Your children will function best if they eat breakfast at home, but research suggests favoring milk and cereal over sausage. Here's what parents can do.
Mornings can be busy and stressful, especially if you or your children are running short on sleep. It may be tempting to skip breakfast at home to save time. Yet there may be a price to pay.
Children who skip breakfast may feel more tired, restless, or irritable. Their bodies need to refuel for the day. If children skip breakfast, mood and energy can decrease by mid-morning.
The research team analyzed data covering nearly 3,800 4- to 14-year-olds in Spain, based on answers from their parents. The parents reported on the children’s difficulties in social situations and their diets. It turned out that children and teens who skipped breakfast at home had a higher risk of problems like anxiety.
Does eating breakfast outside the home solve the problem?
The children who ate outside their homes were still more likely to have social problems than children who ate breakfast at home, though they had less of increased risk for problems than those who skipped breakfast entirely. In other words, that Danish from the deli helped but cereal at home was better.
Eating breakfast at home gives young people a chance to bond with their parents, who also may spot problems more quickly with regular contact.
It also matters what people eat: Dairy and cereal was linked to better functioning in the Spanish study, but cheese and ham at breakfast had a bad effect.
The study supported earlier findings, including a meta-analysis that covered nearly 400,000 participants. That analysis linked skipping breakfast to a higher risk of depression and other distress in all age groups, and anxiety in teens, in particular.
Earlier research has found that children and teens eat less nutritious food and more calories when they eat outside their homes, which may ultimately affect their mood and functioning. An Egg McMuffin is 310 calories and contains ingredients linked to poorer social functioning. Kids who skip breakfast entirely may fill up at lunch away from home and eat more of less desirable foods.
Nutritious breakfast foods you don’t have to prepare
- Greek yogurt. It contains more concentrated protein than regular yogurt and loads of nutrients and healthy probiotics. Icelandic yogurt, called skyr, has even more protein. Top yogurt with berries, nuts, or a banana to prepare your child for the day.
- Oatmeal offers a unique form of fiber called beta glucan that will make your child feel full. It offers plenty of nutrients and protein as well. You can make it in a microwave oven with milk for even more protein. It takes fewer than 3 minutes. One tip: Fresh berries can be expensive and go bad before you use them. Freeze your berries or buy them frozen, so you can pop them into oatmeal before you microwave it. Your child might enjoy eating purple oatmeal full of the sweetness and nutrition of blueberries. Raspberries will turn oatmeal bright red.
- Whole grain toast takes no time at all to prepare. If you top it with mashed avocado, your child will be loaded with nutrients and energy.
- Nuts are high in protein and fiber, which will make your child feel full. Add nuts to yogurt or oatmeal or spread a nut butter on toast (kids may like this best with a sweetener like banana).
- Your child may come to enjoy protein powder in milk mixed into a smoothie with a banana or another fruit.
- In a pinch, simply give your child an apple or banana and a bag of nuts as they walk out the door, though sitting down to breakfast is ideal.
April 10, 2023
Janet O'Dell, RN