Rule #2:
Make Certain That
Your Kids Skip Breakfast

(Or Eat A Bowl of Sugar)

When I was growing up, my mother insisted that my sister, brother and I eat breakfast every morning. This was non-negotiable because, she said, "You can't learn on an empty stomach."

Just once, I wanted to go to school hungry to find out if she was right. I imagined being unable to understand the simplest concepts because of my flat, empty stomach draining my brain.

I never did conduct my experiment. First of all, there was no way my mother was letting me out of the house without breakfast. Secondly, I wanted to eat! My mother cooked serious breakfasts: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage sandwiches, fried apples, pancakes, French toast, waffles, scrapple and eggs. (I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.) So, I ate breakfast, and I did well in school, but I had no idea if one thing had anything to do with the other.

Turns out, my mother was right (again). You can't learn on an empty stomach!

I want to stress that it's not missing breakfast once that causes problems (unless, of course, it’s the day we are learning about the three branches of government or how to write a five paragraph essay or the periodic table, or...). The problems occur when our children come to school day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year… hungry.

Please don’t think that it's only those poor, disadvantaged kids missing breakfast. Many families that can certainly afford to put breakfast on the table, don’t. It’s too much trouble! The kids don't feel like eating (make them eat anyway), the morning is crazy (get up a little earlier), and parents don’t think skipping breakfast is that bad.

I’ve got news for them.

Children that regularly eat a nutritious breakfast have improved concentration, better problem-solving skills, more physical stamina, and are less likely to eat unhealthy snacks after school. They miss fewer days of school. They are more fit than students that don’t eat breakfast. They sit calmly in their seats, always raise their hands, and remember everything the teacher tells them. Well, okay, maybe that last sentence was a slight exaggeration, but not much. Students with full stomachs are much easier to teach.

We’re talking about a full stomach of good food, not a breakfast of refined sugar and artificial ingredients. They can eat that stuff in college.

Most convenience breakfast foods are loaded with fat, sugar and preservatives. Refined sugar- found in those yummy breakfast cereals your kids beg for- is especially insidious. Sugar is a powerful drug that takes you on a high and then brings you crashing down in the middle of math.

I am not a nutritionist, just a teacher that has seen with her very own eyes how kids look and act when they come down off that breakfast sugar high. It ain't pretty. They have headaches, they're sleepy, they're cranky, and, once again, not much learning takes place. I don't know what worse, no breakfast or a breakfast of refined sugar.

Nobody is saying that you must get up at dawn and make your children a ten-course meal from scratch. Make sure that they eat something that will “stick to their ribs” and help them sail through the morning.

My son would eat waffles every single morning of his life if I let him. I don’t blame him; I would like waffles every morning myself. But, I know better.

Here are a few good breakfast choices to mix and match:

☼ eggs (hard-boiled are easy)
☼ oatmeal
☼ fruit
☼ cereal
☼ toast
☼ yogurt
☼ muffins
☼ milk or soymilk
☼ tofu
☼ nuts
☼ string cheese
☼ fruit smoothie

Traditional breakfast is so...traditional. Live a little! Give your kids a veggie wrap, or a bowl of chicken noodle soup, or a ham and cheese sandwich, or a slice of pizza and a glass of milk.

Last Monday morning, my children and I ate Sunday night’s leftovers: chicken, vegetables and cornbread. Delish, healthy, filling and easy- a perfect school day breakfast.

The Belly Rules the Mind
- Spanish Proverb

Return to advice for parents.

Go on to Rule #3.