Kids who eat breakfast are set up for success

Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2018 @ 8:33 AM

In the hustle-and-bustle of the morning rush, it can be easy to chalk breakfast up to a granola bar or banana on your way out the door…or skip it altogether. But the reality is that cutting corners on breakfast can have a negative impact on your entire day, especially when it comes to kids.  

“We know kids who eat breakfast are more likely to get their overall nutrients for the day,” explained Karen Bakies, RDN, LD, vice president of nutrition affairs for the American Dairy Association Mideast. “When you look at the makeup of a healthy breakfast, a mixture of nutrients is key. You’re looking for a combination of protein, whole grain, and carbohydrates, with protein being critical since it stays with you longer.” 

One of the best ways to get protein? Dairy. Whether it be milk, yogurt, or string cheese, when kids include dairy in their morning routine and start their day with a balanced breakfast, they can expect to see these four benefits in the classroom and beyond.  

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Focus better

When kids are distracted from hunger, their academic performance suffers. Beyond thinking about being hungry, the physical state of hunger results in less energy and stamina to devote to tasks at hand. 

“If you’re hungry and your stomach is growling, it makes it very difficult to concentrate in the classroom,” said Bakies. “If you talk to a school nurse, they’ll typically tell you the most common reason kids are in the nurse’s office in the morning is because they have a stomachache or headache from not eating breakfast.” 

Feel better

Skipping breakfast can also have a negative impact on mood. “Hunger has a behavioral and emotional impact,” said Bakies. “If you’re hungry, it can translate to being cranky or tired.” 

But what if your kids don’t feel like eating breakfast? 

“Some people, myself included, don’t feel like eating immediately upon waking,” said Bakies. “It’s important to still try to eat breakfast. If you absolutely can’t eat upon waking, look for options you can pack and eat later. Try packable options like string cheese with a banana and whole grain cereal in a sandwich bag, or an individual yogurt with a bagel and peanut butter.” 

Many schools offer breakfast, which allows kids to eat when they’re more awake. Talk with your child’s teacher or school food service administrators to find out what options their school offers.  

Think better

“When kids wake up in the morning, their brains and bodies typically haven’t been fed or fueled for eight to 12 hours, and they need nutrition,” Bakies said. “It’s critical for academic performance.” 

The most under-consumed nutrients are calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and fiber. A breakfast containing dairy is one of the easiest meals in which to capture these essential nutrients. 

Play better

Breakfast sets the tone for the entire day -- it provides a jumpstart for academic performance, as well as physical performance. From recess, to gym class, to team sports, when kids eat a nutritious breakfast, they are giving their bodies the fuel needed to grow and to perform at peak capacity.  

“When kids eat breakfast, they get key nutrients early in the day,” said Bakies. “It makes it easier to continue adding nutrient-rich foods throughout the remainder of the day, instead of trying to catch up.” 

Talk with your child and help guide them to eat breakfast. Be a role model -- if kids see their parents eating breakfast and making breakfast a priority, then they will become breakfast-eating kids. For more information on the value of eating breakfast, or for kid-approved breakfast ideas, visit 

American Dairy Association Mideast