If your child flunks a test, botches a project, forgets her backpack, or can’t lose weight, the reason could be what she ate or didn’t eat for breakfast. One out of every four of our children skip breakfast daily and the numbers are increasing each year. One in every two of us eats breakfast only on occasion. We skip breakfast because we want to lose weight, aren’t hungry, or because we complain that we don’t have enough time.

Your child might feel fine at first, full of energy and raring to go for the first few hours after he wakes up. That counterfeit burst of energy comes from a mind and body revved from a good night’s sleep. However, your child will pay for the neglect later. In fact, by afternoon, even if children eat relatively good lunches in an effort to boost lagging energy levels, they never regain the energy they would have had if they’d taken five minutes to eat breakfast.

Children (and adults, too!) who eat breakfast think more clearly, remember more, are more creative, react quicker, make fewer mistakes, and have more energy than their breakfast-skipping friends. They are better nourished, healthier, less likely to battle depression or feel overwhelmed by stress and they consume less fat and more fiber than do breakfast skippers. Children who eat nutritious breakfasts also get more vitamins and minerals. For example, while up to 80% or more of girls don’t consume enough calcium, those that eat breakfast are the ones most likely to meet their daily quota for this bone-building mineral.

What’s even more ironic is that skipping breakfast in an effort to cut calories and lose weight backfires. People eat more, not less when they skip breakfast. It’s called the night eating syndrome. Where once a person starts to eat mid-day, he or she eats more food and calories between noon and bedtime than did someone who took a few minutes to eat in the morning. A study from Vanderbilt University in Nashville found that people who ate breakfast lost more weight than did breakfast skippers, even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories.

Breakfast Rules

Rule 1. Combine high-quality carbohydrate with a little protein. The carbs provide the fuel your child’s brain needs to function and the protein helps your child feel full and energized longer. A rule of thumb is to include 2 fruits/vegetables like a glass of OJ and a banana, 1 protein like a glass of milk, a slice of low-fat cheese, yogurt, or an egg, with 1 to 3 carb-rich foods like whole grain cereal, toast, or waffles.

Rule 2. Watch out for the all-carbohydrate or high-sugar breakfasts. People sometimes complain that they’re hungry all day if they eat breakfast. This usually results from choosing the wrong foods. These breakfasts don’t provide the nutrients you need to kick-start your brain in the morning and they don’t stick with a child.

Rule 3. Time is no excuse. It takes only 5 minutes to eat well in the morning.
Five-Minute Breakfast Ideas

Breakfast #1: Instant plain oatmeal cooked in low-fat milk. Oatmeal is rich in heart-healthy fiber. Cook it in milk instead of water to pack in more calcium. Add some dried fruit, brown sugar, and toasted wheat germ. Serve with OJ.

Breakfast #2: Frozen whole wheat waffles. Nutrigrain is one of the best. Top one or two with peanut butter and jelly for the little kids or with fat-free sour cream and fresh blueberries for teenagers. Serve with fresh fruit and low-fat milk. This breakfast tastes sinfully delicious, but is actually low in fat and high in nutrients.

Breakfast #3: Fruit parfait. Layer yogurt, low-fat granola, and fresh fruit in a parfait glass. Serve with OJ.

Breakfast #4: Pancake wrap: Make extra pancakes on the weekend and freeze a few for during the week. Heat one of these pancakes in the microwave for two minutes, fill with a sliced banana, roll up and top with apricot sauce or preserves and put a dollop of light whipped cream on top. It looks like a dessert, but this breakfast is packed with vitamins, minerals, with the perfect mix of carbs and protein to fuel your child during the morning hours. (Hint: Add toasted wheat germ to the pancake batter to boost vitamins and minerals.)

Breakfast #5: If they won’t eat it, have them drink it. In a blender, add OJ concentrate, nonfat yogurt, a banana, canned apricots and a tablespoon or two of toasted wheat germ.

Breakfast #6: Cantaloupe sundae: A 1 /2 cantaloupe filled with nonfat lemon yogurt and sprinkled with granola.

Breakfast #7: Cinnamon-raisin bread dunked in low-fat cinnamon-apple yogurt. Serve with a large glass of 100% fruit juice.

Breakfast #8: Pocket Breakfast: Scramble eggs with a little low-fat grated cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Fill a whole wheat pita bread with egg mixture. Serve with OJ.

Breakfast #9: On the road. Didn’t open the fridge before you bolted out the door? Then pull up to a drive-through window for a healthy fast-food breakfast of McDonald’s Fruit Parfait, two pieces of fruit (brought from home), and a carton of low-fat milk.