Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


The Healthy Breakfast Option You May Be Overlooking

Why You Need to Give Your Kids a Healthy Start to their Day

The Healthy Breakfast Option You May Be Overlooking

Every day, you have an opportunity to give your kids a great start to their day. Yep, I’m talking about breakfast. Because mornings can be somewhat...chaotic, no matter how frenzied things get, you never want to skip that all-important first meal of the day. For one thing, breakfast fills kids with energy and helps them be productive and focused all day long. 

Here are some of the other benefits of breakfast:

  • people who eat breakfast are less likely to be obese than people who skip breakfast
  • kids who eat breakfast have more energy for physical activity and sports
  • kids who eat breakfast perform better in school
  • kids who eat breakfast regularly are more likely to get all their recommended daily nutrients (like calcium, potassium and fibre)
  • breakfast can boost your kids’ short-term memory
  • breakfast eaters are more likely to have steady blood sugar levels through the day
  • breakfast eaters tend to be less hungry later in the day—and consume fewer calories per day, compared to breakfast skippers

But what kind of breakfast is best? 

It’s easy to be confused by all the breakfast choices out there. One quick look at Pinterest can make even the most confident mom feel inadequate. But I have a suggestion—an old-school option from your own childhood that you might have overlooked: breakfast cereal

Breakfast cereal has been around a long time. Cereal has been a staple food since the beginning of the agricultural age, and many of the grains used back then are the same ones farmers grow for our cereal now: corn, oats, rice, rye, wheat, and barley.

And here’s why cereal can be a wholesome, healthy choice for your family:

  • Even among regular breakfast eaters, kids who eat cereal, in particular, are more likely to get all their daily nutrients than non-cereal eaters.
  • Because cereal is almost always served in a bowl of milk, kids have a better shot at meeting Canada Food Guide’s target of three milk servings a day (a recommendation that more than 50 percent of kids don’t meet)
  • A kid’s growing body needs a lot of iron, and many kids don’t get enough. Cereals are fortified with a well-rounded assortment of many vitamins and minerals, and can provide more iron (plus folic acid, zinc, and B vitamins) than other common non-cereal breakfast choices. Iron happens to be something I pay a lot of attention to with my own kids, and giving them fortified breakfast cereal in the morning is one of my strategies for making sure they get enough iron. 
  • Studies show that cereal eaters are more likely to have a healthy body weight than non-cereal eaters
  • Cereal can help you get more dietary fibre. Many Canadians don’t reach their recommended daily fibre intake, and a single bowl of some cereal brands can provide a quarter of your day’s target of fibre. 

And What About Sugar?

As a doctor who believes in the power of healthy living and good nutrition, I know people are paying more attention than ever before to what they’re eating. And that’s a great thing! But a concern about sugar is not a good enough reason to dismiss all the potential health benefits of breakfast cereal. 

Reading labels carefully and controlling portions are two strategies that will help you make healthy choices when it comes to breakfast cereal. And you can feel reassured by a recent Stats Can study: when looking at overall dietary intake, sugar from breakfast cereals accounts for less than five per cent of the total sugar intake in our diets.

I’m always talking to people about the importance of breakfast. Personally, professionally, and as a mom, I love breakfast cereal—as I was writing this article, I checked my kitchen and, sure enough, I have no fewer than 12 boxes of cereal in my kitchen cupboard right now. I guess we can call that walking the walk!