Break the fast to keep students sharp

Break the fast to keep students sharp

August is Kids Eat Right Month. The days before another school year begins are full of last-minute activities and back-to-school shopping. Children need pencils, paper and book bags; they also need protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. This is a perfect time to emphasize the importance of a healthy breakfast.

Providing school supplies is vital, but it’s the nutrients and energy from a healthy meal plan that will help bring success in the classroom. Just as it is hard to start your car without enough gasoline, starting a school day without breakfast is rough.

Studies have proven breakfast eaters have less tardiness, fewer school absences and fewer hunger-induced bellyaches in the morning resulting in fewer trips to the school nurse. The right nutrients for breakfast can result in higher overall test scores and kids concentrating better. They can solve problems quicker and have better hand-to-eye and muscle coordination.

Time management is one of the biggest reasons for the lack of daily breakfast. Planning and getting organized the night before can save a lot of time during a busy morning. Keeping the meal simple and taking food to go speeds up the process.

Protein and carbohydrates are important for brain function and energy. Examples include a glass of milk with peanut butter on toast or cheese and crackers that can be eaten on the go.

Sugary cereals and packets of sweet instant oatmeal offer a lot of carbohydrates with very little protein. Limit these common breakfast treats. If they must be part of the morning routine, add a hard-boiled egg, an ounce of cheese, an extra-large glass of milk or a big handful of nuts. Added protein to a sugary meal can keep stomachs full longer.

People eat breakfast foods for dinner all the time. How about dinner foods for breakfast? There is nothing wrong with feeding a child frozen peas and cheese nachos before school. Consider a meat lovers pizza before walking out the door. Leftovers from the evening meal can provide protein and carbohydrates that can keep hunger away until lunchtime.

Doughnuts, toaster pastries, sugar-coated cereals and imitation fruit drinks have little nutritional value. Serving them before school is like taking a test with a broken pencil or gym class with shoelaces tied together. Read the ingredients to find items that do not list sugar as one of the first on the list.

Instant breakfast powder mixed with milk is a quick meal replacement. When poured into a container with a lid, a few good shakes can provide nearly 15 grams of protein and enough energy to keep a student at his or her best. High-fiber foods at other meals or snacks can round out a day of healthy food.

If a child says they are not hungry in the morning, limit their evening snacking at least two hours before sleep. Parents need to be positive role models by eating breakfast too. Break the overnight food fast to give kids the best advantage in school.

Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes care and education specialist and registered, licensed dietitian. Email her at