Breakfast, who doesn’t love it? Absolutely everyone does, even kids, and that’s where our topic of interest comes in. What should a child eat for breakfast? Some may argue that it is a very complicated question with no certain or correct answer. It all depends on genetics, metabolism, dieting as well as individual preferences.
It’s a common question asked by new parents- what should a child eat for breakfast? Don’t worry; this isn’t going to turn into one of those cheap infomercials. The advice in this article is free (I basically just ate free cereal for breakfast.)
As the weather gets colder, it’s important that we think about breakfast differently than we do in the warmer months. Instead of cereal, what should a child eat for breakfast?
What Should A Child Eat For Breakfast
When a child wakes up in the morning, the primary thing on their mind is “What should I eat for breakfast?” The answer for you as their parent is not easy to come by because you need to consider many factors. Ask any mom or dad whether their child should eat gluten-free, sugar-free, low carb or lean protein and conflicting views will be given with respect to most if not all of those topics.
Why A Healthy Breakfast Is Important
Breakfast gives children the energy they need to start their busy days. Children who eat a healthy breakfast can concentrate on playing, learning, remembering and solving problems, because they aren’t distracted by feeling hungry.
This means that a healthy breakfast can help children perform better at school.
Children who eat breakfast also tend to:
- have better school attendance than those who regularly skip breakfast
- be more emotionally healthy than non-breakfast eaters
- stay at a healthy weight, because they’re less likely to snack on unhealthy foods.
While quick, packaged breakfast choices are fast and easy, it’s worth trying to plan a few extra minutes into your evening and morning routines to prepare a daily quick and healthy breakfast.
It’s also important to encourage kids who want to skip breakfast to have something to eat—even if it’s not homemade or particularly nutrient-rich. Ideally, you want to combine convenience and nutrition.
Research confirms that eating breakfast is particularly important for school-age kids—academically, physically, and emotionally. Consistently eating a quality, nutrient-rich breakfast enhances a child’s on-task learning, academic performance, and student behavior.2
“Research shows that academic achievement is improved when kids eat breakfast,” says Marina Chaparro, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition. “Their brains need fuel. They are metabolizing glucose at a higher rate. They are sleeping more. They are developing. Not eating breakfast means less power reserve in their brains.”
In short, kids who eat breakfast do better in school. To make sure your kids are eating a nutrient-rich first meal of the day before they head off to school or their weekend activities, try these helpful tips and ideas for quick, easy, and nutritious breakfasts.
Ideal “quality” breakfasts include a variety of food groups that provide adequate energy and stave off hunger.
Your best bet for making healthy breakfasts routine in your household is to plan ahead, wake up a few minutes early, and create a schedule (linked to your shopping list) so you know what you’ll make and have ingredients on-hand. Here are some other great tips.
Get The Right Mix
A good way to remember what to include in a healthy breakfast is to be mindful of the phrase “three or more before you head out the door,” says Toby Smithson, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies.
Smithson advises choosing one item each from the three food groups—protein, whole grain, and fruit—to create a healthy breakfast. (A good on-the-go breakfast would be string cheese, whole-wheat crackers, and an apple, for instance.)
Give Smaller Portions
Think quality, not quantity, says Smithson. Parents often don’t realize that younger kids really don’t need (and can be overwhelmed by) big portions.
Instead of expecting your first-grader to eat an entire piece of toast, a big helping of scrambled eggs, and an entire banana, for instance, give them a half-slice of toast, a few forkfuls of eggs, and a few slices of banana to nibble on. You can also serve the meal “family style” and allow them to take what they want.
Use A Muffin Tin
A great way to visualize the variety and amount a child might want is by filling up a muffin tin cup or reusable silicone muffin cups with cut up cheese, fruit, or other breakfast foods to have on-hand in kid-sized portions. Then, let them choose to eat what they want from the offerings, in the amount that’s right for them.
Prepare The Night Before
Think Outside the (Breakfast) Box
Don’t feel you need to limit your child to traditional breakfast foods for their first meal of the day. If they aren’t excited about eggs and toast but love sandwiches, salads, tacos, or fried rice, there’s no reason they shouldn’t enjoy those meals for breakfast.
When thinking about what to serve your kids for breakfast, consider these nutrient-rich items from the following three food groups:
- Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bagels, whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat tortillas, oatmeal, and whole-grain toast
- Protein, such as eggs, meat and poultry, tofu, beans, nuts, and fish
- Fruit, such as berries, melons, apples, and bananas (any fruit is great, including frozen)
What A Healthy Breakfast Looks Like
A healthy breakfast needs to have a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. This combination gives children enough energy for the whole morning.
Your child might like to choose from options like porridge, oats, untoasted muesli, low-sugar wholegrain cereal, boiled eggs, omelettes, wholegrain toast, fruit and yoghurt.
Wholegrains like multigrain bread, oats and porridge are good choices for breakfast. Your child’s body digests and absorbs them more slowly than processed, sugary cereals. They give your child longer-lasting energy and fullness.
Healthy Breakfast Ideas To Encourage Reluctant Breakfast Eaters
You’re an important role model when it comes to eating. Showing your children that breakfast is yummy and an important part of your day is a good way to encourage them to eat it. You can talk about the benefits of breakfast with them too.
Here are more breakfast ideas to encourage healthy eating habits in the morning:
- Make breakfast a time to sit and eat with your children. Being a good example is a powerful way to influence your children’s habits.
- If your child says they’re not hungry in the morning, try making a healthy smoothie, with milk, yoghurt and a piece of fruit like a banana, instead of a more traditional breakfast ‘meal’.
