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Never Start the Day Hungry: Easy and Cheap Breakfasts for Kids

Did your child eat breakfast this morning? In today's busy world, about 1 in 10 younger kids and 3 in 10 teenagers are skipping the first meal of the day. But with several easy and affordable breakfast options, no child should have to start the day hungry. National School Breakfast Week, the second week in March (March 5-9, 2012), is a time to recognize breakfast and its benefits, and to commit to feeding kids a nutritious first meal of the day, whether at home or at school.

The Benefits of Breakfast
Sitting down to breakfast helps kids develop a healthy morning routine and take in vital nutrients like fiber, found in fruit and whole-grain cereal, and calcium and minerals, found in foods like milk or yogurt.

"It's the meal that breaks the fast," said Dr. Ronald Kleinman, chief of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Massachusetts General Hospital. Without breakfast, kids may go up to 13 hours without eating between dinner at night and breakfast the next day, he said. Can you imagine powering your body for gym class, a quiz, and a science experiment with food from 13 hours ago?

Breakfast does more than provide energy and satisfy a growling stomach. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cites these findings from breakfast studies:

  • Eating breakfast can help improve math, reading, and standardized test scores, as well as memory and attention span.
  • Children who eat breakfast are more likely to behave better in school and get along with their peers than those who do not.
  • Children who eat breakfast on a regular basis are less likely to be overweight.

Quick Breakfasts at Home
Making breakfast can be as easy as 1-2-3 — "cereal, fruit, and milk," Dr. Kleinman said. "I can probably put that together in two minutes."

Any low-sugar cereal, such as Cheerios or Corn Flakes, will do — and all you need is a bowl and a spoon.

"Breakfast is a meal that doesn't require a lot of storage or special equipment to prepare," Dr. Kleinman said. A few other wholesome, fast breakfast options include:

  • Low-fat yogurt with fruit and granola
  • Whole grain waffles with 100 percent fruit juice
  • A scrambled egg with tomato slices and toast
  • A banana and a low-sugar granola bar — a great grab-and-go option

Just beware of shortcut breakfast options that may not have any health benefit. "Kids should steer clear of caffeinated energy drinks," Dr. Kleinman said. "They make your heart race, they make you jittery, and they can make you irritable. We're talking teenagers — they're already irritable enough!"

Also avoid chocolatey or sugary cereals that seem more like desserts than breakfast foods, he said. But do give your kids a choice. "Going through the aisle shopping for cereal, say, Here we have two choices that look pretty good — you pick one,'" Dr. Kleinman advised. "Give a child a choice but draw some lines around that choice. Once children realize there are limits, they stick to those pretty well."



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