Back to School: Don’t forget about breakfast – for you and the kids!

Back to School

When taking a trip to your local retailer, it’s pretty clear what time of year it is – backpacks, notebooks, lunchboxes and pencils line store shelves with signs screaming "back to school". It’s always amazing how fast the summer goes, especially when you live in Minnesota – didn’t we just get done with winter?! When I look at the assortment of back to school supplies, I personally think they are missing out on one key school resource – breakfast! While breakfast is important any time of the year, it’s especially important to help start the school day off right. Let me give you a few reasons why I think breakfast should be part of the back to school plan:

-Compared to children who skip breakfast, those who eat breakfast perform better at school, record higher test scores and have reduced absenteeism and tardiness. ¹

-Breakfast eaters tend to have higher nutrient intakes² - breakfast contributes more than 25% of key nutrients, such as folate, iron and vitamin D.³

-Breakfast eaters tend to have healthier body weights compared to breakfast skippers.²

Recognizing morning can be a busy time, breakfast doesn’t have to be an elaborate meal. Portable yogurt, a whole grain granola bar and fruit can be an easy grab-and-go option. Or pre-portion frozen fruit in baggies and throw in a blender with yogurt, a splash of juice and even a little whole grain cereal – what’s better than getting three food groups in one glass and it’s fun for kids. If at home, a bowl of whole grain cereal with milk is an easy option and helps to provide whole grain, fiber and calcium. Allow kids to customize their bowl by adding on toppings like fresh or dried fruit, coconut, slivered almonds, or even a few chocolate chips. Looking for more ideas? Check out these fun recipes that take cereal outside the traditional breakfast bowl and into a smoothie: Cinnamon  Cereal Smoothie and Blueberry Banana Cheerios™ Cereal Smoothie

Now don’t forget about yourself during the morning rush to get out the door. Breakfast is just as important for adults as it is for kids. I know I certainly feel better in the morning when I’ve had breakfast and don’t have to hide my growling stomach throughout those morning meetings. And, it’s true for adults too – eating breakfast is associated with healthier body weights and better nutrient intakes.  Unfortunately, many of us may think that skipping out on breakfast can save calories when we’re trying to watch our weight, but this can actually set us up for failure later on in the day. Enjoy the same breakfast as your kids. In fact, some research even shows that eating breakfast as a family can have benefits – a recent study showed those who eat breakfast regularly with family have lower rates of obesity and eat more fruit, whole grains and fiber.⁵

So now that I have hopefully convinced you that breakfast truly is an important part of starting the day, happy back to school shopping, and don’t forget to fill the cart with those nutritious breakfast items for both you and the kids!

About the Author

Lesley is a registered dietitian and senior nutrition scientist with the General Mills Bell Institute of Health & Nutrition. Prior to joining General Mills, Lesley was a corporate retail dietitian and also has experience in public relations and clinical dietetics. She is passionate about translating the science of nutrition into consumer communications. She graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and dietetics and received a Master of Science degree in nutrition communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts


1. Murphy JM, et. al. The Relationship of School Breakfast to Psychosocial and Academic Functioning. Arch. Pediatric, Adolescent Medicine, 1988;152:899-907.

2. Deshmukh-Taskar, PR, et al. The Relationship of Breakfast Skipping and Type of Breakfast Consumption with Nutrient Intake and Weight Status in Children and Adolescents: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006. J Am Diet Assoc, 2010; 110(6): 869-78.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, [2011-12] [].

4. O’Neil CE, Nicklas TA, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Nutrient intake, diet quality, and weight /adiposity paramaters in breakfast patterns compared with no breakfast in adults; National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2008. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Dec;114(12 Suppl):S27-43

5. Larson, et al. Eating Breakfast and Dinner Together as a Family: Associations with Sociodemographic Characteristics and Implications for Diet Quality and Weight Status Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2013)

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