- Another option is for your child to eat a small meal at home, like a small bowl of oats or a piece of fruit. Then give your child a healthy snack to eat before school starts – for example, some yoghurt with fruit.
- If a busy morning schedule or an early start leaves little time for breakfast, try setting your child’s alarm 10 minutes earlier, or even getting breakfast ready the night before. For example, put cereal in the bowl overnight and leave it on the bench or table, so your child just has to add milk in the morning.
- If your child is a fussy eater at breakfast, think about ways to make breakfast more interesting. For example, you could try something like low-fat ricotta on wholemeal toast with sliced banana and honey drizzled on top.
- If your older child refuses to eat breakfast, try not to make a big deal about this. Your child might be doing this as a way of showing independence. You could suggest your child takes a piece of fruit or a healthy smoothie made with milk, yoghurt and fruit to have on the trip to school instead. Or encourage your child to choose their own healthy breakfast options when you’re out shopping.
Nutritional Benefits Of Breakfast
Human bodies make energy from carbohydrates, breaking them down into a sugar called glucose. Glucose is our main source of energy. After a night without food, your body has used most of its glucose. This is why we need a fuel top-up before we tackle the day.
Eating breakfast will give your child energy and get their metabolism started. It will help your child’s body use the food they eat more efficiently throughout the day. Also, children who miss breakfast don’t ‘catch up’ on any missed nutrients during the rest of the day.
Healthy Breakfast Ideas Your Kids Will Love
For many busy families, breakfast is rushed and on-the-go as kids and parents gobble up whatever’s on-hand as they try to get to school and work on time. This sometimes results in breakfast being skipped entirely, which makes for grumbling tummies and wandering minds long before lunchtime.1
Fast Breakfast Ideas
Try these combinations (and make more of your own) to create nutritious breakfast options that are delicious and fast. Many of these quick breakfasts can be made in minutes the night before to save time in the morning.
- Egg burrito (scrambled eggs and cheese wrapped up in a tortilla shell that can be customized with just about anything, from chunks of sweet potato and avocado to shredded chicken) with fruit on the side
- Fruit kebabs and yogurt
- Greek yogurt with nuts, granola, and berries
- Homemade trail mix
- Mini muffins
- Quesadilla with beans and cheese
- Raisin bread with cottage or ricotta cheese
- Waffles with nut butter
- Whole-wheat bagel or toast with nut butter and bananas
- Whole-wheat English muffins with turkey and cheese with fruit and yogurt
Recipes To Try
Below are a variety of kid-friendly breakfast options to try and hopefully find some new family favorites.
1. Spinach And Quinoa Breakfast Mini Quiche Recipe
This yummy spinach and quinoa quiche is a simple and portable option that’s full of protein to keep your kids full until lunch. It’s also a snap to customize to taste as you can add in just about any veggies, cheese, or meats that you like. This breakfast is also easy for little fingers to eat and has the convenience factor of freezing and microwaving well.
2. Greek Yogurt Blender Pancake
These delicious pancakes will be a hit with most kids. Plus, they’re nutritious and easy to make—they take only 10 minutes to prepare.
Make them extra appealing by topping them with your child’s favorite fruits, jam, syrup, and/or fold chocolate chips or berries into the batter.
3. Easy Pear Baked Oatmeal
Put a twist on traditional oatmeal by topping this version with fruit and baking rather than cooking on the stovetop. This eliminates the need to watch and stir, meaning you can focus on getting kids ready for school.
Whole grains make this recipe hearty and nutritious. The sweetness of the pears (which can be swapped out for other fruit as desired) is likely to encourage your little ones to gobble it up.
4. Strawberry Sweet Potato Toast
This creative, nutrient-packed recipe uses slices of sweet potatoes in place of bread to create a filling and delicious take on toast. Pile on strawberries, Greek yogurt, and granola for an innovative taste sensation.
This one is also a snap to accommodate to any other toppings (such as other fruit, veggies, or nuts) your child prefers—and what you have on hand.
5. Banana Bread Doughnuts With Honeyed Yogurt Glaze
Scrumptious banana bread doughnuts are a definite kid-pleaser. They’re flavorful, fun to eat, and satisfying.
6. Easy Sunday Morning Baked Eggs Recipe
This simple baked egg recipe is elevated with basil, cabbage, parmesan, and cherry tomatoes and comes together with just 5 minutes of prep. Kids can help make this simple dish, too.
Encourage them to experiment with other additions such as spinach, slices of a bell or sweet pepper, or other types of cheese like feta or cheddar.
7. Savory Spinach and Feta Oatmeal Bowl
Kids get both eggs and oatmeal in this inspired recipe that also packs a savory punch with spinach and feta. This meal gives your kids ample protein, fiber, and veggies without the excess sugar that often comes with oatmeal.
Breakfast At School
If your family’s morning rush just isn’t conducive to making and sitting down for a meal before you head out, consider having your child eat breakfast at school if it’s available. Many schools (public and private) offer breakfast, which is often offered free of charge or for a low-fee.
There is a well-earned stigma about the relative healthiness of school cafeteria meals but the quality and nutritional content have improved—and eating something is likely better than nothing.3
A Word From TheSuperHealthyFood Team
Remember that having something for breakfast is better than having nothing. A nutritious, tasty, and satisfying breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy, elaborate, or homemade. Store-bought items are fine and necessary for many busy families.
A sampling of nuts, cheese, and fruit that’s put together in seconds can be just as nutritious and filling as a made-from-scratch frittata or homemade muffins.