Eat Breakfast Every Day

My family stayed at a hotel in Florida during spring break, and every morning we would have breakfast in their restaurant which featured an elegant morning buffet. The buffet offered a wide range of options from the healthy eggs, fruit and grilled vegetables to the less healthful temptations of waffles, pancakes, sugary cereals, and assorted breads and pastries. My seven year old daughter casually questioned, "Why do they call it an 'all you can eat' buffet when it is really all you can't eat?"

My daughter was referring to the sheer quantity of food compared to the limitations in size of her very small stomach. I had to consider the irony that her quip also applied to the many unhealthy breakfast choices offered which I attempted to distract my daughters (and husband) from eating every morning. Many parents can relate to this struggle. Occasionally lapses from a healthy breakfast while on vacation is one thing, but it is imperative that children have a healthy breakfast every morning before they start their school day.

There is much wisdom in the tired cliche that breakfast is the "most important meal of the day". Sometimes children are too tired in the morning to eat, but skipping breakfast is a big nutritional mistake. Without it, students miss out on a lot of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They also have a hard time staying awake in school and will become hungry later in the day which can lead to overeating in the evening.

According to the American Dietetic Association, more than 40% of girls and 30% of boys skip breakfast on a regular basis. The reason for missing breakfast is often cited for lack of time, or absence of hunger. It is possible to get out the door on time with a stomach filled with breakfast, the key is to strategize and plan ahead. Tips on how to more easily have time for breakfast include setting the backpack and clothes out the evening before, and setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier to allow more time for breakfast. Also, don't allow TV or computer time in the morning, and plan the night before what the breakfast choices will be. Prepare some hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, etc. For those who aren't very hungry in the morning, offer an easy to make fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein powder. If your family doesn't like traditional breakfast foods, offer something non-traditional such as leftovers from dinner the night before.

There are a lot of health benefits to making breakfast a part of your child's routine. The advantages include a reduced risk of obesity, a reduction in tooth decay, and being less likely to be overweight. Many studies have proven that children who eat breakfast perform better on tests than their peers who have empty stomachs. Breakfast eaters also have improved social behavior.

Parents can encourage their children to eat breakfast by setting a good example and eating breakfast themselves. Kids are more likely to develop healthy eating habits if he or she sees you having breakfast every morning. Sit down as a family together at the table and discuss the upcoming events of the day. Let your child help in planning a weekly breakfast menu. It is also helpful to make breakfast choices convenient and easy for your child to reach by putting the choices in accessible heights and places.

The type of breakfast children eat is crucial to their overall health and success throughout the day. Sugar laden cereals, donuts, pastries, etc. tend to make them less alert. High sugar foods actually make people sleepier, not hyperactive as many people believe. Refined sugars also affect insulin control, which decides how much fat they will store for the rest of their lives.

Sugar is not only in cereal, pop tarts, and donuts. It is in practically everything! It is very important to read labels and look for words like sugar, sucrose, dextrose, sorbitol, and corn syrup and avoid the products that contain these ingredients. Also, pay attention to how much sugar is in per serving. Many breakfast cereals popular with kids have as much, or more, sugar than a candy bar. Not only are these cereals loaded with sugar per every serving, most kids don't stop at one serving of cereal. Instead of a sugary cereal, offer your kids a high fiber cereal with berries.

Fruit juice also contains a lot of sugar without much fiber. Many people think of juices as being healthy, but this isn't always the case. Small quantities are fine, but in drinking them the consumer gets a lot of calories without much fiber. Meals made from whole and natural foods will reduce your families consumption of sugar.

Just like other meals, try to eat a variety of foods. Healthy breakfast ideas that my family enjoys include eggs, hot cereals (such as steel cut oats or cream of wheat), whole-grain toast, bagel or English muffin with almond butter, whole grain cereal and a non-dairy milk, or a fruit smoothie with almond or rice milk, whey protein powder, frozen organic berries, and ground flax seeds for added fiber. I sometimes will pre-cook the oatmeal and reheat in the morning or cook it overnight in a crock pot so that it is ready to go in the morning. We top the oatmeal with items such as nuts, flaxseeds, wheat germ, berries, bananas, etc.

Consumption of a morning meal is one of the most important things anyone can do for their health. The benefits are many, and the challenges are easily met with a little strategic pre-planning. Parents are the most important influence in children's lives and they look to us to learn appropriate behavior. Modeling healthy eating supports the development of healthy behaviors in children. In order to model good eating habits, parents should eat and prepare food with their children on a regular basis. Studies show that meals eaten at home are often more balanced and lower in empty calories. Children are not only more likely to eat breakfast when they see their parents eating breakfast, but are also more likely to have healthier eating habits overall. Eating breakfast with your family is an ideal opportunity to reinforce good habits. It also makes for pleasant memories and traditions that will be valuable later in life.

Cheryl Heppard of Michigan Health Coach is metro Detroit's #1 health coach. She has a monthly column in Women's LifeStyle magazine and a successful coaching practice in the Birmingham-Bloomfield area of Michigan. Visit her website at to sign up for her free monthly health tips and information.