3g or more fiber, 100% whole grain as the first listed ingredient, no artificial colors & preservatives and is fortified with iron. This information is on the nutrition facts label located on the side of the box. In the ingredient list look for a cereal with 100% whole grain or bran which provides fiber, complex carbohydrate and vitamin B. For more information see Top 8 Kid Friendly Healthy Cereals.

Remember that eating large amounts of fiber rich foods can fill young children up too quickly reducing their appetite for other nutrient dense nutritious foods their bodies need for proper growth. Additionally, too much fiber can interfere with vitamin and mineral absorption. Daily fiber needs according to the American Heart Association are 19 grams for 1-3 year olds and 25 grams for ages 4 and up. Add 8 ounces of skim milk for 300mg of calcium, which is about 1/3 of a child’s calcium needs for the day. Milk also supplies some protein. Adding fiber, protein and a little bit of fat to meals and snacks stabilizes blood sugar levels, keeping hunger at bay.

In addition to ready-to-eat cereals, there are a multitude of kid friendly breakfast ideas. These ideas include using a variety of grains, milk, fruit, vegetables, meats and beans for a well balanced nutrient dense meal. There are multiple benefits for getting kids in the kitchen to make breakfast.