Why breakfast is so important for growing children

Breakfast is called ‘the most important meal of the day’, and for good reason. A healthy breakfast sets the day’s tone for your child.

 One of the most important meals of the day is breakfast for children because it provides them with fuel for the day ahead.

Ensuring that your child eats a healthy breakfast every morning can be challenging, especially if they don’t want to eat first thing in the morning or if you’re rushing to get ready and out the door. But here’s why you should never, ever let your children skip breakfast.

Breakfast and your child’s mental wellbeing

Without breakfast, studies show that children become irritable, tired, and restless, unable to complete tasks or listen to instructions.

Breakfast and your child’s physical wellbeing

Breakfast is not a meal that your children should skip, according to a nutritionist. A nutritious breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day. “Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day for children because it gives them energy for the day,” says Monique Piderit, a dietitian and member of the South African Yoghurt in Nutrition Initiative.

“Breakfast contributes to a higher-quality diet overall, whereas skipping it has been linked to poorer dietary choices. If children do not start the day with a balanced, nutritious meal, they are more likely to crave salty processed foods like chips or sugary treats like biscuits and muffins throughout the day. This is because these processed foods provide a quick energy boost, which children crave when their blood sugar levels fall too low as a result of skipping a meal.”

Children who eat breakfast have healthier overall eating habits and are more likely to engage in physical activities during the day because they have more energy. A healthy breakfast, such as fruit, yogurt, and wholewheat toast, provides fibre (from whole grains and cereals), calcium (from milk or yogurt), and important micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals (from fresh fruit and vegetables).

Child-friendly breakfast options

It can be difficult to make a healthy family breakfast when you’re rushing to get yourself and the kids ready in the morning, or convincing sleepy, grumpy kids to eat breakfast because they’re not hungry first thing. If this sounds like your morning, establishing a breakfast routine can help, as does choosing breakfast options your child will enjoy. Try these quick and healthy breakfast ideas at home:

  • Berries mixed with a yoghurt tub and nuts (if your child is old enough to eat nuts and is not allergic).
  • Fruit and yoghurt blended into a smoothie (this takes minutes to blend).
  • A piece of fresh fruit and a boiled toast egg
  • Trail mix made with yoghurt (nuts, seeds, and dry fruit).
  • Whole wheat toast with a slice of peanut butter.
  • Cooked oats with one teaspoon of peanut butter, one teaspoon of honey, and a splash of milk or yoghurt.
  • Mini rice cakes with small soft cheese cubes (wrapped individually).

Good to note

  • Sugary cereals should be avoided because they are high in sugar and lack fiber, making them unhealthy for a growing body and mind. If your children enjoy cereal, check the nutrition label to ensure that there are no more than 5 grams of total sugar per 100 grams.
  • When it comes to eating breakfast together, actions always speak louder than words, so it’s critical for your children to lead by example. Allow them to see you eating breakfast every day. After refueling your brain and body with a healthy morning meal, even if it’s just a small pot of yoghurt with a banana, you’re demonstrating how important it is to tackle the day ahead.
  • Avoid processed bars or muffins that may have more sugar than a chocolate bar. If your child enjoys these breakfast options, make your own at home on Sunday for the coming week.