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Back to School: Breakfast for your Brain

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That’s because it fires up and fuels your noggin. Repeat: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

The question is … are your kids (and you!) eating it? If not, you all should be.

“Breakfast is key for adults and children alike, since it provides the body and brain with energy after the overnight fast. Remember, during the night the body is repairing and healing itself, for kids, growing as well. So a new dose of valuable nutrients gives the brain the energy it needs to get the body back in motion and the brain back to learning,” says Christen Cooper, MS, RD of Cooper Nutrition.

Despite the importance of breakfast, it’s a too-often often skipped meal, Cooper notes. “Recent data indicate that about 5% of children ages 2-5 skip breakfast, as do 14% of children ages 6 to 11. This number jumps during adolescence to 31% (ages 12 and 19), with girls skipping breakfast more often than boys,” says Cooper, referencing a study published in 2000 in the Journal of Adolescent Health. “For children ages 6 to 11 and 12 to 19, breakfast provides 15% to 18% of daily energy, yet it provides from 15% to almost 40% of daily intake for various vitamins and minerals and daily fiber.”

So when kids skip breakfast or eat less than nutritious ones, they head off to school without the necessary fuel to learn.

Your Body and Brain on Breakfast

Let’s talk breakfast foods for a second. What is a healthy breakfast anyway? A healthy breakfast is balanced and hearty enough to keep your kids (and you) going until lunchtime.

Cereals? They aren’t always the best choice unless you are super diligent about checking labels. “Avoid sugary kid-marketed cereals. Fortified or not, these highly processed food-ish items offer little health benefit,” advises Debra Wolf, MS Clinical Nutrition, who practices out of the Naugatuck Valley Women’s Health Specialists in Middlebury, CT. “High fructose corn syrup, a common ingredient in processed food, may be linked to increased plasma triglycerides and insulin resistance. In addition, certain artificial flavors and colors have been implicated in childhood disorders such as ADHD.”

Instead, go for well-rounded breakfasts that include items from several important food groups like fruits, dairy and grains. Which ones?

According to Cooper, the ideal breakfast includes:

  • Fruit, a food to encourage, providing soluble fiber (heart healthy), vitamins and minerals
  • Whole grains (providing fiber, B vitamins, minerals including folate which prevents neural tube defects). Ready-to-eat (cold or hot) breakfast cereals have been shown to promote nutrient adequacy in kids, since they are fortified and palatable to kids.
  • Dairy (providing calcium and protein…Americans do not get enough lowfat and nonfat dairy)
  • Lean protein (egg whites, lowfat cheese) Lean protein leads to satiety and in many people, the ability to eat reasonable portions. It also provides materials for growth and repair of body tissues.

5 Make-Ahead Breakfast Recipes

Convinced on the importance of breakfast? Good. Now, let’s talk a little about what to make. One great option is to make the main component of your breakfast ahead of time. These breakfast ideas are perfect for that.

6 Quick Breakfast Recipes

Have time to make something fresh? These breakfast ideas are quick and easy — but totally loveable too.

15 More Breakfast Ideas from Around the Web

So many great breakfast ideas can be found around the web. These 15 breakfast recipes are perfect for kids and adults alike.

celeste meehan

Friday 7th of September 2012

My favorite way to use Athens phyllo cups is my go-to appetizer: i fill them with goat cheese, fig jam, & some toasted pignoli nuts. So good! i've also used brie with raspberry or pear jam, & toasted almonds.


Wednesday 29th of August 2012

I'd never thought of using phyllo cups for breakfast items, but now it's on my to-make-asap list! I struggle with getting going early enough to make sure everyone eats a good breakfast. Make-ahead meals will be my savior! My favorite way, so far, to use phyllo cups is to fill them with chopped spinach, feta cheese, garlic, and seasonings and bake them up for parties. Always a hit! marthalynn16 at gmail


Wednesday 29th of August 2012

I'm pretty good about eating breakfast 98% of the time - it's part of our family time.


Wednesday 29th of August 2012

We are very much on the same page! I just posted about breakfast too! (with a Blendtec giveaway btw...) :)

Thanks so much for the link love! Great post and roundup!!

Heath Immanuel

Wednesday 29th of August 2012

Really it's very helpful for child's brain. Of course I'll make it for my child. Thanks for your nice breakfast recipe.

Sarah W. Caron

Wednesday 5th of September 2012

Congratulations, Heath! You are the winner of this giveaway. I will be contacting you via email.