In recent years even more evidence supports the fact that starting your day with breakfast benefits people of all ages, especially children. Kids who regularly eat breakfast are more likely to be successful in school. According to Lynda Johnson, a University of Missouri Extension nutrition specialist, well-nourished children are ready to learn, have a greater ability to focus on tasks, have better classroom behavior and have improved test scores. Breakfast eaters also tend to have better school attendance, less tardiness and few hunger-induced stomachaches. Teachers say it’s obvious when students skip breakfast.

Breakfast also leads to a healthier weight. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee found evidence that children who do not eat breakfast are at increased risk of being overweight, and the data is stronger for adolescents.

“People think skipping breakfast helps lose weight, however, it actually works just the opposite,” states Johnson. “Breakfast skippers often end up starved, then snack on high calorie foods, or overeat at lunch.”

Eating breakfast is an important life-long health habit for children to learn. Research indicates that “maintainers” – people who lose weight and keep it off for a year or longer – make eating breakfast a high priority. A healthy, high-fiber breakfast is more conducive to weight control than one loaded with fat, sugar and calories.

Why are we so likely to skip breakfast? Johnson suggests the following solutions to typical excuses that may be keeping you or your children from eating a healthy breakfast.

I’m not hungry in the morning. In actuality, you may have conditioned your body not to be hungry. To build up your morning appetite, begin by drinking a glass of milk or juice, then a week later, add a piece of toast or fruit, then a small bowl of cereal. After “fasting” for 12 hours or more, your body needs nourishment to function at its best. Over time, you will recondition your body to expect breakfast. I don’t have time to fix breakfast. There are lots of portable options that you can easily pack and eat on the way to school or work. Sandwiches, wraps, fresh fruit, leftover pizza or bags of cereal make an easy breakfast on the go. By taking time to plan the night before, you can prepare a nutritious, on-the-run breakfast, and skip the expense and calories of a fast food meal. My kids eat SO slow, I’d be late for work every day, so we skip breakfast! Most public schools serve breakfast which works well for many families. Cost is minimal or free for eligible families, and the convenience is great. Check with your school district and sign your kids up for the school breakfast program. Even if you don't eat breakfast at home, you can still be a healthy role model by packing a breakfast for yourself to take to work.

Help your children become self-reliant and responsible by teaching them to prepare their own breakfast. Practice on Saturdays until they can put together a quick, nutritious breakfast during the week. By getting at least 3 food groups (grain, dairy, fruit, for example) in a breakfast meal, children are on their way to getting the important nutrients needed each day. Here are easy kid-pleasing breakfasts to consider:

Cheese slices melted on toast in the microwave with sliced apples Leftover spaghetti, macaroni & cheese or pizza Yogurt topped with cereal & fresh fruit Chopped hard-boiled egg, grated cheese & salsa wrapped in tortilla Ham slice and cheese melted in a toasted English muffin Peanut butter, banana and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk

For another quick breakfast idea, try this Wake Up Shake. Enjoy with whole-wheat toast, a bran muffin or high-fiber trail mix.

Wake Up Shake

Servings: 2

1 small banana 3/4 cup skim milk 1 cup nonfat fruit-flavored yogurt 1/4 cup orange juice

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

One serving: 1 cup

Calories per serving: 180

Fat: 1 gram

Exchanges: 1/2 milk, 1 fruit

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