Families & Health

breakfast_child Better days start with breakfast

By Amy Gannon, MS, RD, LD, WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Programs youth specialist

Mornings are busy for most households. Even if there’s just one of you, getting everyone out of bed and out the door is a challenge. It’s even more difficult for families. That rush often means we skip a healthy breakfast and grab the easiest thing possible – a doughnut and cup of coffee. Hey, it’s better than nothing, right? New research leads us to believe otherwise.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who skip breakfast, consider this: many studies have shown that both adults and children who eat breakfast weigh less than their breakfast-skipping counterparts. Why? One theory suggests that breakfast reduces your hunger throughout the day and prevents the habit of “grazing.” Another theory is that breakfast eaters lead an overall healthier lifestyle and are more likely to choose healthy foods and exercise regularly. People who eat breakfast have higher intakes of key nutrients such as protein, fiber, iron, calcium and vitamin C.

For generations, moms have always said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But, did you know that kids who eat breakfast have better concentration in school, perform better in math and reading and score higher on standardized tests? Children who skip breakfast, and don’t eat anything until lunch, can go 15 or more hours without food. Going without food equals one thing – not enough energy for a growing body or brain. Teachers find that students who eat breakfast have less behavior problems and more energy to play on the playground and participate in sports. cereal_fruit

If you have a hard time getting your children to eat breakfast in the morning, or find yourself not hungry before going to work, try these solutions offered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • Cut down on late night snacking.
  • Give yourself and your children time to wake up before eating. Get dressed and ready before heading to the kitchen table.
  • Set the alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you would normally wake up. This will give you time to grab something quick and nutritious.
  • Start small. If you’re not used to eating anything, starting out with a small amount of food will help ease you into the breakfast habit. A container of low fat yogurt and a piece of fruit is a great way to start.
  • Be a good role model. Kids mimic parental behavior. When your children watch you eat in the morning, they’re more likely to become a good breakfast eater.

Do you consider a trip to the drive thru or a candy bar from a convenience store a good breakfast? Actually, the types of foods you choose in the morning are critical to achieving a healthy weight and staying full until lunch. A healthy breakfast should contain a variety of foods. Trying to work in three of the five food groups is a good rule of thumb. Good options include fruits, whole grains and plenty of protein from foods like eggs and dairy.

Eating protein foods such as eggs, yogurt or milk at breakfast promotes satiety and helps maintain a healthy blood sugar level all morning. Worried about the calories in dairy or the cholesterol in eggs? According to the Egg Nutrition Center, more than 40 years of research has shown that eggs are part of a healthy diet and don’t significantly alter heart disease risk.

Choosing low fat dairy foods, like 1% or skim milk, will keep calories in check while providing a punch of protein.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be an all morning affair. Keeping pre-made and healthy convenience foods on hand will not only fill you up, but make sure you get out the door on time. Quick, healthy breakfast ideas include:

  • Hard boiled eggs and fresh fruit
  • Whole grain cereal (choose a variety with less than 6 grams sugar), low fat milk, fresh berries
  • Microwave scrambled egg (see recipe below), whole grain toast, low fat milk
  • Yogurt smoothie and a whole grain breakfast bar
  • Whole wheat English muffin with scrambled egg and melted low fat cheese
  • Low fat yogurt and fresh fruit

Finally, two great websites for nutrient-rich breakfast recipes include: Kids Eat Right and the National Dairy Council.

Microwave Coffee Cup Scramble

(courtesy of IncredibleEdibleEgg.org)


2 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper


  1. COAT 12-oz. microwave-safe coffee mug with cooking spray.
  2. ADD eggs and milk; BEAT until blended.
  3. MICROWAVE on HIGH 45 seconds; stir. MICROWAVE until eggs are almost set, 30 to 45 seconds longer.
  4. TOP with cheese; season with salt and pepper.

The West Virginia Family Nutrition Program (FNP) is a statewide outreach program that focuses on nutrition, food and physical activity through multiple projects, community-based initiatives and key partnerships. FNP prioritizes accountability and documents its impact on related behaviors of West Virginia’s limited resource families. As a visible and critical part of West Virginia University and WVU Extension Service, FNP maintains a strong research base and uses an experiential, facilitative approach to delivering information to the people of West Virginia.