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The importance of breakfast

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The importance of breakfast

We all know breakfast is the “most important meal of the day” or have we forgotten? Canadian families are facing a breakfast crisis. Whether it’s because of early morning hockey practice, picky eating habits or body issues, a growing number of kids are heading off to school on an empty stomach.

According to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll, nine in 10 (90 per cent) Canadian parents believe eating breakfast is ‘very important’ for their child’s daily health, mental performance and emotional state. However, the survey found 31 per cent of elementary students don’t eat breakfast regularly and 62 per cent of high school students skip breakfast. The reason for the morning mishaps? Fifty four per cent of the time, breakfast is missed because students are too rushed in the morning and despite good intentions, parents are having trouble getting their kids to eat something before heading out the door.

Breakfast should be a necessity for kids and parents, not an inconvenience. Clinical evidence shows kids and adolescents who consume a healthy breakfast have a reduced risk of being overweight or obese, better academic performance and attentiveness, and improved cognition skills.

But the benefits of breakfast don’t end there. When kids skip breakfast they tend to snack more. They’re often choosing foods high in sugar and fat and they’re missing out on some of their key daily nutrients, such as calcium. Kids who do eat a nutritious breakfast have more healthful diet habits and better diet quality.

By getting kids to eat breakfast every day, even on weekends, they are also starting a habit they will take into their adult life. It’s important to start at a young age because breaking the “no breakfast” habit as an adult gets more difficult.

A recent study showed that Canadian parents say eating breakfast is ‘very important’ for their child’s daily health, mental performance and emotional state. Many of my clients ask me how to improve their children’s eating habits because they recognize that breakfast is vital. Here are some tips:

Stay A Step Ahead: Lay out cereal bowls and cutlery the night before to make things faster. Put the cereal boxes on the counter and a small jug of milk on a shelf in the fridge the kids can reach so they can help themselves when they get up.

Be A Smooth Operator: Smoothies are a fast and delicious breakfast solution kids will love. The key to a good smoothie is to make sure you have a balance of nutrients, so include some fresh or frozen fruit for vitamins, a sachet of Carnation Breakfast Anytime and milk for an excellent source of protein, calcium and iron.

DIY Breakfast: Empower the kids and share the responsibility for their breakfast – they can choose what they have as long as it is nutritious and they eat it at home or on the way to school.
Trump Your Tween’s ‘Tude: Teens are more independent and want to make their own choices, but a balanced breakfast is equally essential for their development as it is for younger kids. Keeping a supply of nutrient-rich breakfast drinks in the fridge means teens can just grab one on the way out the door.

Naomi Orzech is a Toronto-based registered dietitian and mother of two.