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It's never a good idea to force a child to eat a meal. It's your job to provide healthy food choices and your child's job to decide how much food he wants to eat, and it's important to respect those boundaries.
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, though. So it's a good idea to do what you can to encourage your child to eat something in the morning, even if it's only a piece of fruit. Studies at Harvard and Tufts universities have shown that kids who eat breakfast behave better than kids who don't.
If your child isn't used to eating breakfast, it may take some time to get him into the routine of eating it. He may complain at first that he's not hungry and doesn't want to eat, but once he gets used to eating at this time of day, he won't want to skip it anymore. Here are some suggestions for getting your child started:
- Start small. A piece of fruit, some cheese cubes, or a cup of low-fat yogurt are all good, nutrient-rich choices.
- Find a cold cereal that that he likes. Even most sugar cereals are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, so let your child pick out one or two that he thinks he might eat. Cereals, such as O-shaped oat cereal, that contain some fiber and less sugar are an even better choice. Hot cereal is another good option. Oatmeal is a great choice but there are many others that are fast and easy to make.
- Let him drink his breakfast. A smoothie made from milk, fruit, and yogurt offers plenty of calories and nutrients to start the day.
- Have your child lend a hand. Let your child stir his own oatmeal or choose a piece of fruit to eat at breakfast. If he's in on the decision about what to eat and the preparation of his own meal, he's more likely to eat it.
- Choose healthy foods. Highly processed convenience foods (such as toaster pastries or breakfast bars) tend to be high in fat and low in fiber and other nutrients. Stick with whole grains, dairy products, and fruit.
- Be a good role model. Pull up a chair and eat breakfast with your child. Adults are busy in the morning and may sacrifice their own breakfast needs. When you join your child for a meal, you set a good example by showing that you value eating breakfast, too.