Break for Breakfast When Children Go Back to School


It's important to take a few minutes every morning to fuel up with a simple breakfast at home or at school. Eating a nutritious breakfast that includes nutrient-rich foods, such as low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, provides the essential fuel kids need for optimal learning.

Registered Dietitian Melissa Joy Dobbins of the Midwest Dairy Council and the Illinois Dietetic Association, talks about the benefits of breakfast, and shares tips to start making breakfast a habit at your house, along with a few ideas for breakout breakfasts.

Many studies suggest that schoolchildren skip breakfast more than any other meal of the day -- the primary reason being lack of time in the morning - which means that some youngsters go as long as 15 to 17 hours without food, Melissa points out. Moreover, children who skip breakfast typically don't make up the nutrients they miss at other meals throughout the day, she adds. Many traditional breakfast foods, including low-fat dairy products, are part of the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans' 'food groups to encourage' because they provide 'nutrients of concern' that children are lacking. Dairy foods provide 3 of the five missing nutrients: calcium, potassium and magnesium.

The benefits of a nutritious breakfast include:

  • Improved classroom performance, including better test scores and grades
  • Increased ability to focus and concentrate on school work
  • Decreased behavior problems, tardiness and visits to the school nurse

Families can start making breakfast a habit with these four strategies:

1. Be a Good Role Model. Kids mimic their parent's behavior; make it a habit to sit down and eat breakfast with your kids every morning.

2. Try New, Nutrient-Rich Foods. Smoothies, 100 calorie packs of cheese bites, and fiber-rich granola bars are among several new, nutrient-rich convenience foods now available for grab and go breakfasts.

3. Get Creative. Think beyond the bowl and look for quick and easy meal ideas inspired by kid's favorite foods, such as pizza and parfaits.

4. Check out School Breakfast. If children don't have time to eat at home or simply aren't hungry first thing in the morning, school breakfast is a nutritious meal that provides a variety of foods, and it's easy, convenient and cost-effective.

For more information about breakfast, including nutrition tips to help kids fuel up for school, go to

For more information about school nutrition and physical activity, go to .

To read Melissa's blog, visit

What Midwest Dairy is Doing

Fuel Up to Play 60, a school wellness program from the National Dairy Council, your local Dairy Council and the NFL is helping to make wellness part of the game plan in more than 60,000 schools across the country.

The program encourages students to work collaboratively with adults to make real changes by implementing school-wide healthy eating and physical activity "plays"-strategies that help students "fuel up" with nutrient-rich foods and "get up and play" for at least 60 minutes every day.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is distinctive from other school-based wellness programs due to the physical activity expertise of NFL and connections to admired athletes, which increase the program's appeal for students.

Enrolled schools receive a free School Wellness Kits, which comes with an in-school healthy eating and physical activity display and collateral materials, easy-to-do and user-friendly "plays" for healthy eating and physical activity, and planning tools to help with program activation.

What Schools are Doing

School breakfast ensures a nutritious start every day. If children don't have time to eat at home or simply aren't hungry first thing in the morning, school breakfast is a great option! Here's why: School breakfast supplies ¼ of the Recommended Daily Allowance a child needs.

  • It's a healthy, nutritious meal that provides a variety of foods.
  • It's easy and convenient.
  • It's cost effective

School breakfast programs can lower absence and tardiness rates and improve standardized achievement test scores (Meyers A, Sampson AE, Weitzman M, Rogers BL, Kayne H. "School Breakfast Program and School Performance." American Journal of Diseases of Children 1989;143:1234-39)

Why is breakfast so important? A simple breakfast at home or at school can ensure that your child doesn't start the day hungry. It also ensures that your child has the nutrients and energy he or she needs during the morning to concentrate on learning, think clearly, and be on their best behavior.

Can breakfast really help children learn better? Studies show that a simple breakfast at home or at school boosts brain power! The American Dietetic Association reports that children who eat breakfast have improved concentration, score higher on tests, have better behavior, and improved attendance.

How does breakfast contribute to a child's health? Children who don't eat breakfast are less likely to get all of the essential nutrients they need each day to thrive. Eating a nutritious breakfast is a great way for children to be on target to meet their daily needs for key nutrients, like calcium, the bone-building mineral found in milk, cheese or yogurt.

What if my kids aren't hungry in the morning? Start small. Try a piece of fruit and a half carton of yogurt and work up. Or, get the kids ready for school first, and by the time they've been up for a while, they may feel hungry.

What if I don't have time to cook? Focus on grab and go foods -- a carton of yogurt, a cheese stick, bagel and glass of milk. Eat dinner leftovers -- slice of pizza, macaroni and cheese -- there's no rule that these things can't be eaten for breakfast! Prepare things the night before -- for example, set the table, prepare your recipe or lay out your cereal so all you need to do is pour the milk.

What if I am hungrier all morning when I do eat breakfast? Add protein to your morning meal. A great way to do that is to drink a glass of milk, eat a carton of yogurt or a piece of string cheese. Spread peanut butter on a slice of toast or English muffin.

Isn't breakfast just for kids? While it's true, adults can handle hunger better than kids -- it doesn't mean eating breakfast isn't important for adults, too. One of the most powerful ways to help your child develop a habit, is to model it. If you want your child to eat breakfast so they go to school ready to learn, parents need to eat breakfast, too.

For more information visit,

Benefits of Breakfast
Improved classroom performance
Increased ability to focus
Decreased behavior problems

Four Smart Strategies
1. Be a Good Role Model
2. Try New, Nutrient-Rich Foods
3. Get Creative
4. Check out School Breakfast

Peanut Butter Banana Crunch Yogurt Parfait

From Janet Staicoff, RD, LD, CDE
St. Louis, MO

This parfait is an ideal breakfast -- it's quick to make and has the perfect carbohydrate-protein-healthy fat ratio to give you energy and satiety until lunchtime.


  • 1 cup nonfat light vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
  • 4 pretzel twists, crumbled (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 small banana, sliced

Servings: 1
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cost/recipe: $1.49
Cost/serving: $1.49


In a small bowl, mix yogurt and peanut butter together. In a separate bowl, toss walnuts and pretzels together.

In a tall glass, begin to build parfait. Layer 1/2 cup yogurt, half of banana slices and 1 tablespoon of walnut/pretzel mixture. Repeat layers. Serve immediately.

For more healthy back to school recipes, visit

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