Is it okay to skip breakfast? Our dietitian weighs in...
“My child just isn’t hungry in the mornings. I have always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so I do at least try to get him to eat a cereal bar before leaving for school. He often refuses it though. What should I do”?
Your concern is understandable. It has been well documented that children and adolescents who eat breakfast are more attentive and have better academic performance than those who skip out on this important meal. However….not just any breakfast will do! It’s the PROTEIN component of breakfast which keeps us feeling full and focused.
High carbohydrate breakfast meals… especially those that are exceptionally low in fat such as cereal with banana and skim milk leave us feeling HUNGRY well before lunch. These meals are rapidly absorbed causing blood sugar spikes. The pancreas responds by cranking out needed insulin to quickly bring the blood sugar level back down. So relax……there is NO need to chase your child around with a cereal bar just to satisfy the breakfast requirement. And wouldn’t it be nice to no longer start the day off with an argument!!
Consider these options for getting a protein based breakfast meal into your child or teen:
1. Sometimes drinking the breakfast meal will do.Sipping on a protein based smoothie while getting ready for school could be the answer for those kids who just don’t want to eat so early in the morning. Try this easy recipe:
6 oz. (or ~3/4 cup) of your favorite Greek yogurt… preferably NOT fat free.
¼ cup of2% or whole milk
Handful of ice cubes
HINT: If using fat free yogurt, try adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to the smoothie. It will be more filling and the added fat will help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Put all ingredients in a blender and process on high speed until thoroughly mixed.
2. Some kids do have a few minutes of free time after arriving at school and could easily eat a string cheese stick or two, or maybe a half of a peanut butter sandwich before heading to the classroom. These small mini meals might not “look” like a traditional breakfast but they pack protein and needed fats to start the day off right.
3. School breakfast might also be an option. While the meal itself often lacks a protein source, your child could at least drink the (unflavored) milk which provides 8 grams of protein per carton (without the added sugar of the flavored milks).
4. Inquire about morning snack. If your child has a designated morning snack time, consider this as an opportunity for a delayed breakfast meal.Try sending a protein – packed Greek yogurt or a small snack sized bag of sunflower seed kernels mixed with a little dried fruit. Older kids who no longer have a designated “snack time” might be allowed to quietly eat a snack in the classroom when they begin to notice feelings of hunger later in the morning.