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BACK TO SCHOOL: Breakfast - the most important meal of the day made easy

By Lisa Lakey
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Kids who eat breakfast do better overall in school
  • Use at least three of the five food groups for children’s breakfasts
  • Protein-rich foods helps kids feel full longer 

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BACK TO SCHOOL: Breakfast - the most important meal of the day made easy

LITTLE ROCK - Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That’s what the experts have always said, but for parents it can be the most challenging time of the day. Make it a rushed school morning, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster and a hungry child. 

“Kids often are not hungry when they first get up,” said Rosemary Rodibaugh, professor of nutrition for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “But they should eat something before school because they likely won’t get another chance to eat until lunch. Studies show that breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomach aches in the morning. Their overall test scores are higher, they concentrate better, solve problems more easily and have better muscle coordination.” 

Children need at least three balanced meals a day and breakfast is one of the most important meals for growing children, Rodibaugh said. But knowing just what a child needs to round out a nutritious breakfast can be a bit confusing and daunting for the average parent. Rodibaugh suggests starting the day with at least three of the five food groups.

“A protein-rich food is important – think eggs, cheese, peanut butter. It helps kids feel fuller longer,” she said. “A whole-grain carbohydrate is also a good idea. The brain prefers carbohydrates as its source of energy. Hot or cold whole-grain cereals with at least three grams of fiber per serving, whole-wheat crackers, whole-grain frozen waffles, a whole wheat tortilla or whole grain bread work. Cereals should not have a lot of sugar, no more than eight grams per serving. Check the nutrition label to make sure that ‘whole grain’ or ‘whole wheat’ is the first ingredient. Low-fat dairy foods, fruits and/or vegetables round out the options.” 

Making breakfast a priority doesn’t have to take up a large portion of the morning. Here are some quick and easy breakfast ideas from to send kids out the door feeling full and ready for the day. 

  • Make instant oatmeal with fat-free or low-fat milk instead of water. Toss in raisins or dried cranberries and chopped walnuts.
  • Layer a fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt with your favorite crunchy cereal and blueberries.
  • Blend a breakfast smoothie with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
  • Make one packet of microwave oatmeal with fat-free or low-fat milk. Mix in one-quarter cup unsweetened applesauce. Sprinkle with apple pie spice or cinnamon.
  • Top a toaster waffle with fat-free or low-fat yogurt and peach slices.
  • Spread a flour tortilla with peanut butter. Add a whole banana and roll it up.
  • Spread low-fat cream cheese on a whole-grain toasted bagel. Top with sliced strawberries.
  • Add lean ham and low-fat Swiss cheese to a toasted whole-grain English muffin. 

For more information about healthy eating go to or contact your county extension office.


The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.    

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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