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A Good Day At School Begins At The Breakfast Table


What kids eat before school can greatly impact how they perform in the classroom.

In this edition of Vital Signs, Navin Hariprasad, a nutritionist and Operations Manager of Patient Food Services at Parkland Hospital, explains the difference a healthy breakfast and a balanced diet throughout the day can make.

Nutritionist Navin Hariprasad on breakfast:

Health benefits: “There has been a correlation with improved concentration and performance in school. They’re able to improve their problem solving skills, as well as hand-eye coordination. We’re seeing improvements in strength and endurance in school-age children during physical activity throughout the day. As well as they’re able to maintain a healthier weight based on their metabolism being much higher than someone who is skipping meals throughout the day.”

What a healthy breakfast should include: “…the most optimal nutrition that you’re going to benefit from throughout the day is having some kind of high quality protein as well as a combination of fiber. In general, we want to stay away from foods that have a lot of added sugar, fat, sodium, a lot of calories in them. ..A sugary, blueberry muffin with sugar crystallized on top, that’s probably not the best option for your child to benefit from. They’re going to notice an increase in energy just based on the added sugar, but it’s going to drop in a short period of time. Whereas if they had a whole grain muffin sweetened with fruit or with carrots, something like that, that would be more beneficial for the child.”

Another option:  You might have a picky child who doesn’t want to eat typical breakfast food. So, maybe eating leftovers from the previous dinner if the child is amenable to that.  Fruit is a great option because it has a natural sweet taste. You can do a dried version, too, that’s ready to go, or you can grab and go if you don’t have the time necessarily to make something. That way the child can eat it on the bus or on the way to school when you’re dropping them off. Or they can save a little for later."

Encouraging a child to eat breakfast:  “…preparing the meal together, making it an activity for the child and the parent to get involved with. If we can change the way the child relates to the food, if they can see that they get benefits from actually eating and see their performance levels improving in school, their attention increasing as well, they’re going to be able to create a positive correlation with breakfast being a necessary part of their daily regimen.”

For more information:

The Many Benefits of Breakfast 

Breakfast Suggestions for Kids 

A Better Breakfast Can Boost a Child's Brainpower 

Healthy Breakfast: Quick, Flexible Options

On the other hand...

Why Breakfast May Not Be The Most Important Meal Of The Day

Myths Surrounding Breakfast And Weight

Is Breakfast Overrated?


Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.