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Why a healthy breakfast is important
Breakfast gives children the energy they need to handle their busy days. Children who eat a healthy breakfast go longer without feeling hungry. This means they can concentrate on playing, learning, remembering and solving problems better.
A healthy breakfast can help children perform better at school.
Breakfast eaters 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 sugary or fatty foods.
What a healthy breakfast looks like
A healthy breakfast needs to have a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat to keep energy levels steady all morning.
Your child might like to choose from options like porridge, oats, muesli, low-sugar wholegrain cereal, boiled eggs, omelettes, wholegrain toast, fruit and yoghurt.
Wholegrain cereals are a good choice 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 throughout the day.
Healthy breakfast ideas to encourage reluctant breakfast eaters
You’re an important role model when it comes to eating. Showing your kids that breakfast can be yummy and that it’s an important part of your day is a good way to encourage them to eat it. You can talk about its benefits 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 kids. Being a good example is a powerful way to change their habits.
- If your child says he’s 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, a sandwich or some yoghurt with fruit.
- If a busy morning schedule gets in the way of 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 his 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. After a night without food, your body has used up this glucose. It starts to use stores of energy from your muscles instead, like glycogen and fatty acids. This is why we need a fuel top-up before we tackle the day.
Eating breakfast will give your child energy and get her metabolism started. It will help her body use the food she eats more efficiently throughout the day. Also, children who miss breakfast don’t ‘catch up’ on those missed nutrients during the rest of the day.
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