How important is breakfast?

My child is never hungry for breakfast, and it turns into a fight every morning.
By Elyse Falk, MS, RD, CDN

Photo Credit: ralph and jenny via Compfight cc

Yes, I get it.  I have three boys (middle school and elementary school age), and sometimes they tell me they are not hungry when I say, “Quick, what do you want for breakfast?” as I make lunches in a craze because everyone woke up late!  I know, some of you may be saying we should all be waking up earlier to make time for breakfast, but the truth is sometimes on those cold, dark mornings it’s just hard to wake up early!  I also understand because sometimes you are just not hungry as soon as you wake up.  However, I do believe that getting food in our kids is important before they head off to school or sports practice/games.  I believe it enables better concentration and superior performance, and many studies validate this belief.  I don’t want my child feeling shaky or ill due to lack of eating before leaving the house.  I actually got a call from the school nurse this year because my son was feeling really nauseated.  I told her, “That’s because he didn’t eat breakfast!” He refused to eat what I offered him before I dropped him off at school.  The nurse gave me a whole lecture about how important breakfast is and gave me suggestions (I couldn’t tell her I was an RD because I was too embarrassed!).  After the nurse gave him some crackers, he felt better and it held him over until lunch.  After this episode he didn’t go to school again without eating something first!


If your child still refuses to eat breakfast, despite what you tell him or her about food’s importance,  suggest that he or she conduct an experiment for a few days:  eat breakfast for 4 or 5 days and then skip a day of breakfast.  Make a chart to record how he or she felt each morning.  Instead of traditional breakfast food, maybe your child will eat leftovers or a sandwich for the morning meal. The key is simply for a child to eat healthily; the morning meal doesn’t necessarily need to qualify as “breakfast food.”   I’d also suggest trying different breakfast foods and/or nutritious shakes on the weekend instead of on a weekday morning when breakfast can be rushed and stressful.


Some kids have their lunch period early in the day, as early as 10:00 a.m.  If this is the case, I give my kids something quick like a bar, apple, banana, or even a baggie of dry cereal to munch on in the a.m. because I know my boys will eat larger portions during lunch and when they get home.  If their lunch time is on the later side and they give me a hard time about breakfast, I explain how yucky they will feel because their brains rely on energy from food, and without nutrients their stomachs will feel sour during morning classes and they won’t be able to do their best.  So, consider offering your kids a source of protein, whole grain, calcium, and fruit for breakfast if they have a late lunch.


Hopefully these suggestions help! Good luck!

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