Your Child’s Breakfast Basics

How many times have you heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? You’ve heard it from your mother, your doctor and countless nutritionists. Still, most of us ignore this fact and make do with a cup of coffee that we may or may not supplement with a granola bar, a banana or a bowl of cereal.

This is bad enough for adults, but for kids it’s really asking for trouble. Children need breakfast to fuel their brains and help keep them alert and awake during their morning classes at school. Kids who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to have attention deficit issues because they feel restless, tired and hungry. As their hunger builds, they’re also prone to getting irritable and acting out.

If you want to give your children the best chance for a productive and enjoyable morning at school (or anywhere else), make sure that you give them the boost they need with a healthy, balanced breakfast. But what are the basics of a balanced breakfast and how can you make sure your child eats them every morning?


aA good breakfast will contain protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and lots of vitamins and minerals. Here are a few suggestions to start your child’s day on the right foot:

  • A breakfast sandwich – Wholegrain toast, egg, cheese and tomato
  • A homemade smoothie – Your child’s favorite fruit juice, pieces of frozen bananas, blueberries, strawberries and/or other fruit, and a dollop of yogurt
  • A perfect parfait – Greek yogurt, slices of fresh fruit and a sprinkling of oats

You can also go with a more traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and fruit or vegetables on the side, but be sure to keep portions small enough so they don’t weigh down your child and make him feel sluggish.


Now, you may be thinking, “But what about cereal?” Boxed cereal makes a convenient breakfast, but most cereals in the grocery store are packed with added sugar and are very low in protein and complex carbohydrates—especially the cereals targeted at children. Providing a bowl of sugary sweet cereal for breakfast is as bad as starting their day with a candy bar. And some of the “healthy” cereals are just as guilty. Some can be fortified with banana or blueberries and milk, but others are just full of empty calories and won’t keep your child feeling full or energetic for more than an hour. Make sure you read nutrition labels before you buy any cereal.

Likewise, breakfast bars, toaster strudels and other on-the-go breakfast foods are all heavily processed and full of sugar, sodium and saturated fat. If you’re in a hurry, a banana, a bag of trail mix and a cup of milk are much better for your child than any of those other choices.

By Dr. Samuel Caruthers