My daughter is in the third grade, and it’s a fight to get her up in the morning. She’s often so late she misses breakfast so she can catch the bus. Will it hurt her to skip this meal?

As long as breakfast consists of fruit with a healthy cereal or multigrain toast, it is the most important meal of the day for your child. She needs the energy that these foods give to help her concentrate and sustain good humor during the day. The most important thing is that the cereal be low in fat and have no added sugar or salt. It can be a simple hot cereal like oatmeal or a specially blended, low fat granola from the health food store. Be aware that many commercial granolas are very high in fat. However, there are some new nonfat granolas showing up on supermarket shelves. Read the labels carefully! The toast can be spread with a little no-sugar-added fruit conserve. I recommend fruit instead of juice because of the high concentration of sugar in fruit juice. Fruit, which is about 90% water, has a fiber framework which slows down the absorption of sugar in the child’s system. I do understand that, for convenience, juice is often the easiest choice. I would encourage children and adults always to dilute it by half with water.

Obviously, I would never suggest that breakfast, or any meal, include eggs, bacon or sausage. These are greasy, high-fat foods that slow down the digestive system and pull blood away from the brain and other organs so it can work to digest the fat. Children who eat high-fat meals can be very droopy and inattentive. When they eat lots of sugar, they have to fight the emotional instability of high and low blood sugar peaks.

In our culture, mornings are usually a hectic time with family members all rushing to work and school. This makes it difficult to sit down and have a family meal. I remember a very well-known actress whose young daughter was one of my patients. The mother came to me asking for blood tests and x-rays because her child had chronic stomach pains. When I inquired about the girl’s breakfast, her mother told me she usually ate in the car on the way to school. The child was eating the proper food, but the meal was rushed and unsociable. It wasn’t a time to be together as a family. When this situation was changed, the stomachaches stopped and the girl was fine.

Even if it means getting up a little earlier, plan an extra 20 minutes when your family can sit down together and get the day off to a great start at least a few days each week.

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