Why A Healthy Breakfast Is Essential For Your Growing Child

Although it’s widely referred to as the most important meal of the day, nearly 1 in 5 children and adolescents (ages 2–19) do not eat breakfast. Nutrition health coach Angela Watson Robertson discusses why breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and how you can get even the pickiest eaters to get a nutritious boost each morning.

better breakfast

Most of us have a rushed morning routine. Add a picky eater on top of that and the whole situation becomes a power-struggle. Over time, breakfast may become more stress than it’s worth and can become neglected in the daily rush of life. Even so, experts say it it’s worth the time and energy to give your child a healthy breakfast.


The importance of a healthy breakfast

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), consuming breakfast is associated with better memory, test scores and attention span, along with healthier body weights and improved overall nutrition.

A research paper that reviewed all the studies on the effects of eating breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children revealed that “children and adolescents who habitually consume breakfast [including ready-to-eat-cereal (RTEC)] have reduced likelihood of being overweight. Breakfast consumption is also associated with other healthy lifestyle factors. Children who do not consume breakfast are more likely to be less physically active and have a lower cardiorespiratory fitness level. Moreover, there is evidence that breakfast positively affects learning in children in terms of behavior, cognitive, and school performance.”


Breakfast helps regulate blood sugar levels

As we they sleep, our blood sugar levels decrease. Upon waking, our bodies needs glucose to fuel us. If a child doesn’t get breakfast, their blood sugar levels will continue to plummet throughout the day, affecting all aspects of their performance. Expecting a child to behave well or perform well through the day without breakfast is similar to expecting a car to drive fast on the highway with an empty tank of gas. This especially applies to cognitive functioning, as glucose is one of the brain’s main fuel sources.

If a child starts off the day with low blood sugar levels, they are more likely to have what is referred to as a “blood sugar crash” at some point during the day and look for quick and easy ways to get more energy later on. As most of us adults know, when we wait until we are really hungry or low in blood sugar to choose our foods, we often go for the fast-food or processed foods made with high amounts of sugar. The symptoms of a blood sugar crash make our bodies crave high-glucose foods, creating an unhealthy cycle.


Child-friendly breakfast tips

As a parent I understand how difficult it can be to get a toddler or young child to eat breakfast. Here are a few things that have helped ease breakfast-time tantrums in my household:

  1. Let them choose.

I give my three-year-old options for breakfast so she feels more independent and in control. Does she want a smoothie, a peanut butter sandwich or a fruit bowl? Each one provides ample nutrition to start her day.

  1. Keep it light.

I don’t require my child to eat a big breakfast, but insist that she has to at least eat something.

  1. Involve play time.

I’ve noticed that when my daughter doesn’t want to eat, it’s because she’d rather play. Yet, if I offer to play with her while eating she almost always obliges and no longer feels like she’s losing out on play time.


Quick and easy breakfast options

You may not have a lot of time in the mornings as you are rushing to get to work and get your family out the door. Here are some some simple, yet nourishing breakfast options for busy mornings:

  • Fruit + greens smoothie: Make a blend of whatever fruits they like and try to sneak in some greens if you can. My daughter likes a blend of spinach, strawberry, cherry, banana, almond butter, dates, and almond milk.

  • Toast with almond butter and banana slices

  • Oatmeal with honey, fresh berries and almond milk

  • Turkey sausage, egg, and sweet potato breakfast burritos (pre-prepped and wrapped)

  • Whole-grain granola bar with a fresh banana


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