Monday, April 13, 2009

What if my kid is skipping breakfast?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Kids who skip breakfast are not only hungry, but have difficulty concentrating, have more behavioral problems, have lower energy and are heavier in the long term. I remember as a physician seeing teenage girls who would pass out at school. We ended up doing EKGs (heart rhythm tracings to rule out heart problems), full neurological exams, possibly even neurology referrals, and most of the time the verdict was that the girls were skipping meals to try to lose weight.

 What happened to breakfast?

Since the 70's, as the percentage of Americans qualifying as overweight and obese have increased, breakfast consumption has dropped considerably. 

First, look at why breakfast is not happening in your home. Is your child sleeping late? Is no one else having breakfast at home? Are there breakfast foods available? Is your child on a swim or hockey team with early morning practices? (I used to swim early mornings and couldn't eat breakfast, but made sure I had something for right after.) 

Then, problem-solve. If your child has to make a 7 am bus, time might be tight in the morning. Think about moving bed-time up by 20 -30 minutes to start (you can do this gradually.) You might pack back-packs and pre-pack lunches the night before. It takes some work and planning, but it really is THAT important to have breakfast. 

Next job is to get back into the habit of eating breakfast. Depending on your child's age and resistance, this might mean starting with something appealing to the child, or something that can be eaten in the car on the way to school. Maybe take your older child with you shopping and brainstorm a few options that you can have on hand. (Remember, a very young child should not be making decisions about what to eat, but an older child might appreciate some input.) 

How about a breakfast bar and milk in a thermos or a milk-box? A protein/granola bar? A bagel with cream cheese and a bottle of juice smoothie? A pop-tart and milk? PB &J?  A baggie of dry cereal and milk? Trail-mix and juice? A banana and a protein bar? If you swing by for fast-food, can you find something with protein, fat and carbs? A breakfast egg burrito with milk? An egg-McMuffin with ham and milk? (A sugar load like maple syrup, pancakes and juice will leave your kids hungry sooner and with an energy low, add some milk and its getting better, and way better than nothing.)

Once you have your child back into the habit of eating something, you can branch out and increase variety and maybe have better luck getting her to sit at the table. Can you sit with your child 3 mornings a week? Can you start brewing coffee at home to save 10 minutes on the Starbucks run to save money and maybe toast a frozen waffle and serve it with some banana slices and milk? My kid loved cinnamon raisin toast for awhile with butter and a glass of milk.

Remember, if you're facing feeding challenges, think first of adding, rather than taking away. Be positive, start from where you are, whether its pop-tarts and you add milk and a banana, or if you're making home-made flax pancakes. 


  1. Thank you for the comment you left on my stay at home mom blog. I will look into the informatiom you left me. Good post about breakfast we never skip it. I just wanted to say that oatmeal and a yogart is a really good breakfast that is fast, healthy and inexpensive. That is what we eat.

  2. Great suggestion, thanks! We also eat lots of oatmeal. I was also trying to give suggestions for families who might be new to breakfast and need some on-the-go options as they ease back to the kitchen table. Good luck!

  3. Refrigerator Bran Muffins -- the batter keeps for 30 Days.
    My mom used to make a recipe really similar to this one... and whole wheat flour substitutes just fine. She would double the recipe, and just scoop it out and add different "add ins" for variety -- cranberries in one baking, blueberries in the next (maybe with a quick streusel topping with some rolled oats), bananas and nuts in another... these muffins are a good way to use fresh fruit that may go bad.
    They make a good on-the go breakfast. I have started keeping silicon baking cups so I am never "out" of cupcake liners, too.

    2 cups All-Bran Cereal
    2 cups yogurt or buttermilk
    3/4 cup cooking oil
    1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
    2 eggs
    2 cups unsifted all purpose flour
    2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt

    In a large mixing bowl, combine cereal, buttermilk and oil. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, or until cereal has softened.

    Beat in brown sugar and eggs. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt.

    Store batter in an airtight container until ready to use. May be stored for up to 2 weeks.

    Makes about 36 muffins.

    Microwave Directions: Spoon batter into greased silicone baking cups. Bake 6 muffins at a time until center is no longer doughy and is cooked through (2-3 minutes, but this varies according to the microwave being used - you may need to adjust in your oven). One muffin will take a minute or less to bake.

    Conventional Oven Directions: Bake in greased or paper-lined (or silicone) muffin cups filling 2/3 full in a preheated 375F oven until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (about 25 minutes).

    Cooks Note: If baking in a conventional oven, 1 tsp. vanilla may be added to batter, if desired. (Vanilla doesn't bake off in the microwave - if you like a vanilla flavor and are using a microwave, use vanilla flavored yogurt.
    *This recipe is from, and I have never tried the microwave option myself.