Start them young: Importance of breakfast for preschoolers
We always hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day -- and it's true. Breakfast starts the day off right and provides an opportunity for kids to get several nutrients that may not be abundant in their diet the rest of the day, such as iron, calcium and fiber. Breakfast is important for young children for a variety of reasons. Eating breakfast regularly helps kids develop healthy eating habits, improves concentration and memory, reduces hyperactivity and provides numerous other benefits.
Healthy eating habits
If parents serve children breakfast routinely from a young age, it will become a habit for years to come. Start the day off with a well-balanced breakfast consisting of whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and fruit. The combination of complex carbs, fiber, protein and good fat leaves children feeling full, alert and ready to face the day, while providing the nutrition they need for optimal growth and development. Additionally, children who don't eat a healthy breakfast often will eat more junk food or unhealthy snacks throughout the day.
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Preschool-age kids are learning at an amazing rate every day. Preschoolers are just beginning to learn their letters, numbers and other important concepts that lay the foundation for years to come. Eating breakfast improves concentration and mental performance. Children who skip breakfast are less focused and alert. They also find themselves feeling too sluggish to complete morning tasks. Kids who are hungry experience more learning difficulties as compared to well-nourished children. In addition, kids who eat sugary breakfasts, rather than a healthy meal, are often hyperactive. The American Dietetic Association states that children who eat a healthy, well-balanced breakfast are more likely to meet daily nutrient requirements, concentrate better, have better problem-solving skills, have better hand-eye coordination, be more alert, be more creative, miss fewer days of school and be more physically active.
Research shows that kids who sit down at the table to eat dinner with their family do better in school, stay out of trouble and communicate more openly than children who don't. This holds true for breakfast too. If you have to get your kids off to preschool early in the morning, make an effort to get up 15-20 minutes earlier to prepare a healthy breakfast. Young children learn most of their habits from their parents, so it's important for parents to set a good example and eat breakfast every day too. Mealtime is a fantastic time to bond as a family. You can talk about yesterday's events, what you expect from today, and what you look forward to tomorrow.
Breakfast doesn't have to be complicated to be healthy. Consider simple options such as a low/no-sugar cereal with milk and fruit or a toasted whole grain waffle topped with sliced fruit, along with a glass of milk. Avoid sugary breakfast cereals or pre-packaged foods with little or no nutritional value. A breakfast shake can be a terrific choice when you are in a rush.