It’s something we’ve all heard many times before, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Numerous studies have shown that children who eat breakfast have better concentration and attention spans and perform better at school. On the other hand, those who miss their morning meal are more likely to be irritable, tired, restless and easily distracted. In a recent UK study of 1386 school children, it was found that those who hadn’t eaten breakfast performed 7 to 10% worse on a range of various attention and memory tests.
Research suggests that children who don’t eat breakfast are also more likely to be overweight. One reason for this is that skipping breakfast makes a child more likely to make poor food choices both for the rest of the day and over the long term, favouring high-fat and high-sugar options instead.
Another reason to take breakfast seriously is that, if you can manage a balanced, healthy meal in the morning, when your baby or toddler is not tired and cranky, it’s less of a concern if lunch or dinner goes badly, which is bound to happen from time to time (or possibly every day during the terrible twos!). At least you’ve managed to include one reasonable meal in his day.
However, not all breakfasts are the same. There’s no question that choosing a nutritious breakfast with a low glycaemic index – like porridge and yoghurt – is best for your child, as the slow release of energy will help keep his blood-sugar levels even and will give his brain a steady flow of fuel, making it easier for him to learn new things. If your child is hooked on a favourite commercial breakfast cereal, you can significantly increase its nutrient profile by adding some fresh fruit, yoghurt and a spoonful of wheatgerm, puffed quinoa, sesame seeds, chia seeds or LSA (ground up linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds). These kind of ‘nutritional boosters’ can take your child’s regular cereal from being a mediocre breakfast option, to one that’s really quite awesome nutritionally.