By Taelin Lanier, Keene State College Dietetic Intern
Wake up, get the kids ready, grab your coffee, hop in the car and turn around because you forgot to unplug your curling iron. Whether you have a six- or 16-year-old, getting the kids out the door on time for school can be challenging. Balancing extracurricular activities or multiple jobs can result in late bedtimes and late morning starts. Though we magically manage this schedule year round, one important part often goes missing: breakfast.
Breaking the Fast
Breakfast has been touted as the most important meal of the day. Science has shown several reasons for this. Breakfast means “breaking the fast.” While asleep, you fast for six to nine hours without food or water. Our bodies begin using the energy we stored during the day at night. By morning, we need to break the fast and refuel our bodies. For this reason, breakfast plays an important role in maintaining physical and mental health.
Morning meals start our metabolism and give us energy to carry out daily activities including hydrating fluids which are essential for mental clarity. For our children, eating breakfast means supporting healthy weight, receiving the nutrients necessary to grow and improving concentration and behavior. Unfortunately, it is the most frequently skipped meal for children and adolescents.
Breakfast and School Performance
A 2016 systematic literature review showed children who skip breakfast have short term deficit in several mental tasks — this is especially true for those who are undernourished. The following mental tasks may be deficient in children who skip breakfast: poor memory, decreased focus and a decline in executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills are those that require time management, decision making and assessing cause and effect. We need to make breakfast a priority.
Easy Breakfast IDeas
Luckily, getting a healthy meal does not have to be a time-consuming ordeal. Follow the tips below for easy ways to include breakfast from home or school.
- Whole grain toast with nut butter and fruit: Bread, a slab of peanut butter and a fruit cup make a meal in less than three minutes.
- Overnight oats: Place oatmeal, milk, honey, cinnamon, raisins and seeds in a jar, shake and let it sit overnight. By morning, you’ve got breakfast in a jar. Enjoy hot or cold.
- Smoothies: Assemble plastic bags with 1/2 cup fruit and 1 cup leafy greens and store in the fridge. In the morning, toss it in the blender with one cup milk.
Grab & Go Combos
- Bars and banana: Choose a whole-grain granola or protein bar with less than 12 grams of sugar and a banana for a portable breakfast.
- Dinner leftovers: Store lasts night’s left overs in small Tupperware, easy for kids to pop in the microwave and eat at the table, in the car or in class.
- Snack packs: For $1.30 (or 30 cents for free and reduced meals), Keene Elementary Schools offer various morning snack packs. Try the traditional cereal, fruit and milk combo or string cheese, crackers and fruit juice. For a protein boost, choose yogurt, trail mix and milk.
- Hot breakfast sandwich: In addition to the snack packs for late arrivals, Keene Middle School offers hot breakfast sandwiches and French toast sticks! Keene High School offers the options above as well as a rotating breakfast menu at Ray’s Grill.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics. “The Case for Eating Breakfast” Healthychildren.org https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/The-Case-for-Eating-Breakfast.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed August 01, 2017.
- Adolphus K, Lawton C, Champ C, Dye L. The effects of breakfast and breakfast composition on cognition in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Nutri 2016;7(3): 590-612 doi: http://0-dx.doi.org.ksclib.keene.edu/10.3945/an.115.010256
- New Hampshire School Administrative Unit. “Breakfast and Lunch Menus” SAU29 Website: http://www.sau29.org/departments/food_services/breakfast_and_lunch_menus Accessed August 1, 2017.